Writing

Hiding

I can’t see you, so you can’t see me

Darkness comes early
This time of year
Making it hard
To recognize familiar faces
In those of strangers.

Charles Simic, Hide and Seek

Isolated in a pandemic, we are both hiding and exposed.

We join videoconferences, but don’t turn on our cameras. We hide behind digital identities, but we are tracked extensively by the platforms that support those identities. We silently and secretly navigate our shopping purchases in digital marketing pathways that influence our choices and behaviour. We go out in public briefly for exercise or shopping or protest, but we are wearing masks. We have never been so hidden. We are totally exposed.

One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be
     important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

Kenneth Koch, One Train May Hide Another

No matter how much we hide or we isolate, we are not the hermits of old scratching out an existence in a remote wilderness. We are part of community. Even if we went out into a wilderness today to live alone, our digital communities, our relationship connections and the community infrastructure of support would follow us. We may not want to be found but drones will find us, devices will track us and should we need it an air ambulance could come airlift us out. We may want to hide but our world leaves us still exposed.

Like many, I had always assumed toddlers hid their eyes to hide because they were egocentric. The theory went that they assumed that their lack of sight applied to all. However, recent psychological research suggests that toddlers base that behaviour in reciprocity and mutuality. Perhaps we are more deeply engrained in the elements of community than we realise. There may yet be hope for humanity.

Be kind—love what you see—or go
To sleep and stop dreaming you’re one of us.

Gary Lemons, Nowhere to Hide

There is comfort and protection in the hidden, especially in times of trauma and of loss. I have days where pulling the covers over my head and waiting things out seem like wise strategies. However, ignoring the world and hiding from connection is only a deferral. The answer is in the work of community, not in perfecting invisibility. The joy we seek is out there with others, not hidden away. Even if we run for it, that life will come find us and make us work to earn it.

today if ever
to say the joy of trying
to say the joy.

Philip Booth, Saying It

Connection

Suitable personal protective equipment to shake hands

Remember handshakes? They were an archaic work and social practice which disappeared in early 2020. Signalling respect, offering a peaceful intent and acknowledging agreement, they formed a peaceful symbol of connection in a busy world.

Connection matters

The handshake may be gone (forever) along with physical offices, indoor meetings and conferences, but connection between people remains important. We wave on our video conferences in an effort to signal similar recognition of others and to create the same sense of closure that handshakes offered.

My approach to collaboration and future of work practices begins with connection because it is a step that is surprisingly often overlooked. People assume that gathering people creates connection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Connection is what breaks down the barriers to people working together. Until we help teams address misalignment, fear, distrust and lack of shared norms, there will be no effective progress. Technology or wondrous adoption approaches will never overcome interpersonal group dysfunction.

The Connection in a Handshake

Reflect for a minute on what a handshake offers:

  • Respect: Recognition of the other as an individual
  • Sign of peace: No reason to fear an open hand offered in peace
  • Alignment: confirming agreements. We are in this together with shared intent.
  • Norms: the handshake itself sits in a context of social norms and practising a handshake reinforces shared group norms. These norms were why we all ended up in accidental handshakes back in February when we weren’t locked down

When we want to establish a new group, new project, new collaboration or any other form of shared work, we need to start with the elements of a handshake.

  • Respect: Is the environment one that will recognise individuals, respect their differences and allow them to share their potential? Are the people chosen with this respect?
  • Psychological Safety: Have we removed unnecessary and unhelpful fear and uncertainty that we can so that people can contribute freely?
  • Alignment: Does everyone understand why the group and they are there? Have they agreed to participate for those goals? Is there shared visions of success?
  • Norms and Governance: Are the ground rules of the work as a group clear and agreed by all involved.

There is a strong theme of participation, agency and agreement in these elements. Each individual must choose and acknowledge the shared efforts. We need to align the collective and the individual. If you have ever tried to shake an unwilling hand, you will know it is a clunky and uncomfortable experience that does nobody any good.

