This is not the first unveiling I’ve been to, or involved in, during my life, but it is a significant one. A few years ago I was behind the Kraków’ “Wojtek the Soldier Bear statue project” and wrote about it here. This blog post shares a few thoughts and reflections on what is happening today and why it matters. I’m sharing the press release that Maria Gorczyca prepared at the end of this blog post too.
TED and TEDx operate with the mission of propagating “Ideas worth spreading”. Ideas are almost always most valuable when they are implemented, and if not should be measured and assessed by their impact,
This great idea was not mine, was shared on the TEDxKazimierz stage, and thanks the work and commitment of other people mentioned below, it has come into being in Poland today fo the first time.
I want to share some thoughts as to what I did to make it happen.
We need stronger connections between people, and for people to talk and listen to each other more. In a digitally connected world, these benches can be part of the solution. Allison sets out the case in her TEDxKazimierz talk here
Be on the look out for good ideas
When I saw the report about Allison’s Happy to Chat benches, on the BBC, I thought “what a good idea”. High benefit, almost no cost, easy to copy.
Embrace risk of rejection and believe in your ideas
I was not afraid to get in touch with her, via her son who I found on Twitter. I invited her to give a talk about the project at TEDxKazimierz, to talk to Fulco Systems, the bench maker from Gliwice, and to the JCC. Each time people might have said no. They didn’t.
My Linkedin profile includes a form called Work with/for me Maja (Maria) who did loads of work on this project filled it in. This project would not have happened without her.
Be persistentand systematic
It’s taken time. Not all ideas worked, But we kept going. We had regular calls at 0930 on Sunday mornings where she updated me about progress over many months
Make things public
We are not PR specialists, but we made a press release and sent it to as many people as possible.
I didn’t tell everyone what to do. I promoted a vision which other people could work towards
Krzysztof Sabuda, Maria Gorczyca, Magdalena Błyskosz, Łukasz Siódmok, Sebastian Rudol , Allison Owen-Jones and Jonathan Ornstein did the work. Thank you.
This is the first such bench in Poland. I hope it will not be the last.
Press Release First Gaduławka (Happy to Chat Bench) w Krakowie
Wydarzenie odkrycia pierwszej Gaduławki w Polsce odbędzie się
22 września o 18:00 w Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie, ul Miodowa 24, Kraków 31-055
Gaduławka, czyli odpowiednik brytyjskiego Happy to Chat Benches zapoczątkowanego przez Allison Owen Jones w Cardiff wreszcie zawita w Polsce. Uroczystość odkrycia ławki odbędzie się na terenie Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie w trakcie Święta Sukkot 22 września o godzine 18:00 Wszystkich zainteresowanych zapraszamy na wydarzenie oraz do korzystania z Gaduławki.
JCC Krakow zostało otwarte w kwietniu 2008 roku przez Jego Królewską Wysokość Księcia Walii i jest centralnym miejscem odrodzenia życia żydowskiego w Krakowie. Zlokalizowane w centrum Kazimierza, dawnej żydowskiej dzielnicy Krakowa, JCC zapewnia rosnącej społeczności żydowskiej miejsce do spotkań, nauki i wymiany pomysłów w przyjaznym i serdecznym środowisku. Głównym celem JCC Krakow jest tworzenie otwartej, pluralistycznej i inkluzywnej społeczności, a także zapewnienie nowoczesnego i wysokiej jakości programu.
Czym jest Gaduławka?
Gaduławka to ławka, która zachęca do rozmowy. Oznakowana specjalną tabliczką zaprasza do spoczęcia i oczekiwania na partnera_kę do dyskusji. Celem Gaduławki jest walka z samotnością oraz odbudowanie poczucia wspólnoty wśród ludzi.
O projekcie: Allison Owen Jones: ”To wspaniałe, że inicjatywa trafiła do Polski”
Jonathan Ornstein Executive Dyrektor Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie:
”Jesteśmy szczęśliwi, że w ogrodzie JCC pojawiła się pierwsza Gaduławka w Krakowie. Po tak długim czasie rozłąki i dystansu społecznego, mamy nadzieję, że projekt ten stanie się kolejną motywacją to nawiązywania nowych znajomości w czasach, w których otwarty dialog staje się coraz ważniejszy”.
Łukasz Siódmok CEO Fulco: “ W Fulco zależy nam na więziach mieszkańców oraz polepszeniu przestrzeni miejskich, dlatego chętnie przyłączyliśmy się do projektu”
Magdalena Błyskosz Founderka Open Coffee Youth: “Open Coffee Youth loves our core team members working on great projects, –
Oksana Rovna Kuratorka TEDxKazimierz: “Celem TEDxKazimierz jest przedstawianie niesamowitych pomysłów na scenie. Cieszymy się, że jedna z naszych mówczyń odwiedzi Kraków”.
Maja Gorczyca: “Idea łączenia ludzi zachęciła nas, by włożyć w ten projekt nasze serca, dlatego nie mogę się doczekać, by zobaczyć efekty naszej pracy”.
Richard Lucas: “Takie ławki kosztują niewiele, a wywierają niesamowicie pozytywny wpływ na społeczeństwo. Potrzebujemy więcej inicjatyw łączących ludzi”.
Kto stoi za Gaduławką?
Gaduławka jest polskim odpowiednikiem Happy to Chat Benches stworzonego przez Allison Owen Jones w Cardiff. Akcja dotarła do Polski, dzięki przemówieniu TEDxKazimierz, gdzie inicjatywę przejął krakowski przedsiębiorca Richard Lucas oraz Maria Gorczyca, współpracujący z Fulco — jedną z czołowych firm architektonicznych w Polsce. Projekt wspierany jest również przez Magdalenę Błyskosz — founderkę Open Coffee Youth.
Czy udział w wydarzeniu jest darmowy?
Oczywiście! Zarówno udział w wydarzeniu, jak i korzystanie z Gaduławki jest całkowicie darmowe. Na uroczystości będzie szansa na porozmawianie z osobami odpowiedzialnymi za powstanie Gaduławki, w tym samą Allison.
Ze względu na obostrzenia pandemiczne organizator spotkania zaprasza jednak wyłącznie osoby w pełni zaszczepione (prosimy o posiadanie ze sobą certyfikatu szczepień). Organizator zastrzega sobie również prawo do zmiany formatu wydarzenia z powodu sytuacji epidemicznej.
Gdzie można znaleźć więcej informacji na temat projektu?
Istnieje strona internetowa, na której można przyłączyć się do akcji, a nawet złożyć zamówienie na tabliczkę. Witryna posiada również mapę, przedstawiającą lokalizację ławek na całym świecie.
Richard Lucas firstname.lastname@example.org +48-601400058 Maria Gorczyca email@example.com +48795488022
Sebastian Rudol JCC firstname.lastname@example.org +48 602 756 932
The first bench in Poland is to be unveiled at the JCC Krakow, ul Miodowa 24, Krakow 22nd September at 18:00
Happy to Chat Benches will be introduced in Poland under the name of Gaduławka. The bench unveiling will take place at the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow during the week-long Sukkot Festival on 22nd September at 18:00.
JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and now serves as the focal point for the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow. Located in the heart of the city’s Jewish district of Kazimierz, the JCC provides Krakow’s growing Jewish community with a space to meet, learn, and share ideas in a warm, welcoming environment. JCC Krakow’s primary goal is to establish an open, pluralistic, and inclusive community that provides innovative, quality programming at the highest level in an optimistic and lively atmosphere.
What is a Gaduławka (Happy to Chat bench)?
Gaduławka or “Happy to Chat bench” is a bench which encourages people to talk. It has a special sign inviting everyone and everyone to sit and strike up a
conversation with a stranger. The aim of the action is fighting loneliness and rebuilding the sense of community among citizens.
About the project: Allison Owen Jones said ”It’s great to see this idea spreading to Poland. Jonathan Ornstein Executive Director of JCC Krakow said
“We are happy that the JCC’s garden is now home to Krakow’s first Happy to Chat Bench. After such a long time of separation and social distancing, we hope that this project will become another driver to make new connections in times when open dialogue is becoming increasingly important.
Łukasz Siódmok CEO of Fulco said “ Fulco supports community and better public spaces so it is natural for us to be behind this project
Magdalena Błyskosz Founder of Open Coffee Youth said “Open Coffee Youth loves our core team members working on great projects, –
Oksana Rovna TEDxKazimierz Curator said “TEDxKazimierz is about putting great ideas on the stage. it’s wonderful to see our past speaker’s idea arriving in Krakow.”
Maja Gorczyca said “The aim of joining people together made us put our hearts into this project and I can’t wait to see its results”
Richard Lucas said “These benches cost little with tremendous positive social impact. We need more ways of bringing people together”.
Who’s behind Gaduławka?
Gaduławka is a Polish equivalent of the Happy to Chat Benches introduced by Allison Owen Jones in Cardiff. The project reached Poland thanks to Allison’s TEDxKazimierz talk in October 2020 when she introduced the idea. Following this the further implementation was supported by Krakow entrepreneur Richard
Lucas, and Gliwice based Maria Gorczyca, working with Fulco — a leading street furniture firm. The action is also supported by Magdalena Błyskosz – the founder of Open Coffee Youth.
Is the participation in the celebration free?
Of course! Both participation and usage of the Happy to Chat benches are absolutely free. During the celebration there will be a chance to have a talk with people responsible for the benches, even with Allison who will visit Poland specially for this occasion.
However, for the safety and security of our community, JCC Krakow will only allow participants to attend this lecture if they are fully vaccinated (please bring proof of vaccination with you). JCC Krakow reserves the right to make changes to this event due to the epidemiological situation.
Where can I find additional information about the project?
For more information visit the project’s website, http://htcb.fulco.pl/ where it is possible to join the action and even order the bench label. The website also features a map which presents the location of benches all around the world.
Richard Lucas Maria Gorczyca Sebastian Rudol JCC Kraków
My application to go to TED in Vancouver in April 2022 has been accepted. I am thinking ahead about how to make the most of my visit. I’ve a number of non-profit projects with positive social impact that I may be able to get started while there, if I have the right local support. I started by asking my friend and business partner Peter Cowley for introductions, and am reaching out to TEDx-ers I know personally, and looking through other distant and close contacts I have in that part of the world.
This blog post is dedicated to my friend Mel Rosenberg who always encourages me with his wit and wisdom
Why should you read on? This blog post has
a “copy paste” of my “email suitable for forwarding”. Maybe one day you will want to send an “email suitable for forwarding”.
an explanation of why I think “emails suitable for forwarding” are a good idea, and a note why some people don’t agree.
a description of the processes I am initiating in preparation for my visit. Carol Dweck argues convincingly about the importance of focussing on process over outcome in her ground-breaking research into the “growth mindset”. As someone who has set up literally dozens of businesses, I expect my process will encounter a lot of rejection, and lack of interest. But rejection is the price of creating the possibility of success. I hope that by sharing this I will highlight the risk and uncertainty of this process. It is both better and more fun to work with a few people who really want to make things happen than a large group of those who have been pressured into action out of a sense of duty.
Maybe you (that’s you – the reader) can help me help others. – Thank you in advance for forwarding this to people who might help me with one or more of the projects I want to move forward during my visit.
What are “emails suitable for forwarding” and why are they a good idea?
What are they? – there is a hint in the name! They are emails that the person you send it to can forward to suitable people in their network. The main features of such emails are that:
they are written with the fact that they might be forwarded in mind, so to the extent they are personal they are not private.
They are written in with the expectation that the person reading might be interested in what you do, but they don’t know the author.
They give control to the recipient. She or he doesn’t have the feeling of being spammed.
Ivan Mazour of Ometria wrote a blog post in 2014 about the benefits of the tech industry’s approach to email introductions here that is still relevant. He highlights there are people who do not live by the tech industry standards of being helpful without an immediate return. I’m aware that some people may react by thinking “what’s in for me?” and do nothing.
An “email suitable for forwarding” takes time to write, and is respectful of the time of the people you are asking to help you.
The author has to explain what they want, why they want it and convey the benefits for the people reading it, or some third party who might be worth helping.
It is easy for the forwarder and “the forward-ee” to reject any call to action – if they do not feel inspired or moved. There is no pressure.
