Over my career thusfar, I’ve been noticing the various influences that different organisations bring to bear. Various schools of thought and methodologies are applied. At the time of writing: Agile, Scrum, Kan-Ban, Design Thinking, User Experience, etc. Various ecosystems are set up, by certain vendors, of tools, applications, etc. Various words and clusters of language are used to describe things.
It seems that the people who run and staff the organisations have been influenced by ideas, which they picked up either during their tenure at an organisation, or before they joined, perhaps from their education and training or other sources. They absorb these influences and then spread them. The thinking of the organisation forms a kind of bubble.
In my own research of schools of thought, such as Agile and Design Thinking, I’ve seen that they spring up from small groups of individuals, whether named or not, who inspired the way of thinking or perhaps set up some of the key concepts and created the language.
So in macro, organisations seem to operate on influences, and in micro, individuals do.
I have noticed that I myself draw influences from certain sources. Factors such as the schooling I had, the companies I worked for, articles and books I read, ideas that I heard about from people I know, my friendship and social networks, all play into how I have been influenced.
So lately I have been trying to take a step back and ask myself: Who and what is influencing you? What have you been learning and from who? Where are you getting your information, words, language from? I don’t ask myself these questions with any judgement, e.g. of whether an influence is better or worse than another, but I just observe what’s there.
I also ask similar questions about the people I come into contact with, offline and online: Who and what is influencing them? Where do they learn, and from who? Where do they get information, words, language from? And also, what are their “stakes” or incentives in sharing something, whether it’s an idea, language, technology, schools of thought, ways of doing things, etc. What’s their motivation?
Perhaps they’re affiliated with a school of thought, vendor, etc. Perhaps they have a personal interest of some kind in some area of thought. Perhaps the company they work for expects them to promote some idea. Perhaps the idea is foundational to how they live and work. (I don’t pretend to know any of this for sure, but it’s interesting to ask the question.)
And, as with myself, I don’t try to judge the value of the influences and motivations. It’s not necessarily better or worse for someone to have a stake in promoting something or to be influenced by an idea. Rather than judge, I simply observe. And over time, I develop my own perspective on how various people, ideas, motivations and networks fit together.
By being aware of influences, I start to actively shape my own influences. For example, I might observe that I have been thinking very much within a certain interpretation of “Agile”. And I might see limitations in that thinking, which cause me to actively seek out the influence of a different school of thought, e.g. “Design Thinking”. This can be done by, for example, attending courses, reading books, networking with people in the field, etc.
So I get into cycles of observing influences, choosing new influences, observing again, etc. (Sounds kind of “Agile”-ish, doesn’t it!) Over time, I see myself shifting in thinking, and shaping my thinking by shaping who and what is influencing me. This, in turn, affects what kind of work I seek, how my C.V. looks, what kind of employers I work for, and what direction my career goes in.
This constant observing and re-shaping of influences has certainly made for an interesting and exciting career, and funnily enough, has given me more of a sense of direction. Something new to aim for, at every turn.