Many people seek to skip over the stages of forming connection. Some don’t respect the participants and see them merely as widgets in a larger plan. Some fear the storming and norming phases of team building and establishment of norms. Others prefer to retain an absolute say over goals, or to retain fear and control. Far too many organisations take norms for granted or assume that they can be imposed as ‘standard ground rules’ without explanation or practice. Any time saved skipping these ‘soft & messy’ steps leads to significantly larger delay, confusion and failure later.

We may not shake hands again soon. However, ensure that every collaboration, project or new future of work practice considers the value of connection up front. Your work will be better and more valuable for the time invested.

Leadership Theatre

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time, plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

If you are too busy to lead, then you are not a leader. Leadership is work, not a status. If you don’t do the work those who have given you authority and influence will offer that work to others.

The Work Of Leadership

Our leadership has become focused on performative not functional tasks. Leadership is work, not theatre. If our leaders do not focus on their work, they will loose their influence and their power.

Before I continue let’s define leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence individual or collective action. Leadership is not a status or a title. It is not for show. Leadership is granted by communities, not appointed by organisations or bosses.

Leadership is the work in groups of people come together to align and choose their actions. The foundation of leadership is the work of influence and the authority that others grant to leaders to have influence because of the work that they do.

We all recognise the theatre of leadership: the stage, the lofty pronouncements, the adulation, the email banner & more. Some leaders become so focused on this theatre as the role that they seek to outsource it to communications professions. The demand for ‘post on behalf of’ features in communication and community platforms is one inisidious example. Sure someone can write your emails or make your post, fixing the grammar and the sweeping rhetoric, but remember they are the one’s influencing others, not you. This feature may have a role when the risks are high, but it is limited role, not an outsourcing opportunity.

This focus on the theatre of leadership leaves many employees and community members heads scratching. There are real community problems to solve. They aren’t solved by stages, banners, slogans, messages or fancy rhetoric. The more time invested in those things the more disengaged the community that is looking for personal work to solve problems together. No wonder leaders of all forms are grappling with lack of engagement and authority. The answer is not more communications packaging to cut through. The answer is human connection, sharing, problem solving and learning together.

The theatre of leadership exists only to make the leader feel better. Performance satisfies the ego. Performance keeps up appearances. Performance lulls people into a dangerous complacency. Meanwhile the real work is forgotten or being directed elsewhere.

Communities make Leaders

Communities make leaders. They grant them the authority and the influence to help the community come together in action. If a person is too busy to exercise that authority and influence, it goes to another. Nobody chooses to delegate authority and influence. The community decides who to follow, based on who best does the work.

If you don’t do the work, you won’t be a leader. When the focus is on leadership theatre, people leave communities or they go looking for authority elsewhere in the community. It can be a tough conversation to explain to senior management that the reason they aren’t the most followed, most liked or most influential in their community is that others have done more work, won more trust and built stronger relationships. A ‘post on behalf of’ feature will increase activity from that leader. It does nothing for influence and authority. Communities reward humanity, openness, alignment, transparency, trust given and work done.

The work in question is to improve the functioning of the community. Community managers, champions and change agents are doing this work every day. The influence and authority is to help others to connect, share, solve problems and learn together to achieve individual and shared goals. If you aren’t working for the community, they aren’t working for you. If you are too busy to do that work, then why call yourself a leader? Cancel a few meetings and sessions of self-praise and go find your community again. You might want to start by enabling the community managers, champions and change agents to be more effective with a few degrees of freedom.

The praise that rings out to those in power standing on a stage is empty and hollow. Step off the stage and go to work. Do the hard work of connecting, sharing, solving and learning in the community. Enable others to succeed and let the trappings of theatre and ego fall away. There’s much more to be gained as communities and individuals achieve their potential. That is the work, not the theatre.

