Friday, July 22, 2005

The Longest Week

I won't try to describe it all for you. In fact, I won't try to describe any of it for you, really. At least not just now. Just suffice to say that the work week just ended was perhaps the most interesting and action-packed of my life, both in a career sense and on the personal side (although there's really no easy way to separate those, since I try to live by the code that says if you do it right and follow your passions, there's no way to tell whether you're working or playing). So many amazing things have happened this week, so many conversations have sprung into meaningful action, so many plans and chats have turned into group action and projects and ventures. And they all come from being at the intersection of what I've come to think of as the good folks/smart folks network. When you're around the right people, in the middle of smart networks full of smart, heart-felt people who care about their communities--be they communities of practice, craft, geography, whatever), what happens can be described only as a kind of impossible grace. Things land in your lap, they find you. Things so interesting and invigorating that you couldn't have dreamed them up in your wildest imaginative leaps.

But let me just mention two things that gave me special kick this week. Oh, hell, maybe three. My blogging friends from Northeast Ohio met on Wednesday night at a splendid location, on a splendid summer evening. The conversation was so meaningful, so friendly and collegial, so absent of any preening, competitive egos, or anything even remotely negative. Instead, and for the first time (for me, at least), it truly felt like a community of practice. There's that phrase again. I heard it and learned it first from my good friend Jack. I haven't a clue whether it's of his own coinage or whether, like a good consultant (or writer), he simply hijacked it from someone else. It might well be a stock phrase in consulting. But it matters not a bit. I forever relate that resonant phrase with him and his catalytic work and catalytic presence (and if you know Jack, you know that his presence in a conversation doesn't require his physical presence).

Anyway, this particular community of practice is now setting its sights really high, and it is forming into the kind of network that can really make things happen, and quickly. I couldn't have really begun to hope for half of what is now happening when we first assembled in May '03, at a large public event where we first really began to explore who and what we were individually, and what that might become collectively. In the intervening 26 months, this network has expanded exponentially, and yet at its core, much of it remains similar. Only now it's changing events, asking lots of the right questions, and prompting answers (and action) in ever quicker, more impressive waves. Who could even hazard a guess at where this is all heading? I'm just looking forward to riding the wave.

And then there's my old friend Dan Hanson, and his splendid little
CAP (for Computers Assisting People). Talk about a powerful network, and one founded and still organized on his magnetic, powerful energy. Word came today that the Cleveland Foundation's Civic Innovation Lab has decided to make a modest investment in underwriting his creation of a business plan for CAP. Take a bow for that, Ed, Betsy and the entire REI crew. But mostly, take a bow, Dan. I expect this vote of confidence from the lab will lead to some amazing new vistas for CAP, as it should. I just know that it will give a warm glow to my entire weekend.

And finally, two new websites containing words I've written went live this week. On one level, they couldn't be more different. On another, they're both medically related.
One is a project I completed last year. But the organization, a cardiology practice in Akron, had other complications, and the site languished in limbo for month after month. I was heartened to learn this week that limbo at last gave way to life. And life is a beautiful thing, for websites (really just publishing platforms) no less than for people. The other project was even dearer to my heart: an impossibly smart, innovative 70-something physicist of my acquaintance, Dr. Richard Hansler, who's a world-class scientist, did what innovative people tend to do: he kept innovating even after ostensible retirement, from GE's Nela Park. As a man with endless connections and intellectual capital, holder of dozens of U.S. patents, he capitalized on his dense network and founded the Lighting Innovations Institute, housed at my favorite university, John Carroll. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to write about him, and in a magazine I once edited, no less. I felt blessed to have gotten to know him and be able to share his story with readers. We stayed in touch a bit.

A few weeks ago, he called to tell me about his latest venture, an online store to sell lighting-related products growing out of his considerable, federally sponsored research. And could I help him write the copy for that site? The resulting project was a special treat, as good an example of blending play and work as any I can point to. I supplied the words, working alongside a crack web designer (Christine) who also happens to be a 24-year-old stay-at-home mom. The upshot: I got the chance as mid-career guy to work with a couple of 70ish scientists, and a 24-year-old web developer. A well-timed reminder for me that innovation knows no age. It's more a state of mind and an attitude. And I feel doubly blessed on this sublime summer Friday to be in communion with so many innovative people.


Post a Comment

<< Home