CommsCamp 2015I spent today in Birmingham with a load of comms, digital, marketing and generally interesting people at CommsCamp15. It seems to be the done thing now to jot down a list of quick reflections on the and that seems like the perfect way to capture my busy thoughts right now.

Before that though – a big thanks to Darren Caveney, Dan Slee, Emma Rodgers and the sponsors for making the event possible. It takes a ton of work to pull together an event and I’m always grateful when there are people who put in the effort (and/or the cash) to make stuff like today happen.

Here’s some thoughts on how CommsCamp15 was for me:

  • Building a collaborative playlist is a really nice way to get into the spirit of the event and I loved hosting it, and playing from it on Spotify. I’m going to leave the list open so if a communications-themed song pops into your head add it to the playlist, or listen to the 6 hours and 57 minutes of music already in there!
  • Likewise, having people bring cakes and then share in the bounty (for charity) is a great way to build community and break the ice (also, encourage early onset diabetes).
  • Kate Bentham should definitely consider changing her name to Cake Bentham for her excellent hosting of the cake table.
  • Unconferences are still as much (or possibly more) about the corridor conversations and catch ups as they are about the sessions.
  • That said, the dichotomy of choice is a real one at unconferences and there were times when I wished I could be in two places at once.
  • A few women took up Emma Rodger’s rally cry for more women to pitch sessions – not sure what the gender split was today but her post encouraging more women to make suggestions and facilitate discussions is well worth a read.
  • My session was a shameless misappropriation of a Batman quote: ‘Your intranet could be the hero your organisation deserves, but it’s not the one it needs right now’. I have seen a lot of chatter around intranets recently (including internally as we continue through our own discovery phase). Most of it is focused on delivery of a ‘thing’, or seems to start with the solution (‘let’s build a shinier intranet’) and doesn’t acknowledge that success is going to come down to deep understanding of your organisation’s culture (good and bad bits) and building something that fits with it, or is a step on that way to the culture your organisation wants.
  • It was great to do this as a co-host session with Dan Slee who pitched ‘my intranet is worse than yours’. There were some really quite remarkable examples, not least because the delivery and approach was likely speaking of that organisation’s culture too.
  • It was even better that culture was a natural part of the discussion in the session. Things I took away were:
    • that ‘intranet’ is a self-limiting and misleading term – we’re probably talking about digital workspaces or gateways to tools, rather than an internal website built around corporate communication
    • that gathering data on current usage of internal touch points (could be a current intranet but also your HR help line and your IT service desk) doesn’t seem so widespread in intranet projects. Nor does really getting to grips with user needs and then building to meet those needs. The approach to intranets generally seems to differ from that taken with a public-facing build
    • in the public sector we should really think about intranets being out in the open
    • that there is no one size fits all delivery for intranets because each organisation is different. And in something the size of a council you may have more than one culture (departmental, service, team) and this expands your range of user needs. Personalisation, curation or opt-in by subject may be the way to go with intranets as workplace tools rather than saying ‘we need a social intranet’ (because maybe that only reflects some of your culture, or cultural aspirations)
    • always start with a problem looking for a solution, rather than the other way around.
  • The Future Comms Team discussion was really interesting and seems to be something lots of us are actively thinking about at the moment:
    • First up – when I said ‘I’m a digital person, so not really comms’ I think it came out a bit wrong. The word digital means a great many things, and only one of them is about a communications channel. The way I self-identify what I do isn’t restricted to that definition. My digital is as much customer service, service delivery, service design and user experience – all of that involves communication, but isn’t Communications (subtle but important difference to me).
    • I tweeted loads of of this session as I got quite passionate about the discussions on leadership and self-directed leadership. Most of what people were talking about as qualities for future leaders fit the systems leaders behaviour model from the Local Leadership Centre. We’ve been looking at this at LocalGov Digital and I’ve been talking to Carl Haggerty about it in my coaching too.  It talks about the leaders being committed to making positive and lasting change across public services, having empathy with others, inspiring others and leading by doing, having an openness to new approaches and to feedback, creating structures to support devolved leadership and using reflective practice to improve individually. For me these are qualities and approaches I would respond really well to in a leader, and would aspire to demonstrate myself
    • Leadership isn’t about individuals, it’s a team sport (as I’ve blogged before) and it requires bravery, conviction, kindness and the ability to build not just networks but relationships that lead to commitment and the influence to motivate or convene those networks on shared purpose
    • Leadership doesn’t have to come down a hierarchy, it doesn’t even have to come from within your own organisation. You can choose who you allow to lead you. You are a leader yourself. Find who inspires you. Can’t find anyone? Inspire yourself.
    • The future is uncertain – digital is massively disrupting established models all over the place as well as all the other budgets, reorganisations etc that are going on. To get us to a new future (or move us along in this change) someone has to be first, and they have to be brave and accept that means there won’t be the comfort of someone already having scouted ahead or checked out the potential pitfalls.
    • It’s still red pill / blue pill time for a lot of people.
    • The strategy *is* delivery. Show, don’t tell. Don’t wait for permission
    • And don’t think that because you lose a battle there isn’t a longer war to be won. Procurement comes in cycles, contracts renew. Be positive and proactive when you are defeated and prototype and find evidence for the future decision to be a better one.
  • I’m still really excited about delivering Digital First at Nottinghamshire County Council. It’s all about seeing the opportunity that is hidden within each challenge and making the right choices (even when these aren’t the easy ones).
  • I’m still in love with possibilities and all about the people, not the tech.
  • Great conversations with @lilac_lou, @joomoohoo, @albfreeman and @x333xxx. Thought provoking, motivating and generally lovely.
  • My favourite cake was the Pimms cup cake by Kelly Quigley-Hicks. Deliciously genius.
  • Eddie Coates-Madden and Nick Hill are heroes for taking on the organisation of LocalGovCamp for this year – I have every faith that it will be superb! It was great to do a speedy handover and checklist of what’s to do – the baton passes and there is something rather nice about it happening while we were all at another grassroots unconference.

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