Imposters Everywhere

The spotlight can be an uncomfortable place

The problem with imposter syndrome is not the doubt. We all can doubt our capabilities. The problem is how best we recognise our own changing capabilities and validate our own intrinsic motivations. Imposter syndrome can be a warning that our perceptions or our expectations are misaligned.

I saw a recent post on social media that suggested 70% of people experience imposter syndrome. That ‘fact’ seems to be sourced to unspecified research. This figure also relates to an experience ‘at least once in their life’. One would question if 70% of us suffer imposter syndrome at least once that perhaps the syndrome is never doubting one’s own capability. Who is so bulletproof on their own capabilities as to never doubt their ability to achieve?

Doubt is Everywhere

Our doubt is hardly surprising. We are taught from a young age to measure ourselves against external and often opaque standards. We focus on our competencies and not our capabilities. In a corporate world that makes a fetish of standardisation, we feel like a round peg in a square hole, always uncomfortable at the gaps, the squishing and bumps required in our work.

Our doubt is often tied to our success. In a hierarchical world, where few progress and fewer are recognised, it is easy to doubt one’s own progress, attributing it to luck, privilege or mistake. In many cases, the selection processes are sufficiently random that luck, privilege and mistake clearly can play a role. The moments after selection for a new role or opportunity bring on the worst feelings of doubt as the step up in expectation can appear greater, the unknown greatest and the merit most doubtful.

Doubt is a natural expectation when taking on new roles, challenges and learning is our work. We see the obstacles and the shortcomings. We easily lose sight of the sand we have shifted already. All the dynamic change around us reminds us that we need to learn and do more. Our performance management systems make us feel like hamsters on a hamster wheel running to get nowhere, finishing one project, one year or one role only to dive into the next sprint. We are often alienated not only from the outcomes of our work but even our contribution to its success.

This doubt is only likely to increase as the capabilities of AI and automation continue to encroach on our roles. The more we are judged for our insights, our creativity, our handling of complexity and our relationship management the more we will struggle to assess against objective standards. The more routine tasks that are automated the more we might fear that we are not unique enough to add value to the machine.

Beyond Doubt

Two things seem beyond doubt:

  • we each have unique & growing capabilities
  • we each have intrinsic & evolving motivations

Ignoring these two certainties to fit ourselves into a standardised world and a fixed external motivation structure is alienating. That alienation is a cause of dissatisfaction and doubt when combined with the stress of the new, the changing and the challenging. If we live with a disconnect between out intrinsic feelings and our extrinsic circumstances something is going to give.

We need to do a better job to own our own strengths and our own achievements. This means being realistic and having your own standards for progress. Peers, colleagues, mentors and family can act as important checks on unrealistic expectations and unacknowledged progress. Leverage them to receive feedback on your work. Share your work with them. Celebrate your successes however small.

Own your own development. Nobody is perfect and it should not feel like a burden to learn and to grow. The standard isn’t 100% or 110% success. The standard is your growth and development towards your goals. The standard is how well you are statisfying the drivers of your motivation. It’s easy to feel like a fraud when you don’t want to be doing something and everyone else seems effortlessly motivated. Remember also that everyone else is performing and you only see their surface behaviours. They may be struggling too and worrying that they can’t keep up with you.

The response to feelings of being an imposter is not to lower your aim but to better direct it. Nobody ever taps you on the shoulder to say ‘You are a fraud. We finally caught you.’ The only person who will do that is you. Give yourself a break and focus on your strengths, your progress and your goals too.

Curiosity

The glint in the eye of the curious seeker of knowledge

The narrower our world, the more we must be curious. In a time of transactions and digital interactions, we must dig beneath the surface of appearances, tease the loose threads and explore hard questions.

The Lost Art of Curiosity.

Type curious into an image search engine and you will get an array of images of kittens, puppies and babies. We know the very young are learning and are supremely curious creatures. Spending time around young children and you discover that they are fans of Simon Sinek. They always start with why. For adults, curiosity is no longer an expectation. The loss of that expectation is the loss of learning.

