Email sent to members of The Mighty Minds Club. Re-posting it here so more people can catch up on what’s been going on and what’s ahead!
In this final installment of the “What Next for the Mighty Minds Club?” series, I want to zoom in on specific idea I have, that has me equal parts excited and anxious…
Part 1 was looking back and lessons learned.
Part 2 was looking ahead, with a good catalogue of what it might mean, moving forward, to be a member of this club.
So, here we are. Part 3. What is it that I’m both excited and anxious about?
- Let’s make this community a bit different, by offering thematic or topical “maker” challenges.
- There’s a survey I’d love for you to complete! (Or you can reply directly to this email)[NOTE: If you’re the survey is still open!]
1. From Input to Output
In the last email, I commented that we learn better when we make things, when we take an active part in the construction of knowledge. And yet, how often do spend the bulk of our time collecting and curating information, without taking action? Input without output. I’m guilty of many, many file and folder collections, stacks of unread books, Pinterest boards, bookmarks, saved tweets, and more — all good information, in service of something I intend to learn, do, or make… Someday.
In my case, the best antidote I’ve found to these curation tendencies, is to give talks and workshops. I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: I often pitch talks on things I don’t yet understand. I’m not an expert, I just have some experiences, and a lot of questions. My hope with every new talk is that I’ll answer the questions I do have, and discover things I didn’t expect, and that in the end it’s all enough to make for a worthwhile talk that others will get value out of. You may hear the phrase ‘here’s what I’ve learned’ or ‘here’s what I’m thinking’ in my talks. This is the honest truth. You are witnessing me figure it out — in the open. I share what I’m learning. And for talks where I do have some prior (but fuzzy) knowledge, a talk is a chance to organize and express this information is a useful way.
I also write articles from time to time. And I create a lot of concept models — these models are my go to method for making sense of a thing.
The point of all this? We learn so much more when we have to do or make something. It could be a talk. It could be a working prototype. A card deck or concept model. Trying out a new questioning strategy. Whatever ‘it’ is will vary. So long as we are applying knowledge in some way.
2. From Input to Output, Together
There’s another thing I’ve picked up over the years: Learning is social. Whether it’s mentoring from someone who knows better, the thinking that comes through dialogue, knowledge sharing, or simply having someone to be accountable to, we learn and learn better together. My mantra in recent years has become “work and learn together” which, when zealously applied, means seeing every conversation as a chance to learn something from someone who has a different set of prior experiences. Even in my talks, I share because I want feedback; putting thoughts into the world is one way I try to invite dialogue. And if I’m being candid, giving these talks is — as an introvert — a way to open a conversation on familiar grounds.
So… what does this mean for the Mighty Minds Club?
In addition to the meetups and posts and other common community activities, I’d love to see us making to learn. Think project-based learning. Cohorts. Communities of practice. I’m imagining I bunch of us opting into small groups to work on monthly or quarterly challenges. It might be working alongside each other on a solo project. It might be working together on a group project — whatever YOU prefer. It could be something more format focused, such as ‘make a card deck’ or it could be a response to a complex topic such as ‘handling difficult conversations’, ‘challenges with remote working’, or ‘dealing with uncertainty’. Again, all of the focus is on making and sharing things to think with.
WHAT this looks like, in practice…? TBD!
Should we all be working on a similar thing, or should groups be able to to self-select the focus, or something in-between? Should the challenge be hyper specific (“Use Roam for 30 days”) or more thematic (“remote work”)? I don’t know. I’m just the idea guy!
Possible Ways to Organize This:
In the interest of spurring ideas (And feedback from YOU!), here are some options that are top of mind for me:
/ An option: Broad Themes
We could approach this like a conference, with a new — shared — theme every 30 / 60 / 90 days. Basically, the challenge would be to create something we can all use related to this theme. What kinds of themes? Here’s a top of mind list:
- “Delight in the Distance”
- “Digital Literacy”
- “Narrative Games for Learning”
- “Complex Adaptive Systems”
- “Inner Stories”
- “Seeing Information”
- “Ethics & Technology”
- “Data Privacy”
- “Short-Term vs Long-Term Thinking”
- “Psychological Safety”
- “Difficult Conversations”
- “I’m Righty. You’re Wrong. Debating Truth.”
For a particular theme, we could bring in speakers who are experts in some tool or topic related to that theme.
Within each cohort, you could decide what you want to product, individually or collectively.
And here’s a reminder: Maybe the expert speaker on this theme is YOU, and you’d like a small cohort to iterate some things you’ve been working on — a book, workshop activity, toolkit. This ‘platform’ is for you!
Again, the goal, unlike a conference, would be to make, and then share back with the community, something useful. A thing to think with. A simple tool for a complex problem. ;-)
That’s the kind of broad and open ‘theme’ oriented approach. I’m most drawn to this approach, though it raises questions (mostly logistics related) around duration of a particular theme, relevance of a particular theme to all members, how this correlates with meetup topics, and so on…
/ Another option: Shared Challenges
Maybe we could do something more structured and directed. Think narrowly defined challenges, such as:
- “Create a card deck to help people self-reflect.”
- “Make a canvas we can use to facilitate a difficult team conversation.”
- “Try using Roam for 1 month.”
- “Write some interactive fiction using Twine”
I have mixed feelings about this approach. I throw this out here, as I know some folks prefer this more narrow scaffolding. But, I also know others (such as yours truly!) might — depending on the challenge — find this too restrictive, and not allowing for that ‘thing’ you really, really wanted to work on… Eek! Maybe we combine some this option with the previous one, and have a list of very specific, suggested challenges within a broader theme?
