Working Notes of a Practising Neo-Generalist (#15) — To be everywhere is to be nowhere

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“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” — Marcus Aurelius in Meditations, Book 6:21 (Gregory Hays, The Modern Library, New York)

To be everywhere is to be nowhere

Since I started using Twitter in 2012, I have mostly shared other people’s tweets, and, by doing so, created a library with more than 10,000 talks, blog posts, articles, thoughts and ideas on subjects ranging from innovation and leadership to philosophy and architecture. This collection may seem random but, to me, these varied subjects are all connected, one way or the other. In the words of the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, “I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.”

I make these connections in notebooks but, above all, in my head, and they become explicit through my work as executive mentor and transformation architect. This is where and how my thinking as ‘comprehensivist’ pays out. Until I started following Harold Jarche’s online course in Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), that is. Harold made me realise the importance of working out (even) loud(er).

Since 2016, I share some of my connections in ‘Random finds’ — my weekly curation of tweets. With an average read time of fifteen minutes, slowly creeping up to twenty, I don’t expect to attract a large audience. But I don’t mind. Writing these Random finds has actually made me a better reader, which, in turn, allows me to make more meaningful connections between concepts and ideas, and also between and with people.

In 2017, I also wrote the final issue in a series of columns for Intrapreneurship World (rebranded as Innov8rs), a transcript of Secrets of Silicon Valley, a BBC documentary series by tech writer Jamie Bartlett, and eleven ‘Working Notes of a Practicing Neo-Generalist.’

These Working Notes are my stories, and I owe much of it to Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelsen, the authors of The Neo-Generalist. My interview for their book, and the many conversations I have had with Kenneth since, have made me more aware of my ‘onlyness’ — a term coined by Nilofer Merchant, with which she means, the “thing that only you have, coming from that spot in the world in which you stand, a function of your history and experience, visions and hopes. It is everything that you have coming from your past, that only you can see.”

Having said this, I don’t see myself as a writer. Like Montaigne, and that is where the comparison stops, I am a ‘réfléchisseur’ — someone who reflects, who ponders.

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Lately, I have been asking myself the question, how long will I be able to keep this up? I don’t have an answer yet, although I think it’s time to find a new and more accessible format for my ‘threads.’ Besides, I want to write more about the books I read. After all, the hundred or so institutions, journals and people I follow on Twitter aren’t my only source of information. Far from it. But I also want to spend my time wisely. Or, as Seneca wrote in one of his Moral Letters to Lucilius (Letter 2, On discursiveness in reading), “Be careful, however, that there is no element of discursiveness and desultoriness about this reading you refer to, this reading of many different authors and books of every description. You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind. To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

So, plenty to ponder on during the coming weeks. But for now, here’s the list of my writings from 2017.

Random finds

An almost weekly curation of my tweets and, as such, a reflection of my curiosity and the connections I make.

Working Notes of a Practising Neo-Generalist

An assembly of personal thoughts and reflections.

Previous issues (2016)

Field Notes on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Issue #11 was my final column in a series written for Intrapreneurship World (rebranded in 2017 as Innov8rs), posted between September 19th, 2016, and January 10th, 2017.

Previous issues (2016)

Secrets of Silicon Valley

In August 2017, the BBC broadcasted a two-part series by tech writer Jamie Bartlett, The Secrets of Silicon Valley, in which he tried to uncover the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world.

And finally…

“Humanities? Law? Tourism? Zoology? Politics? History? Art? Maths? Philosophy? Music? Languages? Classics? Engineering? Architecture? Economics? Medicine? Psychology? Daniel said.

All of the above, Elisabeth said.

That’s why you need to go to collage, Daniel said.”

— Ali Smith in Autumn

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helping leaders navigate complexity with confidence & clarity of thought | varius multiplex multiformis

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