I am old enough to have grown up before the internet when not knowing was a moment to moment experience. We didn’t know a lot always. One got used to being curious. Sports results, political discussion, historical facts, how to explanations, the locations and activities of friends and family, and scientific information were not always to hand. Some you would know later, if you put in the effort to look it up in a library, an encyclopedia or an almanac. Other answers came if you found and asked the right person. Some you never did know and just remained forever curious. We did not have the world on hand to answer our queries.

The magic of studying out of date and often wrong answers in an almanac

All that not knowing and the attendant curiosity began to decline with “Just Google it”. Suddenly there was a ready answer. Curiosity became less an energising, sustained and difficult quest and more like the dopamine hit of online betting. That findability of information didn’t mean the answers were worth the effort. Some answers just depend on your bubble. Finding answers just meant that there were always answers available. The reward for the second and third wave questions of curiousity ameliorated. If you investigate your curiosity, there are always many others already there, many far ahead of you. We lived in a digital equivalent of the response to every question being ‘asked and answered’.

Below the Surface

The work for the truly curious remained. The modern internet delivers most common answers to most common questions, whether at a large scale or in a bubble. This transactional delivery of information starts and stops at the surface of things. Top 5 simplicity wins. Transaction information wins over systemic and relationship-based knowledge. Long reads, ambiguity, multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted depth are left lower rungs on the search engine results because they do not win the power law of validation game.

Our future depends on the long, hard, ambiguous, multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted response to systemic problems. Our future belongs to the curious who ask questions below the surface of things. The Coronavirus pandemic is a simple example. When it began many of the western public health heuristics were based on simple rules from previous flu epidemics: focus on lungs, the symptomatic, handwashing, 1.5m separation, etc. Only as the curious have dug into the superspreader events, the data and the anecdotes have we come to realise that this pandemic is more complex, involving whole of body responses, asymptomatic spread, the indoor/outdoor transmission, the impact of different strains, need for masks, role of comorbidities and population effects and so on. The curious have led us from simple rules to much more effective targeted efforts to manage the mortality and control the spread of a deadly virus. We laugh about armchair epidemiologists but hypotheses can be sourced from anywhere and guide new research and testing.

In my everyday concern of how we work in more human and more effective ways, we need to go below the surface of things too. Yes videoconferencing, messaging and other tools deliver a simalcrum of our working lives remotely. However, we now need to consider the risks of this transition and ask ourselves deeper questions about work, relationships and autonomy in the digital age. We need to get beyond simple answers and be curious about how and why we work the way we do.

Working out loud is not just a tactic. It is a new relationship with our work, our networks and the challenges before us. Working out loud shares our curiosities and invites others to join in. Working out loud invites others with different perspectives to help us get beneath the surface, the symptom and the immediate. With that intent, I am curious about the following questions:

  • Why do organisations exist? and how can we best leverage the collective potential of people?
  • How do we shape and manage the creation of value through strategy in a distributed networked and dynamic world?
  • What can we do to better realise the potential of a diverse community of contributors?
  • How can we learn faster and build the capabilities we need to succeed more effectively by rethinking our models of learning?
  • What does autonomy mean? How do we best support it? How do we unravel centuries of thinking around political, social, and commercial models of control to free ourselves for the next wave of innovation?
  • Why do we have different expectations of relationships in our personal, political and commercial lives?
  • How can we better support individuals and organisations to work on systems not symptoms?
  • What does collaboration become when we recognise we work with both machines and humans on every task?

There is much to be gained by sharing the questions that make us curious. What is intriguing you?

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with decorative lacquer. We too can make a virtue of breaks and repairs.

Perfection is an unrealistic and inhuman standard. We are all a little shabby in real human life, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Ancient Japanese craftsmen embraces the imperfections in repairing objects. They made the repair a feature and a key part of the object’s beauty.

