Tuesday, June 18, 2024

editors, proofreaders, and imposters...

After accidentally writing a book about imposter syndrome a couple of years back, I find that I keep being approached by people to speak about it at their events, or as a guest attraction for groups that regularly meet together (which is nice).

I've written these up where they've happened in the past, but am not afraid to admit feeling a little trepidation for the most recent 'gig', as it was with the Berkshire Chapter of the Institute of Editing and Proofreading (so a screenful of people who know how a book is supposed to look before it's published...). I'm not sure how well I would have braved such an apparently august body of professionals, were it not that I'd been invited by Louisa Ellins - not only a fellow BF'er but also equal recipient of the Non Employee of The Week award.

At the outset, some members of the chapter kindly shared the impacts that listening to the 'gremlin of doubt' (how I describe our inner imposters manifesting) has had on them - and whilst these were largely in keeping with what others have shared in comparable events, it was highlighted how it robs us of our confidence: which means that although we may find ways to press on and deliver our work and jobs, we don't enjoy the process as we otherwise might/should (which means we're unhappier, and therefore less of the complete person we can otherwise be).

The initial reflections from the Chapter after my 'turn' seem to circle around the importance of finding ways to better validate and assure ourselves that what we're doing is 'good enough'. Because in the absence of praise, or other affirmation from clients (and/or non-existent colleagues if we work freelance), we can quickly fall into self-perpetuating thought cycles that our work isn't good enough because hardly anyone ever tells us otherwise...

There were a number of practices that were shared as to how such 'positive re-enforcements' might be designed, adopted, and introduced:

- recognising that a client re-booking you is a sign of their happiness with your work (even if they don't say so...)

- the importance of defining what it means to be successful on our own terms (rather than trying to achieve the standards of others we may see in our sector or elsewhere)

- regularly celebrating each others' wins with peers (goodness knows, if we don't cheer each other on, no one else is going to!)

- and on those occasions when a project 'fails' or a client appears unfairly critical of our work, the importance of being able to find safe spaces with peers. This is to enable us to reflect on the experience to sense check how far the client may really be being unfairly unjust, and what we can best take from the experience into the future.

All in all, it was an enjoyable experience from my side of the screen, and I'm taking from how most reacted on their camera to different points in the event, that people found at least 1 thing in what I brought as encouragement, support, and reassurance.

And in sharing the book with a body of editors and proofreaders, I also started to think about how I'd written it in a way I'd never done before - I originally intended that the book should only be consumed as a physical artefact that people read with their eyes. But I'm aware that some people are hearing its words spoken to them, instead of reading them, because they're using a Kindle. Which starts to make me wonder how far the ideas and messages of the book are being equally conveyed if they're consumed by people in a different medium to that which I originally intended..?    

Friday, June 14, 2024

the internet seems to keep loving my ideas about business plans!

I've always been open about encouraging people NOT to write business plans - mainly because all too often I meet entrepreneurs who've spent hours and days creating them, not enjoying the process, and crucially not really understanding why they were doing it... (it seems many 'professional' business advisers don't take the time to check that what they're telling you to do is actually the best thing for you to do...https://youtu.be/ZpPYqBlt1Ek).

In my experience, most people don't enjoy the process of writing them, and those that have then never actually ever go back to them (they languish in a drawer or a forgotten folder on their laptop).

And there are various research studies that have been published which also find that in most cases, the difference that having a formally written up business plan has on the success of a business is as good as negligible (i.e. no proven benefit). Although interestingly, these studies also find that those who do write plans usually only do so because someone else (a lecturer at College, or business adviser) told them to... What makes the difference on a businesses' success is that they go through some from of planning process (so using a canvas, or set of prompts to think things through, rather than just rush headlong into it all).

Which means that whenever I'm asked to lead workshops, masterclasses, or other sessions aimed at supporting people to develop their business plan, I always open with the critical question "why are you wasting your time writing a business plan, rather than going out and talking to customers or suppliers?".

And I'm encouraged, that when I originally wrote up these ideas on my blog back in 2010, this piece seems to be my most 'evergreen' post: it's not only one of my most popular ever posts by number of views, but also keeps being found and read by people - 

Of interest is that these 'spikes' in interest usually align with the start of a calendar year - the time people are apparently most likely to be thinking about starting their own business, and so searching for inspiration and support for how they might best achieve that dream.

