Re-emerging in Corona Times

I want to share a few words on how I try to make it easier to connect with all the coronavirus-related lockdown rules in place.

After a couple of pretty intense years, with our first child and some other stuff going on, it feels like I’m re-emerging into a more social, communicative mode after a long period of being pretty strongly inward focused. But this re-emerging during a global pandemic is… strange. Unexpected. Like coming up after a long dive to find… the color of the sky a different color, and the air smelling just a little different.

I’ve heard many friends and peers relate and confirm this — especially independents.

For my work, 90% of my client projects come out of two things:

  1. Public sharing: Writing and speaking. Reports or blog posts, and conferences.
  2. Informal conversations: Meeting folks for coffees or lunches, and exploring shared interests.

Now that public speaking doesn’t happen much except the occasional video call (which isn’t the same in terms of post-talk engagement) and without the usual ability to meet up for a carefree conversation, these channels aren’t available.

But here’s the thing: I’ve never done sales as such: I chat with people about what they’re currently interested in, what challenges they currently see — and how that overlaps with my own interests and capacity. This is the only approach I’ve ever found to reliably lead to good, successful projects.

If your path to new projects is to have informal meetings and conversations with a lot of folks, and then a pandemic swoops in and makes meetings a non-starter, then you have to re-build. (Matt Webb has put this very eloquently here, and also suggests potential alternative pathways.)

So I’m looking for ways to lower the (mental and logistical) barriers to have those conversations. As a first step, I started making time slots more easily available to just jump on a call for more serendipitous conversations without the usual let’s-arrange-a-call dance:

You can easily book an informal call (currently Tuesdays) to discuss any ideas or have a chat. No need to email first. 

Of course you can also email and we schedule something else, but this is available at a fixed time, with the click of a button. (It’s free, obviously.)

Since the same basic structural challenges also apply to the overall strategy process, I’ll also be experimenting with Zoom sessions with decision makers: Video calls of an hour or so for deep conversation as part of a strategy process. Call it a sparring about ideas, or a thought partner, or just a fresh set of eyes and ideas: Sometimes a lightweight approach works best. (Since this is pretty much at the core of my work, it will likely follow my regular rates, or some package arrangement to be discussed as part of a longer engagement.)

The kind of thing I imagine this might be helpful for includes things like:

  • helping you think through how your organization might best navigate the immense uncertainty of the next 12-24 months;
  • help align your foundation’s positioning regarding civil rights issues surrounding emerging technology;
  • explore ideas for things like establishing a new funding or fellowship program around emerging tech and citizen empowerment;
  • …and many, many more.

If any of these sound relevant to you, let’s chat!

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