As many of you know, I am privileged to live in two parallel universes: one where I am the strategic futurist at Velocity Made Good Inc. (VMG), as well as speaker, provocateur, etc., traveling the world by planes, trains, and automobiles, and living at the speed of thought; and the other where I live and work on my sailboat, the good ship Learnativity, wandering and pondering the world one nautical mile at a time. Each time I move from one universe to the other, the shapeshifting process produces a tremendous amount of new learning for me.
Upon my most recent return to my fast universe, where I was immediately immersed in the Learning 2009 conference in Orlando last week, the learning was wonderfully severe.
With a few days to reflect and do some cognitive “simmering and sauce reduction”, a few recurring themes and observations emerged for me:
- Faith and Trust
- Unconscious Assumptions
- Redefining Experience
- Readiness for the Unexpected
- What If the Impossible Isn’t?
- Personal Capitalization
I’m sharing something about each of these with you in the hopes that they will be of some value and spark additional feedback and conversations. Each of these deserves and demands some explanation and discussion, so I’ll write about each one in a series of posts to follow. Today, I’m starting with Authenticity.
Authenticity has been a recurring topic for me for several years now, and it is one I am finding in both of my parallel universes. For me, authenticity is about the quality of being genuine, and it is one of the best examples of how the most profound and important things in life are the simplest.
Authenticity can be and is applied to products and things such as content. In a previous post “The Land that Never Was”, I outlined some of my views on how the whole definition of what is real and genuine is either getting more difficult to determine or perhaps is just being redefined as the difference between real and synthetic becomes less and less and, in some cases, the distinction disappears completely.
At the Learning 2009 conference, I heard both the topic and the word “authentic” in many of the sessions and in the hallways. There was a lot of conversation about authentic content for example. Authentic content is not to be confused with simply the poor quality of content, but rather it is about how accurate and relevant the content is, how true the “voice” of the content is, how relevant is it, and so on.
A few months ago, while in my other nautical universe, I had a very personal experience with authentic content when I found myself on my sailboat in Pago Pago harbor in American Samoa on September 29th, a day which I have since referred to as “Tsunami Tuesday”. You can read more about this fascinating experience in on my Learnativity blog (Part I, Part II, Part III) and in my previous posting here on OCOT “Tsunami and Technology: Powers That Be at Sea” where I discuss how I found myself being the on-the-scene reporter (by virtue of being there in person), which I shared via the wonders of current technology, such as my satellite phone. This technology enabled me to send out test messages to Twitter and hence be picked up by many other bloggers and then by the world press.
In the weeks that followed, I was deluged by emails, texts, calls, and tweets from some of those who had been staying informed about the tsunami and about their friends and family who were also there at the time. What most struck me though were the common comments I heard about how extremely effective the reporting was, especially via those who were sending out tweets and writing blogs using firsthand accounts from those who were actually there.
What I picked up from all this was that it was much more than the obvious fact that we were there. It was the authenticity that came from living this experience. We were being directly affected by this amazing natural phenomenon and were dealing with the reality of saving our ships, our possessions, and our friends and family, and were sharing it as it happened.
In the case of content for learning, training, and education, I am hearing about increasing awareness and demand for content that is similarly real, firsthand, relevant, and coming from those who have direct experience. Perhaps this simply goes back to emphasizing the age old advice for any writers or content creators to “write what you know”.
However, this conversation about authenticity and genuineness goes way beyond the narrow definition of content. Most notably, it is about us as people being genuine. Previously this quality of genuineness has been applied mostly to organizations such as businesses, governments, and non-profits, and has been about exposing when these are organizations are not representing and presenting themselves accurately and genuinely. More recently, however, with the increased depth and breadth of the conversation that now takes place between consumers and producers, teachers and learners, and politicians and constituents, authentic and genuine conversation has become possibly the predictor and predicator of success.
One of the most direct and best versions of this idea came from the conversation between Elliott and Betsy Myers at Learning 2009. Betsy impressed me both for what she said as well as how she said it. She is extremely engaging and effective. One of Betsy’s primary topics is “authentic leadership” and in her conversation with Elliott, she stressed key issues such as curiosity and courage. She spoke to me particularly when she recommended that each of us should “have the courage to be your authentic self”.
For me, cultivating this quality is not something reserved for those who knowingly obfuscate their real selves, but also is something each of us needs to keep in mind when we fail to be who we really are—when we create too great a gap between who we are on the inside and who we present on the outside.
While it has always been a laudable goal to be true to yourself, I think that with the advent of modern communications technology, and most recently, the rise in the use of social media such as blogs, podcasts, Twitter and Facebook, authenticity and genuineness are being rigorously tested for and demanded far more than ever before.
There is no question in my mind and experience that being your “authentic self” takes real and constant courage. However, there is also no question that the benefits of doing so are greater still. Does this match with what you are seeing and experiencing? What other ways are you seeing authenticity becoming an increasing priority? I look forward to hearing from you.