The ease with which such an email can be ignored is a a valid criticism of the methodology, I would not recommend sending “emails suitable for forwarding” without fully exploiting other ways of using your network of personal contacts. If you know people well in the region or domain area where you need help, take the time to make contact with them directly. If you already have social capital and a credit of trust with individuals in the area you want help, this is the time to draw it down. They too may be able to forward on your email to people who can really help you.
The projects I am working on are ones with benefits for others: be they helping others acquire education/skills, inspiration, mindset change, fighting social isolation, building community, leadership development, and helping people make new friends and contacts.
As one of the projects I want to execute is a “pre event” before TED in Vancouver next year, it made sense to reach out to past participants of other TED events that I have attended in the region. I am systematically messaging all my Canadian contacts in the TED/TEDx world with a version of this via Linkedin.
Here is the email
Dear xxxx xxxxx,
I’m going to TED in Vancouver/April 2022, and am looking for introductions to people to help me make the most of a 3/4 week visit to Canada (and the US if it makes sense) . Please forward this email (cc me when possible) to people who you think might be able to help, or are worth having a meal, coffee, drink etc, or who might invite me to interesting parties or events. It’s going to be a blog post too.
As you know, I am not the sort of person who likes going to places to take pictures of other people doing interesting things. I like to get involved, engaged and make things happen. I find that it is good to be in touch with people well before I go places as it increases the number of beneficial, serendipitous, random meetings, contacts and outcomes.
The areas I am active in are business and social entrepreneurship, and usually I am most effective with people who are pro-active themselves. So anyone who might be active in the areas below, or might know people who are, would be great to be in contact with:
The projects I am keen to develop are:
CAMentrepreneurs – which supports business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge & Oxford Alumni, current students, and others. I founded it, we have had gatherings in Cambridge Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Helsinki, London, New York, Sydney, Warsaw, and launches are planned in Brazil, Houston, Mumbai and Oxford in 2021 (Covid permitting). Ideal introductions are Oxford and Cambridge alumni or students who are based in Canada, or West Coast US, who are into Entrepreneurship and Community Building. I hope to launch Vancouver, Toronto and San Francisco if I find local leaders who want to do a pilot event. (This is really just FYI (for your information), as I am reaching out to them directly).
Open Coffee Youth This project led by Magdalena Błyskosz is run by and for teenagers/university students around the world. Any contacts to people who can help her reach teenagers directly (Youth leadership programmes, student societies etc) are most welcome. Hear her describe the project here .
Village in the CityThis project is run by Mark McKergow and is supports people who want to build micro scale village- like communities in the places they live. I’m on the Advisory Board Any contacts to community builders, community support organisations are most welcome. See Mark talk about VITC here. Mark wrote the book about Host Leadership I was telling you about.
Open Coffee KrakowI’ve hosted over many hundreds of bi-weekly Open Coffee meetings in Krakow since 2013, and I know our format is much better & more efficient than most networking meetings. I’m happy to work with community leaders to pilot our format, see whether our format could “take” in a new context. There are also things that I do and enjoy doing/I could do as a one off guest that don’t require a project.
Areas where I have experience and could take on extra one off AMA/ talks/workshopsEntrepreneurial/ Startup/Community gatherings, workshops, AMAs and talks on leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation – I’m usually happy to do these, with a very strong focus on community engagement and activation. I’ve track record in two types of scenario:
1 Gateway workshops “Is entrepreneurship for you? For diverse audiences who are not necessarily aware of the choice – soldiers leaving the army, primary school kids, doctors, law students, historians, musicians, prisoners… Contacts with people who are working in or with these communities are welcome.
2. For those already interested in entrepreneurship, focussed on some key fundamentals based on my decades years of experience of failure and success since I started my first business aged nine.I’d be happy to discuss with your graduate the pluses and minuses of choosing an entrepreneurial track, or answer any questions.Business School classes: I’ve done many of theseJudge Business School, Cambridge University, University of Economics Business School in Krakow, WSE in Krakow, Asbiro in Warsaw. With sufficient preparation I could do more, though if it is part of the curriculum it needs careful planning.
Pre, middle high school community group workshops. I can and do this type of thing, where it makes sense.
OMGKRK Foundation – This is Southern Poland’s major startups support foundation. I’m a donor, informal ambassador and on the board. If equivalent organisations want to chat about potential co-operation, I’m happy to initiate the contact.
TEDx and TED Pre-events I’ve done pre-events (events before events) before TED and TEDx events in Calgary, Cape Town, Edinburgh, Krakow, Rome, Taipei, and Warsaw. I’ll be following up with TEDx-ers in my network about trying to do something before TED so 9th April in Vancouver, and maybe other TEDx-es if the timing is right.
New Books Network I’ll probably organise a pilot event with Marshall Poe and Owen Bennett-Jones and our NBN podcast listeners at an Ivy League University or somewhere in New York. The NBN is the world’s largest non-fiction academic author interview network, producing 12 podcasts a day. If you know nice venues that are potentially available at low cost/free in return for academic celebrity stardust, that’s of great interest.
I also am happy to talk about business on behalf of the companies I’m involved in. If business people are reading this then you can see almost all the companies listed on my Linkedin profile.
I’ve been organizing pre-events – (events before events) for a decade. This blog post is published on the day of a TEDxWarsaw pre-event.
A couple of weeks ago – the first pre-event not organised by me, took place under the leadership of Martin Venzky-Stalling of TEDxChangMai – who put an team together in a couple of days.
22nd May pre TEDxIdea Challenge event in May 2021
Figure 1 Pre TEDxIdeas event May 2021
Here are some screenshots,
Figure 2 Pre TEDxIdeas event in May 2021
What are Pre Events, and why are they such a good idea? My Pre Event journey started in 2011. I was preparing to go to my first TED event, TED Global in Scotland. I knew that I knew nobody. I had no means of reaching or meeting other attendees. I tried via Couchsurfing to find some TED fans in Edinburgh and ended up meeting a couple in a bar. It was better than nothing, but not ideal.
I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a more peaceful time and space to get to know other attendees”. There had to be a better way. and the good news is there is.
Over the last ten years I’ve been piloting different ways of doing what I call “pre events “ bringing people together before primarily TED and TEDx events in New York, Calgary Rome, Warsaw, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Taipei, and Tel Aviv. I tried and failed to do one before TEDxBrighton in the UK. I gave a TEDx talk at TEDxShenkarCollege about the idea in 2020. Aaron Sylvan and Jake Voorhees made a film the Pre-Event for TEDFestNYC 2018, and Aaron wrote a blog post here.
Why Pre-events? Because there just isn’t enough time to meet all the other participants during events as great as TED and TEDx. A lot of the time is taken up with the wonderful talks, and organised activities – and the big networking parties are both intense and noisy. Longer would be better. The goal of such events has always been to build more community among participants and not just the team, and – when you are from out of town – it’s great to have a place where you can hang out and get to know a few people before things get under way. I’ve learned what works the key components of making a success. Here they are.
How to do it?
If you want to do a pre-event, you need to get a number of things right. What is most exciting is that often if you are travelling you will be doing things you haven’t done, in a place you haven’t been with people you have never met in person. If you get me involved, you will have one person with experience, but that’s optional.
Purpose – Be sure you know why you are doing it, and what would be a successful outcome.
Collaboration/co-operation with the main event organisers (getting their trust, and blessing, or at least go ahead) You will need their help getting to word out about the pre-event in their communications.
Venue You need a venue, ideally cheap or free. Co- working spaces, church halls, community centres, libraries, schools. Having someone local who knows what goes on where is great. Look at where local meet-up groups and low budget organisations hold get together already. There are any number of online tools, don’t be pushed into using a tool that is presenter focussed. There are many tools that are much more about making those speaking on a digital stage look great, that don’t give space or tools for interaction between audience members.
Team You need to build a team and nurture them to help with your event.
Figure 3 Pre TEDxWarsaw Event team
If you do it alone you are in danger of being what Derek Sivers calls the “lone nut”.
Treat all attendees as co organisers
As you communicate with potential participants of your pre-event give plenty of opportunities for those who are signing up to become leaders. As people make suggestions give them ownership of their ideas.
Promotion, communication and team building
if you can’t get the word out you won’t be able to have a pre-event. Most organisations have a Social Media presence – a Facebook Group, Twitter, sometimes a WhatsApp, and there are mailings and communication by the organisers to their mailing list). Make sure that you get a meeting with the Social Media person of the main event as early as possible, and agree your promotional plan. This can be harder than you expect as the marketing people of the main event may worry that you are somehow competing or distracting from their main focus.
Once you have a venue, and “buy in” from the organisers you can start promoting, posting systematically in their Social Media about the fact you are having the pre-event, with a link to your Google form where people can sign up and express interest, and doing other promo activities like blog posts, getting those who sign up to post that they are going on their social media, and doing Facebook Lives about the pre-event.
Remember you need to clearly communicate your “why?” to first time attendees. It is vital to get across why Pre-Events are a good idea to people who haven’t considered them.
As people sign up schedule regular online meetings by video conference for those who are coming to plan the event – this is how you start building a team. Have the underlying rule: ” Those who suggest activities are expected to lead on delivery.’ (The “unconference” idea of Open Space Technology events can be very useful. The founders of OST events noticed that the best part of events are the breaks. and organised events as one long structured break. When planning your pre-event as well as starting with badging, icebreakers and introductions, have the first session as an Open Space where everyone who actually shows up gets to pitch what they want to do during the day. In fact everyone mostly wants to hang out with each other. Not all attendees are so empowered and some will wait to be told what to do, It is good to have a skeleton plan, to fall back on.
Keep emphasising that the idea that the value of the event is in the attendees, working on the mindset that everyone who comes co creates, that the pre-event is not something that is delivered by you to them as consumers. and make your event design work for that objective.
The community led culture extends to food and drink breaks, where for example, it may be better to have people make a picnic together (which can be inside if the weather and location doesn’t support going to a nearby park).
Have roles and task for attendees, make sure you know who is responsible for badging, welcoming people as they arrive and have enough activities to carry people along. Make tidying up a collective activity at the end.
Once you have figured out your costs and budget (My pre events have been between free and US$$50) ask people how much they are ready to pay and have a sensitive process where you can grant free places to those who can’t afford it. There will probably be some people who if asked are ready to cover the costs of an attendee who is struggling financially. You can ask me, if you can’t find anyone.
Have someone take photos, encourage videos, (and make sure you get permission to video and share pics as people sign up).
Have a “code of conduct” – of course you assume that no one will be creepy or worse, but as we all now know, that assumption is not always correct There is a great “off the shelf” “Code of Conduct” we use at TEDxKazimierz, and you can modify it to your purpose.
Take account of the main event programme and make your pre-event complementary rather than competitive. A great icebreaker question is “why are you going to the main event” Don’t get big headed or feel superior. Your goal is to enhance not supplant the activities of the main event- know your place. You are a part of something bigger.
Remember that people are different and on a spectrum, extroverts will thrive at your pre-event and love them, and they will probably do fine at the main event. Think about and plan for the shy people who don’t know anyone. if you make your pre-event work for them, it will work for everyone.
After the pre- event is over, make sure you send out a follow up e-mail asking what was good and what could be better. The only way to get better at them is to always be learning.
Call to action
If this idea makes sense, and there is an event more than a few months away, and you like the idea of doing a pre-event -go for it. If you get in touch with me, I may be able to help.
I recently listened to an excellent podcast interview with Jonathan Ornstein, leader of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow, on a podcast called “The Krakcast”. Hear it here. It’s from Passover 2020 when Poland was doing relatively well in its Covid-19 response (those were the days). Congratulations to The Krakcast team – Dave, Josh, John, Gabi, and ‘Dr. Michael’. https://www.krakcast.pl/
It doesn’t seem like a one off either. Today I heard another interesting interview with Max and Michał of Yolk Coworking who are doing a better job of building a community focussed co-working space that I and a number of others did with Colab a few years ago. They certainly help with hosting an the first Open Coffee High School meetup which has now spread to many cities and three countries even during lockdown
This podcast got me asking myself, “How many other excellent resources are there about life in this amazing city?” I decided to share English language resources for those in or planning to come to the place I’ve lived for over 30 years.