And what this also suggests to me, is that I'm starting to get more interested in the analytics about my blog that I once decried...

Which means that having already started to consider how analytics from my social media channels can offer benefit in helping me understand how I'm creating benefit (as reported in my social impact report on myself), I'm now also starting to look at how the analytics on my blog over time can also offer further insights into my reach and support to other people that I'm not otherwise aware of...  

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

what the robots are doing for social impact

No-one can have missed the growing interest and debates surrounding the potential, risks, impacts, and future of AI in all aspects of our lives.

But an area where I’m yet to see any significant debate happening is to do with something I've been involved in since the 1990s - social value and social impact.

I’m aware that AI is already touching my business and work, having had a client share with me in December last year how they fed my face, and aspects of things about how I work that they particularly enjoy and appreciate, into their generative AI to create the image for their Christmas card. And whilst working with the social value team in a national firm recently, the conversation of how they might use AI to make better use of their time in understanding the needs of different communities came up.

But rather than just think about how I might use AI in how I manage my business' activities (which, to my perspective, is the overarching narrative to all conversations I currently see and hear on this topic), I want to explore more how the promises and potential of AI can help better inform how we think about, approach, and ultimately deliver and achieve positive impacts through how we work and act. 

As a 'starters for 10', I turned to ChatGBT with my first question:

"how can AI be used to support the creation of social impact and social value?"

to which, the robot replied:

"AI can be a powerful tool for creating social impact and value in various ways:

  1. Healthcare: AI can be used to improve healthcare outcomes by analyzing large datasets to identify trends and patterns in diseases, assisting in early diagnosis, and personalizing treatment plans. AI-powered telemedicine platforms can also provide healthcare access to remote or underserved areas.

  2. Education: AI can personalize learning experiences for students by adapting content and pacing to individual needs and learning styles. It can also provide tutoring and assistance to students, especially in subjects where there are shortages of human teachers.

  3. Environmental Sustainability: AI can help monitor and manage environmental resources more efficiently. For example, it can analyze satellite data to track deforestation, predict natural disasters, optimize energy usage, and manage water resources.

  4. Social Services: AI can assist in improving access to social services by streamlining administrative processes, identifying individuals in need, and predicting demand for services. It can also help detect and prevent fraud in social welfare programs.

  5. Disaster Response and Management: AI can aid in disaster preparedness and response by analyzing data from various sources to predict and mitigate the impact of natural disasters. It can also assist in coordinating relief efforts and allocating resources effectively during emergencies.

  6. Poverty Alleviation: AI can support poverty alleviation efforts by analyzing socioeconomic data to identify areas of need and develop targeted interventions. It can also facilitate financial inclusion by providing access to banking and financial services for underserved populations.

  7. Humanitarian Aid: AI can assist humanitarian organizations in delivering aid more effectively by optimizing supply chains, identifying vulnerable populations, and predicting refugee movements.

  8. Accessibility: AI-driven technologies can improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities by providing tools such as speech recognition, natural language processing, and computer vision to facilitate communication and interaction with digital devices.

  9. Public Safety: AI can enhance public safety by analyzing data to identify crime hotspots, predict criminal activity, and optimize the deployment of law enforcement resources. It can also assist in disaster response and emergency management.

  10. Crisis Counseling and Mental Health Support: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide round-the-clock support for individuals experiencing mental health issues or crises, offering resources, guidance, and empathy.

Overall, AI has the potential to address some of the most pressing social challenges by augmenting human capabilities, improving decision-making, and optimizing resource allocation. However, it's crucial to ensure that AI systems are developed and deployed ethically, transparently, and inclusively to maximize their positive impact on society."

What I'm taking from this response, is that the machines currently think that their role will help automate various practices that already exist and we already use, and in doing so, might offer quicker insights and understanding for us to make better decisions with. But ultimately, it's not able to do anything that we're not already doing... Also, that AI itself is 'aware' that we shouldn't blindly adopt it wholesale, but take careful and measured approaches in experimenting with it, and be careful to make sure that it doesn't end up only being a resource that those who have means already will be able to benefit from.

But what do others think? Have I mis-read ChatGBT's response above, as to how it sees its role in advancing social impact and value, or is there another (better) question I should be asking it?

This is a topic I'm going to be exploring over this coming year where I see opportunity to, and will be sharing my reflections both ongoing in my blog here, and also in my next annual impact report on myself.