Leave a trace!
This is the advice that Euan Semple provided in his book Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web. It is advice that I wholeheartedly agree with. In fact, I spent a considerable amount of time shaking my head up and down as I read Semple’s book. I believe Cooperative Extension should be fully following his advice for the benefit of extension and the greater good.
I plan to write a review of the entire book, but I thought this chapter deserved a separate post.
Semple pointed out that many of us don’t leave much of a trace of our existence in life and at work. He added, “When we leave our organizations, or even move between departments, there is usually little to indicate what we did, why, and what the point was” (Semple, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 2).
When we leave our organizations, or even move between departments, there is usually little to indicate what we did, why, and what the point was (Semple, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 2).
We tend to be very bad at leaving guidance for those who follow us. This results in lost knowledge and wasted effort as others often try to reinvent the wheel. As Sempled noted, organizations understand they have a problem and are trying to institutionalize a solution; however, if individuals took it upon themselves to leave a trace in the form of blogs, wikis, and discussion forums, a significant amount of knowledge could be retained. He also noted that when organizations attempt to capture knowledge it is often after an event occurs; instead, it needs to be in the moment of development when it is raw and useful.
Semple provides a number of ideas on how to capture ideas. Throughout his book, he tended to support blogs, wikis, and forums to capture information. These are perhaps the easiest mechanisms to capture and share knowledge.
In contrast to the usual interpretation of “knowledge is power” – which means hoarding it and only giving it out occasionally – increasingly, the opposite is true. If you are not sharing it and letting it move around freely, you might as well not have your knowledge (Semple, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 9).
Collectively, extension educators and specialists have a lot of knowledge; however, I personally do not believe we are good at sharing it. I believe all educators and specialists should be blogging—sharing all the hidden secrets for their individual specialties. They should be posting PowerPoint presentations on SlideShare to be shared with the world. They should be building wikis to share cumulative knowledge.
Leaving your mark, leaving a trace is such a positive thing to do, both for yourself and your organization (Semple, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 9).
“Writing Ourselves into Existence”
The other chapter that resonated with me as well as I thought related to extension work was the chapter “Writing Ourselves into Existence.” In this chapter, Semple talked about the importance of taking time to reflect and getting your thoughts down in writing. I think this is closely tied to what I have written about Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson and their prolific writing habits. These founding fathers certainly wrote their way into existence and left a indelible trace.
Semple advocated writing not only about the positive things that go on around you in your day to day life but also the challenges and failings that you may have. He discussed the challenge of becoming naked to the world, and the power you can get from it.
In this chapter, Semple also discussed the importance of sharing your self-development journey by documenting and sharing what you are learning. Others can benefit from your personal learning, but only if it is shared. Much of what I write is a sharing of my personal learning path.
Doing this growing and learning, all the time, in writing and sharing it with others, takes self-awareness and understanding of our world to a whole new level (Semple, 2012, Chapter 6, para. 11).