Some Disclaimers. This list is not complete or designed to be “perfect”. If you don’t understand why I included “link X” or left out “website Y”, it’s because that’s the decision I took. I am no oracle. This list will not be complete. I am ready to make updates as a public service from time to time. If you don’t understand why I decided to use a Facebook group in one case, and a webpage in another, neither do I, I did what was most convenient for me. If you find my generalisations glib or offensive, sorry. If you don’t like my sense of humour – you are not alone.
All Poland resources To get by in Krakow, there are some “all Poland” books and websites that will be very helpful. If you want to be happy in Poland, get to know Polish history. Read Norman Davies’s Heart of Europe. It will really help. There are some excellent “all Poland” websites Notes from Poland, https://notesfrompoland.com Daniel Tilles and Stanley Bill have done a superb job with their army of well educated and informed contributors. There are Youtube channels, notably, Paddy Ney’s here and his Heart of Poland. If you like his style check out his great TEDxKazimierz talk here .Going to Quora and asking What is is like living in Poland leads to a string of thoughtful answers. My Quora answer about Poland got over 100,000 views :-). I came across this Youtube diary made by Natalie who was in an MBA class I teach Moving To Poland and Youtube suggested I moved from LOS ANGELES to KRAKOW, Poland. Which do I prefer? which anyone might find interesting. A big list of English language news about Poland is here .
Krakow Focussed Resources There are some historic news sites like the Krakow Post which used to be a printed newspaper. It’s connected to an excellent tourism orientated site Localife.com – Listen to the founder of Local Life Mark Bradshaw on the Entrepreneurship and Leadership Channel of the New Books Network here – It’s an interview I did with Sam Cook back in 2015. There are a number of other tourism sites like Krakow in your Pocket which are easy to find and useful.
There are many on and off line groups for foreigners. The melting pot of Krakow is quite complicated so you have to realise that not everyone will be exactly like you. Read through the list of below and see how soon you recognise yourself: rich “expats” living in expensive, expensed houses who ask “where can I rent a private jet, hire a cook and gardener ?” moaners and angry types, always grumpy, often on social media, asking “Why don’t underpaid shop assistants speak English?” “Party” people who are here to well… party Trust-a-farians (rich kids living off trust funds) Hipsters Draft dodgers Artists & creatives Culture vultures People with regular jobs (called “Corpo” jobs in Krakow) Digital nomads and freelancers (that covers many others on this list) retirees whose western pension goes further here Sleazy, creepy types and influencers Hardcore gangsters, ex-terrorists (top tip – never ask “what did you used to do?”) Refugees – this is very real, Poland has given visas to 100,000s of people from countries to the East of Poland who have been through great hardships. Polonia English teachers Student and academics Diplomats and spies – There are not many Entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ‘normal’ people and others
Krakowians migrate from one group to another, rotate between them, and sometimes wear multiple hats. I realised when I finished this list that I should have put it in alphabetical order. Please imagine that I did this for you.
Krakow Business Community The Krakow Startup Community has deep roots way back: as far as Jan Thurzo of Fugger/Thurzo fame in 1477 through to Base (which exited to Zendesk), to Brainly and Inpost, Poland’s Unicorns (companies valued at over a US$1 billion) . Fugger monopolised the copper market, financed the Hapsburgs and was the richest man the the world – way richer than the GAFAs in relative terms. See Cisco’s Ramon Tancinco Krakow: Europe’s Silicon Valley? Why not! TEDxKrakow talk on Krakow’s Silicon Valley potential. We’ve a way to go yet. There aren’t entrepreneurial business schools, angel funds, and community centres where internationally minded Krakow entrepreneurs hang out and rub shoulders but there are a number of initiatives. I hope the guys at Yolk can be instrumental in fixing things.
Massolit the English Language Bookshop & Cafe founded by David Miller is almost a cultural institution. It’s normal to make friends there.
Jewish Life if you don’t know why this matters read Norman Davies as mentioned above. The Jewish Community Centre has become world famous . Great credit to Jonathan Ornstein – and the team – for this magical place. To understand why listen to KrakCast, who interviewed him very well here and here Part 2. See Jonathan with Robert Desmond on the TEDxKazimierz stage talking about the Ride For The Living & The JCC here. Also listen to Janusz Makuch, founder of the Jewish Culture Festival at TEDxKrakow (talking in Polish) To get a sense of the positive undercurrents of Polish Jewish relations listen to Rabbi Michael Schudrich at TEDxWarsaw Jewish descent on the rise:
Observant readers will notice I’ve been referencing TEDx talks. TEDx can have had important community building roles as they search for the most interesting ideas and people to put on their stage. I’ve been deeply involved in TEDx since 2009, leading, until earlier this year, TEDxKazimierz. I’m going to end with a few more Poland related TEDx talks that are definitely worth watching.
In conclusion.. thanks again to The Krakcast team for the work you have been doing. Once bars re-open I’m offering to buy you a piwo, vodka, meal or whatever. If any readers feel that I should have mentioned their organisation or web page in this blog post, let me know, I’ll almost certainly add it, next time I update.
This blog post contains information about what I will be working on in 2021 and beyond, and an invitation to “work with me” if there is a match between what I am doing and what anyone reading this wants to do.
The projects I am working on are in the areas of :
Why Que Sera Sera? Why is my plan and this blog post called Que Sera Sera? I often cite Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera” (what will be will be) when teaching “gateway” entrepreneurship workshops. The message of the song, that the big things in life are out of control, is both wrong and depressing, and also potentially inspiring.
Why inspiring? Because, despite the lack of agency in little girl’s question “what will I be?, life does not just happen to people. We have choices. In entrepreneurship classes, I encourage participants to reflect on the fact that the fewer the entrepreneurial risks they take, the more control they have, at least in the short run. If someone chooses to do nothing, they will succeed. In my “Tough questions from a potential investor” I argue that what really matters about any innovation or new project is what the users and clients of an idea/project think, not how passionate the founder is about it.
The life of the entrepreneur is full of possibility and yet “out of control”. No matter how hard you work and how committed you are, if the market is not interested, you will not succeed.
Que Sera Sera for me next year will be in the hands of others because it depends who decides to work with me on the projects described later in this blog post. I’m putting my future in the hands of others.
I’ve decided to spend more time replicating the ideas and projects I have worked on over the last 30 years into new geographies and sectors. But I’ll be doing that through and with other people, hence the form. But to devote more energy to some projects means spending less on others.
I will continue to support the businesses I am a shareholder in on an ad hoc basis. Some of them are market leaders, and highly successful businesses. My level of engagement varies, in some cases I’m a former CEO and a key shareholder, in others, my shareholding is tiny and the company gets on fine without me doing much. I continue to supporting entrepreneurship, through NGOs, teaching, podcasting, public speaking and occasionally investing, and to support non- profit projects focussed on community building, and spreading ideas.
How will I be doing it? The projects that I planning to work on are described below. I apply the organisational philosophy of TED to TEDx. This means that I go into action when I have a local leader. As you read this list, I ask you to ponder “am I interested or do I know someone who might like to explore making something like this happen”. If this answer is yes, please fill in the form or tell the person you know about the opportunity.
The broad areas are:
Supporting Entrepreneurship Replicating tried and tested low/no cost pro-entrepreneurship meet ups in new cities.
Here are the projects I want to replicate to new cities
Krakow Enterprise Mondays – free events with a strong focus on participant engagement where three entrepreneurs (established, startup and social) give short talks about of about five minutes in length with another five minute for questions. Their talks are to a format answering the four questions: 1 Who am I 2 What does my business do? 3 what lessons have I learned 4 what advice would I give someone (a student) starting out on their entrepreneurial journey. Each speaker gets an “office hours” table during the networking so that people who want to talk to them afterward the speaker session can easily approach them. There are structured “meet someone new” icebreakers, before, during and after the speaker sessions so that everyone gets to meet plenty of new people. Gatherings last two-three hours, in a venue like a bar which welcomes extra revenue from bar sales on quiet evening (typically Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays) . Past events are here
Pre the 2020 pandemic these events happened about once a month in University term time, often focussed around alumni entrepreneurs.. KEM was run by student volunteers and post-grads. I estimate that KEM took about 2-3 hour /month + the event time, it had spread to one other city before the pandemic hit.
Open Coffee Krakow
As per here and here Free bi-weekly morning meetups since 2012. Open Coffee is a friendly informal networking event for entrepreneurs, professionals, people in the startup community, and students in Krakow. What is the BIG idea? To help people creating useful connections. Everyone is welcome to our meetings, and we especially love first-timers. We want to make sure that if somebody coming from an unsupportive background/ country has the courage to join, they will notice that we are glad they came because we welcome them. Everyone who comes is important and gets 1-2 minutes to present their idea. We usually use this structure, to make it easy for everybody: 1. Who you are 2. What are you doing 3. What you need/are you looking for 4. How you can help others. The host of the meeting usually puts the webpage, linkedin or other info about the person speaking on a screen so everyone there can see who they are. The structured part of the meetup starts at 8:00 sharp and close at 09:00. After the ending of the official program, people stay for as long as they want to talk to follow up one on one with people./projects that interest them the most. Venue Typically a coworking space Cost minimal (We had coffee if a sponsor paid for it) Organised & Run by a leader who I recruited. A host is needed.
Open Coffee High School Edition Similar to Open Coffee – but run by and for teenagers.
To support business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University alumni, current students and others. We organise free (or donation based) meetups in cities where there is a local leader. If that’s you get in touch. Format similar to Enterprise Mondays, leverage the Cambridge name to do events with other Ivy League type organisations (Harvard, Oxford etc) but in fact are open to everyone with the right mindset.
One off entrepreneurship workshops and talks, in school, university, accelerator and other settings I’ve led 100s of pro-entrepreneurship workshops everywhere from small state and private pre-schools in Poland, through to MBA level face to face and online in the world leading universities and business schools. I’m good at it, enjoy it and believe it is important. My workshops are highly interactive, and I operate on the the “give more/expect more” model. For example I often make participants record video introductions of themselves, before my class starts so I know who I am dealing with and have a class “Live document”.
Whenever I am planning visits to new places I like to investigate if there are people and organisations that are interested in having me do something like this. I often am ready do this free of charge and cover my own expenses. If the organisation is for profit and/or usually pays, I charge whatever they normally pay for someone like me.
leading workshops in business schools, talks at tech conferences, classes at summer schools, hosting events in co-working spaces, inauguration talk to new students, TEDx talks, working at high schools, primary and pre-schools.
The school I was at as a teenager has created a Centre of Entrepreneurship and innovation and are recruiting a director. I’ve written to the person who is involved in the process with suggestions of what I could do to help build and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture of the school.
Entrepreneurship and leadership podcasting
For many years I’ve been interviewing interesting people about entrepreneurship and leadership on the Project Kazimierz podcast
In January 2021 I am started a new channel on Entrepreneurship and Leadership on the New Books Network – the largest non-fiction podcast network in the world, which has more than a million downloads a month. I’m always on the lookout for new interviewees. If you know anyone who you think is suitable ask them suggest them to me – I use this form. NBN was founded by Marshall Poe.
Organisation of one-off meetups to link different communities I am connected to, for example Polish ecosystem in Poland, Cambridge eco-system anywhere in the world, Polish entrepreneurs abroad, random vertical where I have a contact. These take a bit of work but can be valuable.
If someone wants to work for or with me I encourage them to go fill in the form. One person who filled it in is now CEO of a company I invested in, another is working for and with me on multiple projects.
Apart from pro-entrepreneurship activities, I support several Community building projects, often but not always these have been featured on my TEDxKazimierz stage in the past and now I want to devote myself to helping the ideas grow and develop.
Community Building There are several types of community building activities/Projects I am either working on or trying to work on
Village in the City
Village in the City aims to support. sustain and start micro-communities with village like characteristics in cities all over the world.
I’m on the Advisory Board of Village in the City, and am helping Mark McKergow grow and help this idea spread. Maybe there is room for a village or two in where you live?
The Chatty Cafes project
The idea of Chatty Cafes is very simple, having a marked table in a cafe designating it the “Chatter and Natter Table”. People who sit at that table are signalling that they are happy to talk to others in the cafe they don’t know. It is doing well. The founder, Alexandra Hoskyn, was on the TEDxKazimierzWomen stage in 2019 here here https://www.ted.com/…/alexandra_hoskyn_connecting_in_cafes. Chatty Cafes are a great form of community building. Maybe I could something to help if I am coming to town.