Humans learn through a lifelong process of falls, failures, shortcomings, disappointments, losses, grief and breaks. Our positive goal and achievement-oriented culture makes these moments undiscussable. In so doing we make the very process of becoming hidden to us as well as others. We create unrealistic expectations of success and minimise the commitment, work and persistence required.

Balance asks us to acknowledge that breaks occur. Humanity challenges us to celebrate the diversity of experience, not because we desire it, but because we can learn from it. A little gold in the seams of disappointment can draw the eye and be a comforting counsel to those grappling with loss. The gold can remind us that a break is the beginning of something new of our making.

Let’s make a virtue of our cracks, breaks and repairs. Real human lives are full of them. Richer lives leverage them as seams of learning. The shine of that potential is something luminous.

Loss

We can recite the Kubler-Ross stages of grief as a formula for loss (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), but it is important to remember that they were stages designed to humanise people’s experience of the end of their own life. They are not a prescription or a roadmap. They are simply observations of valid human experiences. The large and small losses we experiencing now call for us to be equally compassionate and empathetic with human experience.

The Loss

The losses are manifold. From the deaths of celebrities, acquaintances, friends and relatives, from illnesses encountered alone, to businesses devastated, all the way through to the minor incovenience of a spring day experienced wearing a mask on a time-limited exercise break. For many people privileged by the progress of the 20th century, the losses of life, of health, and of liberty are a first startling encroachment. For others, they are a sharing of a daily experience.

We must remember that as devastating as the major losses are, the psychological effects of an accumulation of minor loss can be wearing. The valid experiences that Kubler-Ross describes can manifest at any time. We can ask for grit and resilience, but everyone has a limit and those limits kick in at different points and under different triggers.

Remember all the responses are human responses. Kubler-Ross didn’t preface the phases with rational or measured. All the responses whether a rant on Facebook or a flood of tears or a silent stalking depression are human responses. They may be ill-informed or dangerous, but that too is a human characteristic. As a community we need to understand, empathise and wrap our arms around all who are suffering

Fatigue is real in 2020.

A Human Response

Goal oriented, purposeful and positive communities can forget the human experience of loss. We know organisations, governments, bigotry and processes can dehumanise us, but it is also important to remember that an expectation of endless universal even sunniness of demeanour is also dehumanising. Real humans don’t experience the world that way. Organisations that make that a condition of participation in an organisational community create new risks, as they sweep loss and sadness under the carpet. Postivity and optimism are virtues but they cannot be expectations. We may need them to be balanced with some cold hard cynicism for the work to get done.

Empathetic communities and organisations embrace the diversity of human experience. They don’t ask people to cut off their capabilities to fit into boxes of roles or emotional straight jackets. These communities embrace the diversity of human experience because it is both functional and a path to enabling people to realise their potential. Without ways to process loss, some people never move past it or worse transfer the anger and frustration of that loss to the conspiracies of the algorithmic bubble.

We all need more empathy. This blog at this time is a process of bargaining with the many minor losses and challenges that I have been experiencing through the Covid pandemic and more recently Melbourne’s strict lockdown. For those more used to its corporate content I ask forgiveness. I know I am a lucky one with plenty of work, health and support. I have escaped major loss but I still feel the small losses keenly and grapple with my human reactions. I hope that my bargains may help others dealing with other experiences of the Kubler-Ross stages.

Public health is ultimately community in action. Community is our path to changing the trajectory of the pandemic and community should be our comfort through this experience. We need to focus on all the communities of which we belong, invest in their health and wellbeing. Ultimately our empathy, sharing and investment in others is the way we move forward together.

What the CEO wants to know about your New Work Practices?

When it comes to the future of work, a lot of nonsense gets espoused. Some of this is wishful thinking, some is utopian thinking and much is just a lack of accountability for any consequences. Each of these are warning signals to sceptical senior managers who have been brought up in a much harsher and more pragmatic world. They are looking for answers to specific questions about the performance and risk impact of any change in work that is advocated. This post will examine those questions and how to answer them.