/ Yet Another option: Self-Organized Interest Groups
Another approach is to abandon any kind of tops-down or topical structure, and just encourage YOU to all self-organize around different themes or topics of interest. The advantage here is that you can find YOUR group. You could create your group.
- The great thing about with this approach is it’s all very bottoms up and self-organizing.
- The challenge I see with this approach is it’s all very bottoms up and self-organizing.
With this option, there’s very little community building throughout Mighty Minds. And I wonder, with this option, how does Mighty Minds continue to add value to these specific groups? Or, a different question, what’s keeping you from self-organizing these niche groups already, elsewhere?
Oh my. So many options.
Maybe where we land is a hybrid of what I listed above.
I honestly don’t know how to structure this, yet. But, I do look forward to iterating on this and figuring it out… together. And again, the center for all of this are ‘things to think with’. Are we making a “tool” that will bring people together into dialogue around a complex challenge? That’s it.
Oh, and here’s a crazy idea: In all this, I’d also love to see real projects launched from this community. Like, into the world for others to use. PDF. Printed. For sale or free. And whatever you make belongs to you — let’s be clear on that. But, Mighty Minds could be a sort publishing hub or launchpad for these toolkits (or your groups). Or maybe just a ‘Grand Central Station’ on the Web for all ‘things to think with’.
What I need from you, now, is feedback and input. What do you think of what I just proposed? Anything jump out at you? This is a good time for me to give a final plug for the survey referenced in the previous emails. If you haven’t already, do fill that out, as I’m using that to set direction and reach out to folks. For everything described in the email, I’ll be reaching out to anyone who expresses interested in helping to lead a community of practice.
So, if you haven’t already, fill out the survey! (Please.)
Q: Is this for everyone?
No. Statistically speaking, many of you will prefer to be spectators and/or benefit from the final work output. That’s completely fine. Or, maybe this all sounds ridiculously exciting to you, but you just can’t make the time ‘this month’ — too many other commitments. All of this is ok. It’s all voluntary. You opt in to what you can afford in terms of time and attention — what’s worthwhile to you (heck, I’m fear I’m going to spread myself too thin!). If we only have one group of 5 people at launch, that’s fine. I’m not looking for numbers. But, I do want to stick to my values and create the opportunity for real learning. And I know a chance to become an active co-constructor of knowledge is sorely missing from many online courses, communities, and other places we go to ‘learn’ 🤨. So, let’s remedy that!
Q: Why am I nervous?
All of this is incredibly risky and highly prone to failure. I’ve run voluntary problem-based learning challenges in the past, with little success. There’s a huge risk of failure and embarrassment. But, I think there’s more to lose by not trying at all. And, again, I want to be true to my values and priorities, which are all about learning and discovery. I want us to work and learn together, to create and share things to think with, simple tools to help with complex challenges, to ultimately make the world a better place. (I’m repeating myself, aren’t I?!).
Oh, and it’ll be messy in the beginning, as we figure this out. Expect messiness. Embrace the mess.
Q: What kinds of projects are YOU working on, Stephen?
If helps spark ideas of your own, here’s a quick list of projects that are top of mind for me:
- In 2021, I have two printed toolkits I plan on bringing to life: A reprint (and update) of the Mental Notes card deck. And, a polished version of my ‘Bad Problem Statements’ card deck.
- I have this crazy idea for a board game (of sorts), that helps two players talk through fake news, misinformation, beliefs, and faulty reasoning.
- I’ve been learning all about narrative games, and would like to use Twine to create a narrative ‘workplace’ adventure, some bit of interactive fiction that helps us reflect on a common workplace tension.
- I’ve got this very niche interest in the UX of physical card design, that is ready to be turned into a wiki or reference site. Basically, I’m considering and identifying the different ways that cards can be used, whether in games or with knowledge cards.
- I’d like to launch an online version of my Visual Thinking workshop.
- Oh, and I plan to publish a few more Deep Dives, including the one on Polarity Mapping that I’ve already started.
Projects Requiring Group Contribution:
- I’d love to publish a book that is a collection of essays on the topic of “Games and…”
- I’ve been collecting content for a deck of cards, where each card is a bit of timeless wisdom — someone’s single piece of ‘go to’ advice that they always share with others.
- What if — together–we created a deck of remote facilitation activities?
- What if — together — we self-published a zine, related to things to think with, or a more narrowly defined ‘complex’ topic? 🤪
In my mind, these are all the types of things that would fit with our ‘things to think with’ center.
- FEEDBACK: One, final plug: Respond to the survey. Or, reply to this email. [OR, ADD COMMENTS HERE ON MEDIUM!]. I’d love to hear from you your thoughts on all this, especially what I’ve described in this email.
- PLANNING: I’ll be reaching out — directly — to folks who express(ed) interest in helping out (those of you who check the “[ ] Leading a small cohort / learning group” box in the survey). This includes everything from planning or participating in meetups to helping organize these learning groups.
- RELAUNCHING: A new website a membership sign up page will be up soonish — the next email from me will be to announce this.
The ‘relaunch’ will likely be after the Christmas break [UPDATE: Late January!], so, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all Happy Holidays! And if you don’t hear from me again until next year — Happy New Year!
Stephen P. Anderson