Happy to Chat benches
Happy to Chat benches are benches that have a special sign indicating that people who sit on the bench are happy to chat to strangers. It is the same idea as a Chatter and Natter table but on public benches. This simple idea is described in this TEDxKazimierz by Allison Owen-Jones
I have a vision of a makeover of some public space: to introduce suitable street furniture, a community noticeboard, a happy to chat bench, a chatty cafe in a Village in the City area. Maybe you can label a bench in your area.
Yorkey Dads and Menfulness are mutual support groups set up by men and dads to help each other in an engaging, tolerant and non-judgemental environment.
Once it is legal and safe I want to visit Jack Woodhams and his team in Yorkshire to see if I can help them scale the wonderful projects they have got going. Jack gave a talk about this on the TEDxKazimierz stage in 2020.
TED and TEDx have been a big part of my life for more than a decade. As and when it is possible to travel again, I hope to visit and help with other people’s TEDx-es around the world. Different TEDx-es have different needs, contexts. I do not assume I will always be able to add value. There are three areas where I could help if the local licence holder wants me to.
1 Doing pre events, I’ve done 11 pre-events before TED and TEDx events, in US, Canada, Israel, Poland. Scotland, South Africa, Taiwan and the USA. I gave a talk about pre events at TEDxShenkarCollege as per here.
2. Volunteer/audience experience training. I did a workshop at TED Summit in Banff about community building at events, and always made it a key part of the TEDx-es I ran. For TEDxWarsaw and TEDxTarnow I did training for their teams on how to make sure participants were really engaged and feel important. This blog post explains my approach.
I know that not everyone ‘gets it’, or even wants this approach implemented. I’ve heard from so many people over the years what a difference putting the participant centre stage makes. I’ll continue to evangelise for participant focussed events.
3. Speaker preparation Depending on the speaker and the topic, I could probably support and coach a speaker or two on content and structure, (not voice, posture, body language).
My TED profile reveals just how engaged I have been in the TEDx and TED community.
I’ll do my best to support the new leadership of TEDxKazimierz if I can.
I’m going to carry on doing TED Circles with Mel Rosenberg about once a month. TED Circles are a like a book club, based a around TED content.
Doing business I may be getting involved in a new promising “green” heat battery company which has the potential to greatly reduce the energy needed to heat homes, and usually at least one of my businesses has something to offer in most countries, so I always look out for new opportunities, investments, clients, and people while I am there. Check my Linkedin profile to find almost all the businesses I am engaged in.
Mentoring A few months ago Magdalena Błyskosz asked me to mentor her and we came up with a plan that I would do so with her publishing the results, so that others can benefit from the process. We think it is going well. Once the posts start going online I’ll add a link to it here
Conclusions/Next Steps/Calls to Action I have never written a blog post like this. I thought that I was going to write a plan, but it has turned into an approach to my future.
As Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) said in his 22d December – Review of 2020 – Masters of Scale podcast – “the upside of entrepreneurship is almost unlimited.” A lot of positive and valuable things can happen as a result of the blog post.
I really do not know what is going to happen – it is exciting – and in the hands of people reading this blog post – who decide to help make one or more of these projects happen.
As those who know me will tell you, I’m pro-active. I won’t be waiting for people to approach me passively but like a head hunter, approaching people who I think are suitable, suggesting pilot projects. Many people will say “no”, or not reply. That doesn’t bother me. I built my businesses because I don’t worry about rejection.
My way of finding out if an idea is any good is to try it. That includes this blog post. The same applies to anyone reading this blog post. My calls to action are:
If you are interested in any of these projects, fill in the form, or get in touch directly. If you have any questions, or something is not clear, questions and comments are welcome. If you know someone who might be interested, let them know as well or share this post in whatever way you want.
In 2016 I had just founded CAMentrepeneurs – the first Cambridge University alumni Group aimed at supporting business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University Alumni, current students and others.
This updated post is aimed at generalising the lessons learned from the CAMentrepreneurs and other experiences I have had putting new ideas into action. CAMentrepreneurs has organised about 30 meetups in Cambridge, Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, New York, Sydney and Warsaw on a near zero budget. I intentionally modelled CAMentrepreneurs on the way that TED supports TEDx around the world.
How to get a new initiative going
These recommendations and advice will not work for all ideas at all times and in all places. Yet, having tried to get many businesses and nonprofits off the ground, some with success and others with failure, many of my insights are going to be relevant for many readers in most times and places.
If you want to build an organisation that works at a large scale, look at the way TED supports TEDx-ers all over the world (www.tedx.com). The genius of TED-TEDx model is that a TEDx is only launched when there is a local leader, who has a) volunteered to take on this role and b) is deemed suitable by the TEDx team at TED headquarters. TED had and have a working model of the TED Conference, which TEDx-ers aim to re-create for and in their local community.
In this article I am focusing on the process of getting things up and running in the first place.
The CAMentrepreneurs movement I started in 2016 was a new initiative, and we used the TED-TEDx model from the get go, but it was also based on using the “best bits” of literally hundreds of startup community events I had attended, led, spoken at, organised and sponsored over the previous fifteen years – so I had event formats to choose from, and ways of doing things already worked out, to share with local leaders.
Before you start think about what you want to do and why
Brainstorm your definition of success, both at the start and longer term. Be honest with yourself, about what you want to achieve, what your purpose is, and why it is important. Describe these outcomes in terms of impacts and outcomes for other people and entities not just yourself.
Write your goals down and make the language in which you communicate simple, clear and free of jargon. Your list of objectives can and should be long to start with, but as you develop and think through your ideas and project, make sure you reflect on and highlight the most important.
Some of your goals may be personal and “about you”. For example “I want to be a leader, to be somebody, to feel important, to be a big cheese in the local community, to make lots of money, to be rich and famous” or whatever.
Howver – note that your personal goals will not inspire other people. More importantly, people achieve fame and status as a result of having done something notable and worthwhile. Let the impact of your project be the reason people know about you.
Review your goals with a trusted friend or colleague. Ask them to be constructively critical and tell you what could go wrong, is missing, and needs to be made clearer. When you start explaining your project to strangers – you will have limited time to describe your idea and project in a way that is attractive, appealing and clear. You never know when you are going to meet someone who could transform your project’s chances of success. Person you talk to will be assessing you: If you come across as credible, organised and well prepared , they are more likely to introduce you to their contacts and network, and to want to help you. You never have a second chance to make that first impression. Note what went well, and what you can do better each time you get to explain your project.
Once you feel you have a clear idea of what you want to do and why, there are some important early steps to take.
How ready are you?
Review the skills, experience, resources, contacts that are needed for your project, and note what is missing. Gap analysis forces you to think about what you are planning to do, and who you will need to do them. What you are going to do needs to be framed in terms of the outcomes you want to achieve. Unless you are wealthy it is important to think about the lowest cost way of getting things done. People and sponsors with the money you may need are more likely to think you are worth backing if you come across as being careful with money and are frugal.
This self-assessment may lead you to the conclusion that you are not ready. Be objective but not over cautious. Be aware of the Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps you are ready but just do not have the self belief? But perhaps you genuinely are not ready. Do an “opportunity readiness” check. Are you on top of your health and fitness? Think about your diet, exercise and dependencies (alcohol, tobacco, other)
Are your relationships in order? Will your partner/the important people in your life be supportive or be trying to hold you back. Are your finances in reasonable shape – Are you spending less that you make?
Do you have the skills and competences that will be needed? Investing in yourself, and your education can be effectively free, and do wonders to your sense of self worth and usefulness. Are your habits and daily routines set up to increase the number and diversity of experiences and human interactions?.
I explore this topic in more detail in my TEDxTarnow Talk here.
Be careful about how you think about money and your personal finances. Money can be a trap for many social enterprises where the primary objective gets swallowed up in a constant struggle to raise money to pay for unnecessary costs. Assuming your project is a non-profit, and you are not looking to make a salary out of it, can you afford the time and energy, even if it does not cost money? You do not need to be rich, but you should be covering your cost of living, and maybe looking for one or two people in your team who are better off, have a place you can meet, or contribute a bit extra if there are one off expenses.
If your idea and project is compelling, people will come and want to get involved even if it is not in a flashy venue or with fancy food and drink.
Think about a low cost way of testing if people are interested in your idea. Knocking on people’s doors, inviting them to come to your launch or information meeting costs time but not money. Putting up a poster in the local library, or making a group on social media is also free.
Your role as a leader
Leadership qualities, the ability to get other people to work willingly to a common goal – will be important. You will need faith, courage, hard work, dedication, integrity, self discipline, responsibility, to build trust, and to set an example.
Doing background research – mapping the ecosystem of people and organisations that are operating in the same domain your project is going to be active in is important. Why? You need to be aware of what is going on in order to see where your project fits in, and if it even makes sense. If other people have tried similar projects in the past, you may be able to learn from their successes and failures. You run the risk of coming across as arrogant and out of touch if you announce you are going to do a project to (for example) remove graffiti from schools without being aware of the fact that there is a local group or government office that does exactly that. Talking to the person responsible may make you aware of a range of issues that you had not thought of, from (in this example): health and safety, insurance, and liaising with Trades Unions and “facilities management” to name but a few.
How to do your research?
Looking for organisations, people, and venues that can help you and who you might want to work with. How they can help you may be in terms of helping organise whatever you want to do, getting the word out, publicity and promotion to their members and networks, access to premises and venues, finance, and management.
As you compile your list of people and organisations, be aware that some may regard you as competition, an unwelcome “new kid on the block”. Push back may be triggered by a mix of genuine reaosons, to ego and arrogance. It can be the “not invented here” syndrome, that your idea is “not necessary”, or even that what you are doing is perceived as an implicit criticism. For example, even if the park is filthy and dangerous, the person responsible for keeping it clean and safe may not want to know, or be hoping for a bigger budget to fix it, rather than working with a bunch of “busybody” volunteers.
A few minutes on Google, searching: events pages like Meetup, Facebook, Eventbrite, local newspaper sites, library notice boards, “What’s on” listing, charities, clubs, societies, government bodies, politicians, consultants, journalists, authors, performers, speakers, newspapers, Parish magazines, Schools, Universities, Youth Clubs and Cultural Centres, venues, companies, vendors, and suppliers will lead to dozens if not hundreds of potential contacts. As you review them try to understand
what they do and why (in the area you are interested in), how active they are (look at their newsletter and recent events)
Who is in charge?
What the best way of approaching them may be?
If you are focussing on your local area it will only take a few hours to get a sense of who is who, and who does what. Look out for people, individuals, and leaders. Every organisation has some kind of leadership. Think about and assess who you can and want to help. and who might be helpful to you and your cause. For most voluntary organisations, an approach that includes, “can I help you” is usually welcome. If any of organisation seems to be doing exactly what you want to do, maybe your project is not actually necessary; it may be enough to volunteer to get involved in their project. Go to events or meetings organised by the people/organisation active in the same area and offer to help them. If they do not want to do exactly what you are aiming to achieve, that difference may be a key feature of your mission and purpose. If you come across past events, see if you can find Live Streams on their Youtube or Facebook pages.
Money Try to understand how they are financed. Partners and sponsors are often listed on websites and event listings, often the bigger the logo the more money they give. Government and grant giving bodies as well. The organisations that fund existing players in the ecosystem may also be able to fund you. Be aware though – the idea that your future organisation – if successful – might be competing for a limited amount of grant money may well be in the mind of the better funded organisations you visit. They may be much less helpful in reality that they say they are going to be because they don’t want your snout in “their” funding trough. Have a nose for BS. Sometimes there is a difference between what is presented and what is really going on. Sometimes there is one rich sponsor for whom the initiative is a “pet project” who hoped that other funders would emerge. They do not want it to look as if they are the only donor, and so various other organisations and companies are listed as if they are sponsors. On other occasions the main objective of the NGO is (or has become) paying the salaries of the people who work there. This has many negative effects the most obvious of which is that resources are not used for the supposed cause the NGO was founded to serve.
Create a Google Sheet with contact details, links etc – it will be easy to share this later with other team members, (though be aware of privacy issues).