How to Answer

We are going to start with how to answer the questions because it is a common area of shortcoming when passionate advocates engage senior management. Remember that senior managers are time poor, distracted by big business issues and are used to driving an accountability and performance culture to achieve strategic outcomes. They are looking for answers that reassure them that you are thinking the same way. The last thing they need is another waffling wasteful distracting project.

Be detailed: As a change advocate, we can become enamoured with our own enthusiasm for change. We are focused on the big picture and the glorious future ahead. In this context, everyone else’s concerns can feel like minor issues. The key point to remember is that those minor issues are the big barriers to executive participation and enthusiastic support. If any executive doesn’t understand what you are talking about or how to address a small issue, it is the issue.

Avoid Abstraction: Advocates of new practices love capitalised nouns. It’s hard to argue with, understand and to measure Employee engagement, Innovation, Collaboration, Autonomy, Purpose, and other popular capitalised nouns. Executives are trained to pick apart these abstractions with questions designed to get to the so what. That’s not a problem. That is their job and they will rightly remain sceptical until you can do so too.

Discuss Value: Value is the question most people want to avoid. It is far easier to advocate for a motherhood capitalised noun than start a discussion of value with someone trained to think like an accountant. Value can be indirect and diffuse. The fact that value is hard to discuss doesn’t excuse anyone from the discussion. In fact, it makes that conversation more important, because that which is hard to see is more likely to be overlooked.

Align to Strategy: If you are going to lose an argument, at least lose on the right side of history. Your organisation has put time and effort into choosing its strategy. Make sure you understand it and are helping execute that strategy. If you can show alignment to strategy, there is a good chance you can find the specific contributions of value for the practices you are advocating. Strategy is after all just a specific way you have chosen to create value for customers and the organisation. If you want to argue for priority in the organisation, its employees and their time, the only way to do so is by contributing to strategy.

Be Balanced: Senior executives are trained to think in priority and risk-reward. If you don’t discuss the risks, issues or investment, then they will be forced to go looking for it. Remember your project is only the centre of the universe for you. Be prepared to discuss the connection of your project to other areas of the business. It is always better that you bring these issues to table and have prepared the mitigations. As the person best placed to know your assessment of risks and issues is more likely to be measured.

What to Answer

Here are the key questions to consider:

  • Audience: Who Does this Impact? Who will be involved?
  • Value: What are the specific benefits to our strategy?
  • Measurement: How will I know it is working? What does success look like and where will I see it? When will it happen?
  • Risks: What could go wrong? What are the mitigants?
  • Costs: What will it cost?
  • Priority: Why should I prioritise this now?
  • Execution: How do we do this? Who? How? What? When? How do I know that we have done what we need to do?

Prepare answers to these questions with as much specificity, detail and balance as you can. Be prepared to debate and discuss these answers. You want senior executives engaged in developing their own understanding. That happens when they ask questions and debate you. If they are silent, they are disengaged and you are losing. When you leave the room, you will discover nothing happens.

Senior executives aren’t aliens. They are human and supremely rational. If you reassure there concerns and demonstrate the right benefits, then you will discover they are enthusisatic supporters. If you can demonstrate the path forward to success, they will make it happen. New work practices can address some of the hardest and most significant strategic issues for senior executives and organisations, but they won’t do so unless you get through these conversations with support.

The Outrage Economy

In the 1990s, in the media industry there was a great deal of discussion on how the rise of the internet had given rise to an attention economy. Traditional media were going to need to focus on engagement and quality of content to win attention in a newly competitive landscape. What we forgot in our naivete is that outrage and conflict is an ancient human path to attention too.

What has transpired instead is an Outrage Economy, where the leverage of outrage plays in two directions regardless of your politics, beliefs or viewpoints. Outrage is everywhere, but it plays constructive or destructive roles depending on whether it is used to seek change in the world or simply to seek more attention as an end in itself.

