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The Loneliness of The Long Distance Learning Leader

I’m heading to the LPI Fellow’s Symposium today, and before departing I looked up the definition for the word ‘symposium’. I was given two options:

  1. A conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject.
  2. A drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet.

I expect the intention leans towards option 1. We’ll see. I’ve kindly been invited to facilitate some conversation at the event, on the theme of loneliness. Putting to one side your thoughts about why such a subject is attracted to me, I thought it would be useful to share my current thinking. I’m doing this primarily as part of working out loud in general, and also, for anyone else heading to the event who might want a preview, or an excuse to turn and head back home 😉 I hope this is useful for you, here goes…

The Loneliness of The Long Distance Learning Leader

With apologues to Alan Sillitoe

The film, The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, opens with Colin Smith (played by Tom Courtenay) running, alone, along a bleak country road somewhere in rural England. In a brief voiceover, Colin tells us that running is the way his family has always coped with the world’s troubles, but that in the end, the runner is always alone and cut off from spectators, left to deal with life on his own.

We’ve all experienced loneliness at times in our work…or is it just me? Cue: awkward silence. Whether as a full time learning professional, an interim or freelancer, the task of nurturing, facilitating and encouraging learning can put us seemingly at odds with the organisations and the structure we are asked to work with. Collaboration, creativity, curiosity and communication are cited as desirable, often essential ingredients to support meaningful enjoyable work, yet organisations somehow mitigate against these things taking root and flourishing. I have scribbled, and rescribbled this short passage many times over the years:

Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me.

This session today is an invitation to discuss and explore some of what is needed to make our work great, so that we can in turn, be of most use to those we are here to support.

Suggested topics of conversation:

Loneliness – recognising it, working with it, overcoming it
Trust – giving, earning, breaking, rebuilding. If we go down this route, I am mindful that though important, trust is not enough. So what else do we need in order to cocreate a ‘Proceed Until Apprehended’ mindset?
Responsibility – owning, taking and sharing
Creativity – we need it, yet behaviourally we’re often way off – how do we get better?
Networks – communities of practice, and more
Technology – by itself is not the answer – and a poor tech experience can severely limit opportunity

You may well have better suggestions than these – so we will start with time to reflect on how you’d like to be while we are together, and what you’d like to get from our time together. Then you are invited to talk, listen, share stories and ideas, and cocreate ways to make work…less lonely, and more effective and enjoyable.

With the permission of the group, I will follow this post up with another, setting out what we share and learn. Have an excellent day.

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