Start talking about and planning a Kick Off Meeting/Event
Almost always the first step is to organise some kind of event/meeting to discuss getting your initiative off the ground. It can be called an information meeting. The date can (but does not have to be) a long way off. The fact that you are planning a meeting is a good reason to talk to and meet people. You may want to ask them to speak, join a panel, take part in a discussion, be part of an Open Space or just attend. Even if people don’t come, it is good to have invited them. The process of inviting them is your chance to explain what you are all about. In his book “Host Leadership” Mark Mckergow described how he scheduled the first meeting of the Solution Focused network a year ahead of the first meeting in 2002. He announced a specific date, the fact that people signed up and came was validation of the idea, and it was the end of a process of lots of conversations and communications prior to the event, during which you can gather allies and get people on board. See Mark’s TEDxKazimierz talk about host leadership here .
Remember that having meetings is not a goal in itself. Meetings should have a purpose, and very often they are for discussion, reporting progress, agreeing actions to take place between meetings. Different people who show up will have wildly varying degrees of experience of getting things done. As a leader it’s up to you to keep the purpose in everyone’s mind, and momentum going.
Once you have made your list, decide which organisations who you want to contact and the best way to approach them. Organisations are always and only staffed by people, so you must identify the person or people you want to talk to. “Who is in charge?” and/or “who is the right person to deal with people like you? are the questions you need to ask. This information will be often available on their website and/or by googling the name of the organisation the town you are in. In deciding who you want to approach you obviously need to think why, what do they have that can be useful for your project and what you can do for them.
The more important the organisation and person, the less likely that a spammy “Dear Sir/Madam” type email is going to work. The more important the person, often the harder it is to get a meeting, though not always. Successful people often make themselves accessible though they will want you to be specific about why you want to meet. Sometimes people who have little to offer and have almost no authority make themselves hard to reach to give the impression of authority that is completely lacking.
Probably there will be a few local groups active in the same area of activity as your planned project. If you can get face to face meetings with them you should aim for that.
“Face to face is better than phone and phone is better than email” is the old rule, though since then we have to put video calls between phone and face to face.
A great way to get to meet organisers is to show up early to events they are organising or speaking at, introduce yourself and say you would like to meet, explaining why. Almost invariably they will be glad to agree to a meeting the next day, and if you hang around may well approach you later in the event during a break. Don’t make the meeting the objective in itself. Some people will gladly schedule a longer face to face meeting, others like me, will be happy to agree to everything in a few minutes. As with any meeting, you need to think about what you want to achieve, what information and action items you want and are able to share, and what would be a successful outcome.
When you approach people you are clearly going to need to be able to explain:
Who you are
What you are doing or want to do,
Why you hav got in touch.
What co-operation you propose.
Often people will expect you to follow up your first approach with an email so it is a good idea to have draft introductory emails ready to send if they are requested.
As you look through the different organisations and people who are active in your local area make a note of the venues that they are holding meetings in. It may be a community room in a housing association, a local library, a school, village hall, church room, cultural centre, cafe, pub or hotel. Venues have different characteristics, pluses and minuses, and the place you choose for your meetings and events will influence the type of people who come. You may be a “pub” person but there might be people who could really help with your project who never go to pubs. The terms and conditions one which you can get space may vary a lot from free/symbolic to very expensive, and unless you are seriously wealthy and want to signal that in your kick off meeting (in which case a function room in the most expensive hotel you can find is ideal), then somewhere cheap and easy to get to is best.
If you have time you can go to events in suitable looking venues and just ask at the reception what the process is or look on the website. Aim at getting space for free. Sometimes you can provide advertising or a service for the venue that is valuable enough for them to consider giving you free use.
Organisations often have special rates for non-profits or will give space in return for recognition. Once you have found a suitable venue you need to make sure that they will give you a space if you need it. This can be quite tricky when you are at the start of your journey as they will often only give space to registered organisations and you don’t have one yet. You will need to find the decision maker, explain that you want to have a meeting, and get to the “once you are sure that x number of people are going to come you will book it.” Having good relations with the managers of the best free local venues is important.
1. If you have a table in a pub or cafe then they are likely to be fine with you having extra space if they are not busy though they may (reasonably) expect those attending to buy something. Sunday-Wednesday evenings are usually less busy. Getting a room for free on a Friday or Saturday night is usually impossible.
2. If you use a free event tool like Meetup or Eventbrite you can always relocate if either fewer or more people than you expect sign up. Be careful with Facebook events which (at the time of writing) don’t give you any means of messaging people who have clicked on “attending” an event.
Meeting in someone’s private flat or a pub is perfectly acceptable at the start.
The first meeting
Your first “real” public meeting is important, for many reasons.
You are on show – As the leader of the initiative those who are committed to helping you will be observing how you perform and subconsciously figuring out if they want to be part of it, and those who are not yet committed are also being “sold to”.
A well hosted and led meeting sets the tone for later.
As with anything, it is important to define what would be a success. There might be exceptions but almost certainly you will want to get across:
What the initiative is about and what its goals are
Who is in charge
How people can get involved and help
What needs to be done
You will want to
Get “buy in” and recruit members/volunteers
Have a discussion and answer questions
Agree action items and next steps
Beyond this you almost certainly will want to create
A friendly and welcoming atmosphere
A professional well organised look and feel
Aim high, to make it the best organised meeting you have ever attended. If you achieve 75% of that, you will do better than most people most of the time.
Listen carefully to what the attendees have to say, they will be your key people down the line. You will want to consider their dreams and aspirations
It is usually better to “under promise” and “over deliver” in terms of the expectations that you create around what will be achieved. This is a delicate balancing act. Some people will only come if they believe that they are taking part in something “big”. It is tempting to “big it up” and raise expectations. This can lead to problems. If ten people show up that could be a big success but may feel like failure somehow you have communicated that many more people will want to come.
The moment where the first people show up, and say that they really want to get involved is a milestone.
It is also important to manage your own expectations. You may be hoping that loads of people will join and your ideas will be very well received but this may not happen. To get something new started requires persistence and determination.
Getting the word out
You need to make sure people know about your meeting.
Getting the atmosphere of the meeting right is important
There are a lot of tips and tricks to make a meeting go well, which I explore in this blog post and in this video I prepared for my TEDx team.
Focus on Welcoming people as they arrive
Capturing names and contact details (easy if you have used a free registration tool like Eventbrite or Meetup)
Asking people to help you – for example writing badges for people as they arrive, (sticky labels are enough), or welcoming and greeting people.
Making it fun (getting everyone involved, asking them to introduce themselves at the start and saying why they came)
Having housekeeping rules, including good time keeping. This can be problematic if you want to start on time and people are still drifting in the first 15 minutes. A good solution for time keeping is to advertise that: Doors open at X o’Clock, formal launch and welcome at X + 30. Min
Having good time keeping, and asking someone reliable to keep notes of what is discussed set the tone of a professional organisation.
A good structure of the meeting is to kick off with welcome and introductions
“Hi I’m Richard, and this gathering is my idea. Thank you so much for coming, before I get started in explaining why and how I believe we could revitalise that local park and turn in from a place that we are scared to go to in the evenings to a place where which is the heart of our local community, let’s have some introductions. It would be great if we can just take it in turns to introduce ourselves, say what we do, why we came this evening, and how we might be able to contribute…. And if IO could also you at this stage to be brief, up to a minute. We have time in the programme for longer discussions later “
Then point at someone and say “please go first”. The beauty of this approach is that you get to hear about what other people want and can do, you get them talking, active, and have a chance to see who might be future potential team members. Make notes. If someone says “I can do a web page”, or “I can talk to the local school” write down their name and the action they suggested. People are far more likely to help with things they have suggested.
After you have got a sense of the people in the room you should present the agenda for the meeting, including five minutes for what your idea and goals are, focussing on what you want to achieve and why, and what help you need. Refer back to what people have said in their introductions. “As Peter said, we have to tidy the park up, get rid of the graffiti and litter – no one want to hang out in a place that looks terrible, and if the local council won’t do anything I’m doing to start doing it myself”
Allow time for discussion about goals and actions. During the discussion, it is good to separate long term vision goals and things that can be done. You will need short term wins to get going so keep an eye out for feasible realistic short term projects that you see as being potentially feasible.
A good “housekeeping rule” for the discussion is to say, “ when you saying how you could contribute, please focus on suggesting things that you are ready to help with that are your top priorities. And if you are ready to help with someone else’s idea make that clear. It is highly motivating for the person with an idea to hear that there are other people here who want to help.
Depending on the scale of the project and the size/time of the meeting, there are various choices. You may want to break out into smaller meetings with sub groups on specific topics, but if only you can encourage the sub meetings to happen on the spot, so that you can ask each group to report back to the whole group on what they have discussed.
Be on the lookout for pessimism, time wasters unrealistic and disruptive personality types. While you do not want to expel them, it is good not to let them hijack or send the meeting of course the meeting for their own agenda Examples might be
Dave the pessimist, who says “I’m Dave and I’m more a thinker. This is never going to work.. “
“Thanks Dave, you are right it’s going to be a challenge to get everything done. By the end of this meeting, let’s try make sure we have agreed some actions items that we all believe can actually be done.
Sue the diverter/time waster “I’m Sue and I’d just like to contribute that we ought to be worrying more about
(X Y and Z) (doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong – you just have to say.
“Thanks Sue that’s very important – and today let’s focussing our attention on the reason we came to this meeting”
“Ian the unrealistic”
“I’m Ian, we ought to do this in every park in the country, can someone talk to the Ministry?”
“Thanks Ian, let’s think about that when we have done such a good job here that we have something to talk about”
“Harriet the Hi-Jacker”
I’m Harriet from the x organisation. I’d like to talk about my project which is on the other side of town. We’ve such serious problems and I need help and volunteers, so if anyone would like to help me, I’m here to meet you”.
“Thanks Harriet – We will be thrilled to find ways we can work together in the future. Today’s lets focus on this meeting”
Identify potential team members and define roles. Circulate a written “who what when” to everyone who shows up. Actions speak louder than words, so it is important to observe how far people stick to their commitments and do what they say they are going to do.
At this stage, you may be on the way to getting your project started. If there is an overlap between your vision and what the people who show up want to do, get to work on those. Let one thing lead to another, be flexible and opportunistic, remember your underlying external and internal goals, and make sure that you are moving closer to your goals.
Other tips and tricks
Define roles and try to identify different people’s strengths
Be consultative rather than (too) democratic. A new organization is vulnerable to disruptive strong personalities who can push it and in you in directions you don’t want to go. Be clear in your own mind the limits and communicate clearly again and again, what your initiative is for (and what it is not).
Benchmark against the best organisations of your type anywhere in the world.
See what they do, and be ambitious in planning how to do feasible local versions of what they are doing.
Be ready for rejection – it is inevitable that some people will not want to help and not be interested. Don’t take it personally.
Make your meetings and events work for the shy and timid. If it works for them it will work for everyone.
Develop a sense of process, now you document meetings and agree next steps
Running your new initiative planning and doing the things that you aiming to do.
If you can assemble a team, you are determined and patient, you have incredible opportunities to make things happen and get things done. It’s never been easier to find people with similar goals and problems, though finding and leading the ones who are willing to help and are well organised and motivated is far from trivial.
This blog post ends with the transcript of the talk I gave for TEDxShenkarCollege, Israel in May 2020. It provides information about the idea of pre-events, events before events. and putting “the time before things start” to better use. As a result of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic events are subject to a series of questions. Do they still make sense? Are they “worth it”? Are they still feasible? If the raison d’être of events themselves is being questioned, it has an impact on the logic of pre-events. The best way to read this article and blog post is “as if” events are still happening, and they still make sense. Maybe it will make more sense in 2030 than 2022 or 2025.
I created a Linkedin Group and Facebook Page to support pre-events. If you want to do a pre-event, or are just interested, join them. The presentation from a pre event I did in South Africa in 2018 is here. The best way to find out about pre-events is to watch the TEDx talk – I’ll share a link as soon as it is approved by TED, read the transcript or just get in touch with me.
My TEDxShenkarCollege talk transcript
“Imagine that time is being wasted, every day all of the world and there’s a simple way to put it not just to good use, but to great use?
Imagine further that it is your time is being wasted, and that you could do something about it?
The time before things start is being routinely wasted every day all over the world.