Outrage

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost, Fire and Ice

Outrage is everywhere. On every side of every issue, we have outrage. The internet has enabled communities of outrage to form and to grow around every position and every issue. It can feel like our polarisation is greater than ever. We talk far more about our divisions than our commonalities.

Outrage is a moral human emotion. In the ancient world, outrage and the social stigmas, taboos and morals on which it rests were dividers of cultures. We signified in and out of our groups with outrage at the practices and cultures of others. We vilified and excluded others, at times at the cost of their lives. Violence in this context was seen as the defence of a group culture, ethic, identity and morality.

When outraged we face a choice, to focus on its moral implications for our own actions or to focus on our rage against others. These two paths lead in different directions.

The Two Paths of Outrage

Not all outrage is equal. When we seek to understand the impact of outrage in our society and our economy, we need to realise that outrage comes in two forms:

  • Outrage seeking Action: a constructive cycle of leveraging outrage externally to seek collective change
  • Outrage seekinG Attention: a destructive cycle of leveraging outrage to seek an audience

Seeking Attention in the Outrage Economy

Much of the discussion of outrage in our media is part of the Outrage seeking Attention path. Whether from trolls, protesters, media, corporate or major political figures, outrage can be leveraged to win and retain attention and to build audiences. Like Mercutio’s dying words in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, attention seeking outrage is the ‘ plague o’ both our houses’. The path of Outrage seeking Attention works equally for any side of politics, any ideology, any cause and any belief system. Outrage seeking Attention is an equal morality employer.

This path is ultimately a destructive spiral as these outraged audience requires ever greater outrage to remain engaged and there is always the danger of losing ones audience to a practitioner of greater outrage. Tabloid media, demagogues and totalitarians have been masters of the cascade of outrage seeking attention, particularly in the form of outrage at all forms of the Other. In a world where many depend on the monetisation of eyeballs, outrage seeking attention is a well worn path.

The Seeking Attention Path is ultimately an inward one. Whether in the promoter or the audience the focus is on ego and a sense of inner superiority. We are outraged at Them. We are better and share our differences to Them. Attention demands no check with an external reality and there is little need for consequences. We don’t ever need to engage Them in real life and if we do our outrage prevents effective engagement.

Attention itself is validation of the outrage and our quest. The outrage exists within a bubble of believers. The outrage can and will endure. Outrage must remain to bind the group and even grow to sustain attention and its salve for the ego. Outrage without seeking collective action in a diverse community is never tested and can never be satisfied.

Seeking Collective Action in Community

The Outrage seeking Action Path may seem similar. However, the focus of this path is to create change in the world. Creating that change will require practitioners to go beyond the bubble, outward into the world.

Individual action can be performative and part of attention seeking. However achieving sustainable and scaled change requires actions that engage a wide community of stakeholders. Achieving enduring change requires collective action and engagement from those stakeholders to help advance the plan.

Shouting a plan in outrage is very different to putting a plan into action. All kinds of forces, including the outrage and resistance of others must be navigated in getting others to change. As frustrating as those community interactions may be, as impure the resulting changes and compromises may seem, they move the discussion from a moral feeling to a practical reality in a diverse community. Practical change seeks to engage others to reflect on their reaction to circumstances and then to act. The original motivating outrage may well remain a motivation for some but be a barrier to successful action in a wider community.

Action means we have to engage with the diverse views and capabilities of the world. Fostering this engagement and collective action to improve our world builds civil society. If we alienate and exclude others, we risk our collective action failing to deliver a sustainable change. If we engage others in our outrage, we do so to prompt them to act and to change and they too must carry that into the world. Transforming outrage into collective action may adapt our plans and the actions to addressing a moral concern but community engagement, not alienation, is the constructive path forward.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

WH Auden, September 1, 1939