There are simple and powerful ways to put this wasted time to high impact use
by showing up early and knowing what to do.
Knowing how to turn waste into something of value at zero cost can benefit everyone listening today and many others.
So how did I become aware of this waste and find a solution.
Let me take you back to Krakow, Poland in 2005 – I was about to give a guest workshop on entrepreneurship to an MBA class. I was early (to find the room, check the projector, sound and internet, make sure everything worked.
I hate being late, and in order not to be late I had to be early.
Everything was working, and I was ready, 8 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.
Some class participants were early and were also waiting. The organiser whispered to me – “we will start a few minutes late, not everyone will be on time”.
I felt a flash of *anger* Why? I was angry because meetings should never start late.
I was angry with her casual assumption that starting late was “OK”,
I was angry with the idea that my timekeeping standards were going to be tainted with her lack of professionalism.
And I was angry with the people who were going to be late.
But I thought to myself, “she and the late comers are not to know that I regard lateness as a cardinal sin”.
so I said in a way that was meant to sound firm but perhaps came across as as passive aggressive, or maybe just aggressive
“ but that not fair
Its not fair to make the people who are on time wait for the sloppy late-comers.
It’s not fair to me. I’m on time
It’s not right if these MBA students if get the impression that it is OK to be unprofessional.
She took offence, bristled at the implied insults and whispered back
“That’s as maybe, they are not used to it, you can’t do that ”
Now you don’t know me – I’m an entrepreneur, three time CEO, with perhaps an exaggerated sense of my own self worth.
I do *not* like being told what I can and can’t do,
we were in front of a class with people watching curiously as the tension between me and the organiser was visible. Perhaps “Ego” was at stake. It wasn’t the time for words, it was the time for action.
I whispered “ you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to start early”.. And before she could react I slowly turned away from her, towards the class, and said.
“While we are waiting for the others let’s get started. I’m going to ask you to stand up, introduce yourselves, tell us in one minute who you are, what you do, why you are here, and what you want to learn from an entrepreneur like me. Everyone else, pay attention. I may ask you to assess someone else’s introduction.”
I then pointed at someone and said “you go first”. She rose somewhat hesitantly to her feet…and started to speak.
And thus started my journey of getting things going early, before they begin
A journey that has changed my life and can change yours.
Because what happened in that MBA class was a revelation.
The atmosphere changed in seconds. People woke up. They realised I might pick on them next. They started paying attention. Some started thinking about what they would say, others were listening to their classmates, others were worrying how they looked. even checking their hair.
They turned from being passive attendees into active participants, no longer spectators watching a match, but players on the pitch.
As more students arrived they walked into a class where people were paying attention, alert, where something was going on. Also I got a better sense of my audience and their expectations, and the class got to know more about each other.
My host – who had wanted me to start late, realised she had lost, and stalked out the room, offended and angry (I’m not sure she was angry, but I hope so). I had not just started on time, I had discovered something new. I and more importantly the class had won.
This experience stuck in my mind. Maybe I could start other events early? So a few weeks later, I was on a panel of business people in front of a larger audience and I did something similar. 5 minutes before the start, everyone was sitting quietly, waiting, and nothing was going on. There were too many people to do introductions one by one so I took a microphone, and said.
“Please stand up ( I waited til they had stood up) and in the next two minutes, introduce yourself to someone you don’t know, and explain to each other what you are expecting to get out of this event. “
Now, when 300 people stand up and start talking, it makes a lot of noise. The panel woke up. The audience had to wake up, Even people who “don’t like icebreakers” didn’t have an option. The impact was similar to back in Krakow. The room sprang to life – energy, activation and participation erupted, replacing passivity. disengagement and boredom.
What did I learn and what can you learn ?
There is always time “before things start”. It’s valuable, and usually wasted. And putting it to the right use can be as easy and low cost as in these two examples.
But there is a similar and bigger problem – with a higher payback if you can solve it.
Imagine you are travelling to an event or conference where you expect and want to meet new people with whom you share a common, maybe even a burning interest or passion. Meeting other attendees may be a major reason for going to the event in the first place. But this event is in a different country or town to the one you live in. To be on time you will need to be early, not just 10 minutes early, but arriving in town the night before.
Instead of the 5 minutes before things start. we now are looking at the whole evening the day before.
When I went to my first TED event, TED Global in 2011, I knew nobody, and had no means of reaching any other attendees. I found some TED fans in Edinburgh via Couchsurfing and I met them in a bar. But they were not going to the main TED event. Nice though they were, I would have preferred to have met other TED attendees.
Once the event started there wasn’t enough time to meet everyone. Even though I am sociable and self-confident, receptions and parties where there are over a 1000 people in the room and you know nobody are a bit intimidating.
I pondered and thought
The time before events could be better used too, just like the time before lectures and workshops – Wouldn’t it be great if there was a more peaceful time and space to get together with other participants before events start, If I can do it with Couchsurfers surely it’s possible with other attendees”
I decided that there must be, and it turns out that there is.
Since 2014 I’ve been doing different types of “pre events “- events before events”. I decided that if I was travelling to an event in another country I was going to try to do a pre event.
I’ve organised pre-events all over the world: in Cape Town, Calgary, Cracow, Edinburgh, New York, Rome, Taipei, and Warsaw and as of yesterday evening I’ve even done a pre-event in the cloud before this TEDx.
I’ve had such positive feedback from the many hundreds of people who have participated. It is not just me who found value in the time before things start.
If I wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t be giving this talk.
I won’t go into detailed “how to” of doing a successful pre events, but I will share three key learnings:
Getting the culture right, making them welcoming, inclusive and friendly really matters. It’s like hosting a good party.For example – at our pre event in New York, we made our picnic together. I don’t care how important we are in our normal lives – at my pre events we are equal – making the sandwiches, doing the washing up, whatever.
Making sure your pre-event design works for people who are shy or nervous. If it works for the timid, the bold self confident types will do just fine.
Keeping them low cost or preferably free. To get in, our “door policy” is just a positive attitude. We want everyone with the right mindset to be able to come, no matter how little money they have.
So TEDxShenkar College to close, let me remind you of Why I came here to share this idea with you.
The time before things start is a potential goldmine of opportunity.
If you are going to an event, consider doing a pre event. If you take the lead, I will support you, if only I can.
If you are giving classes or workshops – turn attendees into participants, and reward those who are punctual or early through activities like those I have described.
There are millions of classes and events going on in schools, universities and elsewhere all over the world every day. So often the time before they start is wasted.
My here’s my challenge to TEDxShenkarCollege and the online audience
Are you going to put these ideas into action?
Are you going to replace detachment, passivity and boredom with engagement, curiosity and stimulation.
You can, and you should, and if you do, you won‘t regret it. And it’s not just to make your life more useful, enjoyable and valuable – it’s a service for other people as well. I believe it’s an idea worth spreading. ”
This article is about how to manage and be managed when working remotely, both at work and in private life. I’m sharing examples of what I am doing and also some resources. I understand that not all aspects of a job can be done from home but it’s really important to at least try and make working from home work for you. If you do need to see clients or visit the office for whatever reason, make sure that you wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer as well as distancing from people and wearing a face covering of some sort. If you do not have a face covering, you can find some here. This way, you are reducing the risk of contracting the disease as well as spreading it.
To help with your job/career, you may want to look at Upskilling post COVID-19 to see how you can help yourself get back to where you want to be, or move into a better perspective area with your work.
I run and participate in global and local events, and am used to the challenging process of trying to be effective when working remotely. While I have experience, I don’t see myself as an expert. Leaders such as Michal Sliwinski of Nozbe has written extensively on Remote Working for example here .
I want to share my perspective, and hope my lessons, experience and advice are useful.
1. Getting used to working remotely is your responsibility.
Whether you are an employee, manager, director, or founder you will need to get more of your stuff done on line and remotely. This is not panic, just a fact.
You must focus of staying healthy and sane, staying as productive and effective as possible, to support your core commitments to yourself, your family, friends, staff, co-workers, organisations you work for, support or lead. Like everything else there are better and worse ways of getting things done.
Managing your own “Working at Home” processes
Get control of your diary. Time passes whether you manage it or not. Have a prioritised daily “to do or “task” list. Review at the end of the day whether you succeeded in getting done what you wanted to get done. If you don’t know, can’t answer, it wasn’t a good plan, and improve your plan for the next day. If you are failing, work on improving your planning.
Be disciplined: use a diary, know what you are meant to be doing during the day. Set yourself deadlines and keep to them.
Start work at the same time as you would start work if things were normal (or earlier).
Use the time you save by not travelling productively. Ask “what can I learn or read?” or “who can I catch up with? not “What Netflix series can I re-watch?”
Tell family members you live with about your planned home working routines and that you need their support to make them work.
Over communicate with your co-workers and managers. As well as documenting what you have done every day, on a shared online resource like a Google Drive (dropbox, company intranet etc), send an email to your manager letting her or him know what you have done, and talk to them. Make checking in with your boss(es) a daily habit.
Managing other peopleremotely
The way you manage will be tested. A manager needs the trust of their team, and trust is built through regular contact and two way communication. Many will need to figure out what goes into running a mentoring program remotely as this new way of working becomes the norm. 1 Over communicate (true for employees, even more true for managers) A good manager will be in daily contact with her (or his) staff so she knows what their ‘directs’ (people who report to them) have done, are working on, and the challenges they face. In addition to your weekly one on ones, and daily team meetings, which can all be done online, schedule extra calls because of the remote-ness . If you are a manager (but not CEO) you should be in a situation where, when your boss calls you, you will be able to tell them what the status is on all your deliverables up to the end of the previous working day. That means keeping on top of what your directs have done and are working on, reading their reports, talking and listening to them.
If you are a CEO do the same, call your managers, get their reports, discuss with the managers who report to you, attending online meetings and systematically being in touch with selected people further away from you in the Organisation Chart so that you are less distant, rather than more absent. “Show your face” online.
2 Online informationsharing Make sure that your team knows where to share information about progress on their projects, tasks and deliverables. Keep track, and make sure everyone updates it and you check. If you sometimes let it slip in the office, now is the time to “pull your socks up”, and be more professional.
3 Introduce “one on ones” If you are not used to having weekly “one on one” meetings with the people who report to you, use this change as an opportunity to “raise your game”. I wrote this article before listening to this podcast today (17th March). The arguments for having well organised “one on ones” are set out very clearly in the latest Manager-Tools.com podcast here.
If you are used to a more informal communication style, explain to your team in your first online meeting that you need to formalise processes given the extra challenges of being remote, and to give them the support they need.
3. Relationships. Communication
Face to face is better than phone, and phone is better than email. It’s hard to have long distance relationships, but this will be “the new normal” as you either choose not to, or are unable to, see your family and friends. If you have friends/relatives who are technophobic – now is the time to teach them how to use video conferencing. I taught my 90 year old mother to Facetime two days ago. You can do it. If you have friends who you see from time to time, call them more often. I’ve noticed that I have spent more time on the phone and talking to people remotely than normal. It is an investment in civilisation and staying sane.
4 Experimentationwith online events, meetingsand meetups The Coronavirus Covid-19 is becoming the largest pandemic since 1918. There are lots of challenges. As an event organiser I have plenty. I challenge those reading to think about what they can do online. For example:
Family gatherings I am having an online family gathering this evening. We never did this before but, with two generations, six households, and three countries potentially joining, it may bring us closer than we would have been without this terrible virus. On line parties – I’ve tried one, and have been invited to another. May be weird, but why not. For those determined to meet family, friends, or colleagues in person, you may want to consider SciQuip’s range of PPE like face masks to ensure that the spread of the virus is restricted. The use of PPE is proving to be one of the most effective methods of limiting infection, in conjunction with hand sanitization.
Open your mind to experimentation – do pilot online events.
As an entrepreneur I know that the way to make progress is through trial and error. As an event organiser I know how much participants hate “error”. So do pilots. Maybe some of the online events I am doing below won’t work at all or won’t work well. The test of any event is whether you and the other who attend want to do it again. I’m experimenting with online meetings and events of all descriptions. I even started before the virus came into being. Here are some examples
With Mel Rosenberg in Israel I have been piloting online concentric TED Circles – www.tedcircles.com, with two groups linked by video and extra remote people joining. See details of an event here
Such meetings facilitate experiences and communication that were previously not possible.
With Open Coffee Krakow we are hosting our first on line event on Thursday 19th March.
If you want to join, you can! Just click on the Zoom link You don’t have to be in Krakow. We are trying to make an opportunity out of the problem. We did a pilot event last week to test the technology, streaming the resulting gathering on Facebook Live, reaching an audience of over 1000. There may be even more on Thursday. Following that successful pilot, Kamil from our team made an 8 minute “How to take part ” video showing people how to use Zoom in this way. I made a shorter 3 minute Loom video as well. This is a work in progress,. We see this as an chance to do things we couldn’t do before.
TED and TEDx events
We decided to cancel our 10th March event a few days before we had to.
TED have postponed their major event of the year in April and cancelled the satellite TEDFest in New York. For our event, and future events that are no longer possible because of the virus, we are thinking. “What is the best thing to do instead?”
Jay Herratti and Salome Heusel at TED HQ have already organised an online Town Hall with TEDx-ers from all over the world to discuss how we as TEDx-ers should react to the crisis, and what we can do to stay relevant to our local communities.
Jay and Salome were very explicit that we can experiment with online and hybrid online/offline events for the duration of the crisis. We have not yet decided what we are going to do, but for sure we will be piloting different types of events on line.
Teaching I teach entrepreneurship workshops from time to time, and my course a few days ago was cancelled due to the virus, so I decided to to put it on line.
I got positive feedback and proved to myself and others that I can do interactive workshops with a group of people I have never met.
For Cambridge University, in 2016 I founded CAMentrepreneurs, to promote business and social entrepreneurship among alumni, current students and others.
I was due to be leading a meetup in New York in April which isn’t going to happen, but during the call above we agreed to investigate doing online meetups in Cambridge, Dubai, London and New York. By the summer I should be quite good at them. What does it mean to have an online meeting in Dubai, when I am in Poland? That is something to discover.
There are plenty of other organisations discovering how to manage the process of delivering value online. This a16z podcast describes how they have just put their startup school on line. There is a lot to learn about sustaining community among participants, how they use Slack as well as Zoom, and more.
It takes time, effort, common sense and a willingness to experiment. If you do try, as a result of these examples, I’d love to hear how you get on.
January 27, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest and deadliest Nazi concentration complex. It i’s an appropriate day to remember and draw attention to Jonathan Ornstein and Robert Desmond’s talk at the first TEDxKazimierz in 2015 about the Ride For The Living (RFTL) 60-mile (97 km) bike ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow. See their TEDxKazimierz talk here https://youtu.be/51r50KsrT48
Robert’s first Ride is an idea that has grown and developed beyond imagination. It now attracts people from all around the world., determined to remember the victims and celebrate life, proving that the Nazis failed.
The important idea in this talk is that as well as never forgetting the appalling Nazi crimes, the best way to honour the memory of those who died is to rebuild positive Jewish life in Poland and elsewhere. This is the ultimate defeat of Nazi ideology.
I’ve twice done the Ride For The Living and strongly recommend it, in so many ways, as honouring the memory of those who did, raising funds for positive projects for the future, and showing solidarity with those who want to live in a better more positive world. It is an emotionally and physically demanding experience that you cannot forget, meeting people whose relatives were murdered there, and reminding you of what really matters in life.
The first TEDxKazimierzSalon of 2020 on 28th January is on the topic of New Year Resolutions.
Many of us set goals – personal and professional, either because we have to we or want to, and it does make sense. While a resolution is not exactly the same as a goal they are similar. I decided to share some insights as I prepare for the event, reviewing TED talks, podcasts and reading to help me decide what talks and activities to share at our TEDxKazimierzSalon
Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals Dumb? Many of us have heard that goals should be Smart.
S M A R T is an acronym for Specific Measurable (or was that motivating) Action orientated (or was that achievable?) Realistic (or was that relevant, or resourced?) Time Limited
Manager Tools, possibly the world’s leading podcast on management with over one million downloads a month (even back in 2016 before the big podcasting boom) claims that “smart goals” are not smart.
That the only things that matter about goals is that they should be measurable and have deadlines. Listen the whole podcast here. It is well worth the listen.
Mark Horstman one of the founders of Manager Tools likes being controversial. In his talk at USI “What You’ve Been Taught About Management is Wrong ” he argues that that if you don’t know the names of the children of the people who report to you, you shouldn’t be a manager. You can only manage people if you know them.
TEDxKazimierz 2018 speaker Piotr Nabielec talked convincingly about the importance of managing your time – he argues your time is more valuable than money. We know that our lives and years are measured in time.
Piotr helps people manage their time – I recommend his courses, and time management in general.
At TEDxTarnow in 2019 I shared the idea that even if you have not settled your on life goals, you can still work on what I call “opportunity readiness”. Working on your health and fitness, skills, finances, relationships, and mindset so that when the right moment comes, and you find a purpose or goal you care about, you are prepared and ready for it.
In the BS deep world of Startups there are acronyms like BHAG – big hairy audacious goals – I’m a native speaker of English, reasonably well educated and I just do not understand what this means. I do not think I am alone. I’m moderately hairy. To be among the market leaders in their chosen markets is a challenging goal for any of my businesses, and in some cases we are or have achieved it, but I would not be impressed if the CEO or others challenged me on the hairiness of our goals. You will be doing me (and others) a favour if you keep your communication simple and easy to understand.
His humanist values are ones that many could do well to emulate, and if you have yet to discover his talent, you can’t do better than listen to this.
It probably goes without saying but probably what really matters is that quality and value of the goals you set, rather than just the degree to which you achieve them. Our 90 year war hero from TEDxKazimierz 2015 (Theme “Age is no Limit” put it perfectly.
If anyone can share TED talks in the comments below this post that you think we should consider showing, on goal setting, creativity, and a “values based” approach to life and living, that would be much appreciated.
If you want to come to the TEDxKazimierzSalon on 28th January you can fast track your ticket application by filling in this form. or apply the normal way here.
This is a real question I posed on Linkedin – and copied in below below – as I was going to to talk at a formal dinner in London to alumni of Winchester College, (where I was at school from 1979-84).
Below is a transcript of my speech. – I’m particularly happy to have been able to weave quotations from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Banarama and Shelley’s Ozymandias into the same speech.
(So this was the speech I intended to give. I am sure along the way a few differences crept it. But it’s close to the original.) The motivations of an entrepreneur
I live in Krakow, Poland where the rush hour traffic is terrible, the Supreme Court is battling with the government, and some of our politicians are hostile to immigrants and the EU…. so I thought “Let’s see how things are in London…… the civilised peace and tranquility of British politics – it’s bound to be better.
As well as being a businessman, I promote and teach entrepreneurship in University and Schools though not at Win Coll (for reasons out of my control). I have a good idea of what talks by entrepreneurs often look like. Some entrepreneurs just go on about how marvellous they are, and the adventures they’ve had, and how much money they’ve made.
Others more intelligently do a “humble brag” where they give credit to their good fortune, talk about their failures, while quietly drawing attention to their successes wealth and other achievements. I’m not going to do that- though I will answer questions if you have them.
I’m going to talk about my motivations, mindset and attitude to legacy and impact, and explain why it might be relevant to you.
My motivations have changed since I was at Win Coll – initially they were negative motivations and competitive rivalry. I grew up with a sense of genetic destiny and frustration – my parents came from “good families” – My father had been a Scholar in College at Winchester and taught Philosophy at Oxford. His family tree goes back to 1040, including powerful church men such as John Randolph – Bishop of London, (though he was not an entrepreneurial bishop, the richest man in the land, like William of Wykeham). My mother’s family included her Uncle, another Wykehamist, Air Marshall Lord Portal (who was received Ad Portas), with a statue on the banks of the Thames or her grandfather Frederick Anderson who played football for Scotland, was in charge of Shanghai, and endowed the library at SOAS. But rather than giving me a sense of something to live up to – I noticed that my parents didn’t have enough money for me to live like other Wykehamists seemed to, and home life seemed a struggle for them to put me and my siblings through Winchester, and other private schools. One of my motivations to make money in business was that I didn’t want my life to be a financial struggle like their’s.
When I was working in consulting after Cambridge, one Sunday morning I looked round the office, and saw men 20, 30 and 40 years older than me – I knew I didn’t want to be where they were in my future life. Two examples of the power of a negative motivation. As Christmas approaches, you will for sure hear the lyrics Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, whether you enjoy them or not, including “All of the other Reindeer used to laugh and call him names, they wouldn’t let poor RudolphJoin in any Reindeer games”. That has an echo of some of the less happy memories of my time at school. A favourite cartoon of mine shows a happy looking Rudolph sitting in his armchair,, shotgun by his side, with the heads of Cupid, Comet, Dasher, Dancer, Vixen, Donner and Blitzen mounted on the wall, with the caption “all of the other Reindeers’ used to laugh and call him names”.
Another of my motivations for going into business was the desire to demonstrate that I could be competitively successful and “win” in the game of life. These motivations, may have been powerful but they were mistaken.
This is not to say I regret not shooting my Wykehamical rivals – I never shot anyone – but I’ve come to see that it was ultimately futile to let my relative success in the eyes of others, or lack of it, be a source of satisfaction or happiness. There will always be someone who does better than me, or beats your record.
So if not negative motivations or competitive rivalry then what? Perhaps impact and legacy. In the Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome there are so many statues you lose count, The more important Italians, Garibaldi, Gallileo have bigger statues, with better views of Rome. But the people after who the statues are named, don’t know and don’t care. I’m reminded of Shelley’s Ozymandias, whose inscription on a shattered pedestal commands
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair”
But we never know what who this King of Kings was, what his works were, why the mighty should look on them, and why they should despair. Whatever I or you achieve will one day be lost and forgotten, so perhaps the quest for legacy is just a form of vanity. Which is not to say that positive impact now is not important.
When I was at Winchester, in 1982, Banarama and the Fun Boy Three sang almost literally ad nauseum “It ain’t what you do. it’s the way that you do it”. This now reminds me of our school motto “Manners maketh Man”.
There is something in this – even if I make a great fortune. Would I really enjoy the trappings of wealth and luxury if they were built on human suffering, or criminality. They are partially right, the way we do things does matter, but unlike Banarama, I think what you choose to do matters as well as how you do it.
The failures and successes in my business and personal life have led me to the following conclusions about entrepreneurship – bearing in mind that these rules work for me when I broadly feel I’ve probably made “enough” in the way of assets and money. Different people have different senses of “enough”. Entrepreneurs are important and necessary to create wealth, and bring technological progress into the goods, services and societies we live in. But we entrepreneurs are just as dependent on government and services from others as others are dependend on entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs need accountants, lawyers doctors, and teachers, and good government. My 30 years in Poland has taught me the value of good government and institutions that I used to take for granted in the UK, especially as in Poland the pace of progress is accelerating not least due to our membership of the Single Market and enthusiastic support for the European Union and by the vast majority of the population. Entrepreneurship is a mindset where you take responsibility for your own circumstances, and shape the world in which we live. An entrepreneurial mind set is not the monopoly of entrepreneurs – it potentially available to everyone who chooses to have it. It means being tolerance of change, open to new ideas, ready to risk failure and rejection.
I failed completely to get an entrepreneurship society going for Win Coll Alumni and current students, Even though Eton has one that thrives, and the society I launched for for Cambridge University less than three years ago has managed to have gatherings in Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, New York, Sidney and Warsaw, and launches in Cambridge later this week. This isn’t the time to highlight the person those who blocked and opposed this at Win Coll, but I don’t think William of Wykeham would have approved.
The point I do want to make is that is that my biggest impacts in my life so far have been achieved in collaboration with others and almost always working on and developing other people’s ideas. I failed to get Win Coll on board for my idea, and that’s my failure too.
That is quite humbling. Impact matters more than legacy, and that often involves me being less involved not more.
So if it is not about impressing others, not revenge, not legacy, nor ego, being smug and self-satisfied, what motivates me now, and might I recommend to you? After I got divorced in 2003, the scale of that failure put other things into perspective. I had to get used to waking up in a house by myself in the 50% of my life when my children were with their mother. I learned that the person who you should aim to impressed is the one who looks you in the mirror morning and evening when you are doing your teeth. Friends, family & others come and go but you will always be where ever you are. When you do your teeth in the morning, are you happy with the plan you have for your day, and assuming you brush do teeth twice a day when you look back on your day in the evening: are you happy with what you did? It’s that honest self-assessment that really matters. Are you spending your precious life in the best way possible, and if not what are you going to do about it? You can reduce the role of luck by being ready for opportunities. The army has “combat readiness inspections” which assess if the fighting unit is ready for war now. I want to argue for working on you “opportunity readiness”,. You should assess yourself for your readiness for opportunity,. Why is this important? You never know when your biggest opportunities will come. It may be like something glinting or sparkling on the edge of your field of vision. If you are looking out for it, and you are ready – you can seize the chance, but you can’t if you don’t notice, or you are not ready. How ready are you right now for a great opportunity that might emerge, even today, during the break at this dinner? Are there gaps between where you are now, what you think and do, who you spend time with, and how it needs to be to be opportunity ready ? You can work on getting ready.
Starting with your health, skills and finances, Are you looking after yourself: diet, fitness and so on . Are your skills and education where they need to be to be opportunity ready? Are your finances in order ? Are you spending less than you make, and avoiding consumption on credit to impress people you don’t even like.
Are your relationships opportunity ready? , will your partner, husband or wife hold you back or encourage you when opportunity knocks Maybe your partner is supportive, cherish them and if not – I’m really sorry. My father use to say to new his students at Oxford University where he taught, “You will learn more from each other than me” This advice is good for life. Choose who you spend your time with carefully.
Is your mindset “Opportunity Ready “ is your radar switched on? When you see a problem, are you curious, looking for causes, and solutions?
The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.
Do you intentionally expose yourself to new people, activities and ideas, getting out of your familiar environment, talking to strangers, getting out of your comfort zone. The more diverse your experiences are, the more opportunities you will be exposed to. Most of my biggest opportunities came as a result of me risking rejection when I offered or asked to get involved in other people’s project. and when people approached me, and asked me if I wanted to join their business and/or projects, they risked me saying no to them.
And in terms of my motivation. I push myself hard, if I am passing my own toothbrush test, happy with my plan at the beginning of the day, and satisfied with how it went at the end. that’s a success in my own terms, and plenty of motivation to do the same the next day.
Thank you. <end of speech>
Those who follow what I say closely will notice some overlap between what I said to the Old Wykehamists and to the audiences of Talk’n Roll and TEDxTarnow. There are are links to those talks (and another) below.
Meanwhile. I’m reflecting on the fact that I’m more known for putting other speakers’ ideas and entrepreneurs on stage, hosting and organising TEDxKazimierz and other events. Except when teaching/talking about entrepreneurship, I’m don’t often share my non-business ideas. Feedback I got from listeners (often positive 🙂 was that they were surprised, saw a different side of me, so … here are three examples of non-business talks from the last year.
Just over a year ago, the inaugural lecture to students starting their Civil Engineering studies at Krakow Polytechnic “Is 2018 is the best time to start being a student?”. (answer, yes, if you know how). This talk was in Polish, and there is a transcript in this blog post.
Call to Action
What would you say to your high school if you have 20 minutes before a decent meal and what would you want/not want to hear from someone else ? Please write in the comments below.
Yesterday evening the British Embassy organised an event in Krakow as part of a road show to inform British Citizens Living in Poland about the implications of a “no deal” Brexit.
The reason for this blog post is that the event was remarkable, unusual, impressive and terrifying. I don’t often go to meetings like this. I’ll describe what happened and give some commentary. The comments are my own.
The atmosphere A friendly lady ticked us off a list (despite the warming that photo ID would be needed). When I arrived 15 minutes early there were about 30 people in the the room, a number which must have more than doubled by the end. There was no official welcoming or even an icebreakers (my TEDx eyes scrutinise every event carefully). I found a few familiar faces but most were strangers (I’ve often thought that unlike other national minorities there is no tradition of “the Brits” hanging out together in a place like Kraków). It was the first gathering organised by the British Embassy in Krakow for the British residents here since 1991 (with the exception of another “impact of Brexit” meeting I missed). It was remarkable to see so many completely new faces. The age range was from early 20s to 70s. The meeting started about 10 mins late – no reason was given.The atmosphere seemed matter of fact, sad and apprehensive to me.
Jason Rheinberg introduced himself, his team, and Polish officials from the relevant government departments including someone from the Border Police (which was thought provoking). My photo of Jason was back lit – there is a better photo of him here.
The officials (British and Polish) in the room were not responsible for the policies they are representing, and so I was planning not to be directly angry with them. My question about long term post-Brexit visa policies were kicked down the road. I’m very concerned about the cost and uncertainty for Polish family members and employees who want to stay longer than 90 day visits to the UK. The costs are high and the uncertainty troubling: https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general https://www.gov.uk/uk-family-visa
There were no answers – “a future Immigration Bill will deal with this”, we were told. ‘This meeting is just about ‘no deal Brexit’ – If there is a deal then there is a much more time.” I don’t think two – three years is long in the context of a planning a career, raising a family or living a life. I was told
“When the new Immigration Bill is being prepared, a consultative White Paper will be published, where members of the public can make representations. As I don’t have a vote – if I want to reach a politician, I can write to the Home Office.” I’m not convinced that this will make any difference.
It’s not nice to know that the Civil Servants don’t know if it visas will become as hard and expensive for Poles in a few years as it is for Americans now, but I guess that is what is coming.
The oddest part of the meeting was Jason Rheinberg’s description of the political situation in the UK. I was expecting him to represent the government. His Twitter feed has regular retweets of statements by Boris Johnson. I suppose that is part of his job.
As well as speaking about government policy – the Deputy Head of Mission decided to speak for, and interpret the actions and motives of UK Parliament. This is what he had to say about it.
” As you know at the end of that negotiation Teresa May took the package to the British parliament, in fact she took the package to the British Parliament three times and every time parliament rejected that deal. Now there are number of reasons why Parliament did that but it wasn’t because they disagreed with the vast majority of that deal. Parliament didn’t disagree with the rights it gave EU nationals in the UK or British Nationals in the EU. It didn’t really disagree with the amount of money we agreed to pay the EU for what we owed from our stay. It didn’t disagree with the transitional arrangement – this 18 months where things would essential stay the same. it didn’t really disagree with most of the future framework. Most of this sense of what the future relationship would look like. But one thing they really did not like is the Irish backstop and you’ll know a lot about this, you’ll have read a lot about it/ But essentially the backstop is a plan B. It said that if at the end of that transitional agreement December 2020 after we’ed left the EU if even by December 202 we hadn’t agreed a new relationship with the EU essentially it took longer than we expected that we would fall back into this plan B which kept the UK as a whole within a customs union with the EU and subjecting Northern Ireland to essentially free market or common market rules within the EU. and Parliament said “no” to this. They said “no” essentially because they believed it was taking away too much of British Sovereignty and in particular because you couldn’t get out of the Backstop. in fact it is harder to get out of the backstop than to get out of the EU because there is no Article 50. The only way to get out of the backstop is if both sides agree to move something else and parliament, or a majority of Parliamentarians felt that that was too much of an improvision?? on British sovereignty and so of course we now have the current government under Boris Johnston. David Frost our negotiation and his Ministers are in Brussels every day trying to find an alternative to the Backstop. Trying to find another way of protecting the GFA, removing the need for customs check on the Northern Southern Irish border, protecting the European Common Market as another way to the Backstop because they know the Backstop as it currently exists won’t get through the British Parliament.”
I was very surprised. I thought that a lot (maybe even a majority) of MPs were against Brexit completely, and that some of them felt that they should support Brexit out of a sense of democratic duty towards the referendum result. I understand that as a representative of the UK Government he has to say what the the government claims to be true, but particularly at a moment where Parliament and the PM are at loggerheads, it was odd to speak on behalf of deeply divided parliament as if he knew its collective mind and it had a view that could be represented in this way. I thought one of the many problems of Brexit is that there is a majority against all possible versions of it.
Could Parliament could ask Ambassadors to represent it directly (cutting out No 10) ? Of course not. But if diplomats are claiming to speak for Parliament, surely they should take more care with their words, especially at a time like this, when we are weeks away from possible disaster.
As Jonathan Powell – Downing Street chief of staff 1997-07 who was deeply involved in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement put it. in a letter to the Times
….If we leave the single market and the customs union, as we will have to for the Canada-style free trade agreement favoured by Boris Johnson, there will have to be a border somewhere. It can be between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK or between the island of Ireland and the rest of the EU.
The DUP has a perfectly legitimate complaint against the border between Northern Ireland and Britain because it undermines its identity. The Irish are rightly never going to agree to a border with the EU. And a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would reopen the issue of identity underpinning the Good Friday agreement. This has been the problem bedevilling the Brexit talks since the start and to suggest that a common agricultural area for the whole of Ireland and some cobbled-together ideas about trusted trader schemes solves it, is nonsense. In truth we are still a long way from a negotiated deal and no one has yet found the magic key to unlock it.”
I understand pro Brexit politicians glossing over this logic, but not professional diplomats., and this problem has not gone away. The underlying reality is that those advocating Brexit were voting against something, not for something. The costs and compromises that the UK would have to make out of the EU to be treated as well as Norway, Canada or Switzerland were not spelled out.
These political comments don’t really matter.
The main focus of the meeting was a wake up call to the looming disruption to “life as usual” that Brexit is going to cause for British people in Poland.
There was a tone of shock and foreboding as officials from the Polish government went through detailed slides addressing the different scenarios that those in the room might be in. “Access to Health Care ?”- “only if you pay ZUS.?” “Can you drive on a UK Driving licence?” “Only for six months. “Will you be able to stay in Schengen for more than 90 days?” only if you register and get a special document”. I photographed the slides here Just to give a sense of what they were like I am showing you one.
The Police officials were helpful and serious.
What they only partially got across is the the Brits in the room are the lucky ones who are being given extra time – a grace period – to get their affairs in order in the event of a no deal Brexit, and there are routes to Temporary and Permanent Residency rights available for British citizens now in Poland legally that will not be available in the future. It’s going to be much harder for Brits of all ages to come and build their lives here (and vice versa). The amount of worry, strain and concern in tone of questions from the audience was audible.
There was one shocking moment during the meeting when an angry entitled voice from a few rows back called out at one of the Polish Civil Servants “Why do we have to go through with all this – when in England they (the Poles) have everything done for them by us?”. Although one of the British Embassy people pointed out that these processes were similar to what EU nationals are having to do in the UK, I had a strong sense that the grim symmetry of Brexit is only just dawning on some sections of the British public. I doubt whether the numerous challenges of British citizens in Europe are much reported in Brexit supporting media, though I may be wrong. The more freedoms are removed for EU citizens in the UK the more it is going to restrict British citizens freedoms in the EU.
1. The government officials on both sides were courteous and helpful, but the information they were passing on is very bad news for British people with on going interests in Poland and vice versa. The Withdrawal Agreement, if it passes, only delays the moment when freedom of movement ends.
2. Bad though things are, they are going to get worse. UK citizens who have sorted out their legal status in Poland established prior to Brexit day are going to better treated than those who don’t. Bad luck if you have a 15 or 10 year old who might have wanted to look into building a a life here, or you are a 15 year old and you like the idea of travelling and working around the 27 member states. Bad luck if you want to work in multiple EU countries without having to ask permission.
3. Looming is a “legal status” apartheid where Brits who managed to establish themselves legally in Europe before Brexit, or were granted citizenship of an EU country other than the UK will be the lucky ones. Those with British passports only, will have fewer rights and opportunities. There are many citizens of developing countries who are very familiar with the disadvantages of needing visas for living abroad, for travel and work. This is going to be a painful learning experience for many.
If I were just me and my immediately family, I would be more or less “Brexit proof”. I and my children have dual nationality. I’m Polish by choice, not descent, and proud to be part of this great country. I wrote about this here
But I am not just me and my immediate family. It’s going to hurt others more than me but I care about that as well. The impact on our culture, relationships, and identities is going to be profound and that is not to even start on the the damage to the UK’s economy, security and institutions.
I said thank you to the people who organised and spoke at the meeting and I meant it. None the less it was one of the saddest and most depressing meetings I’ve been to in my life.