Sharing about Sharing

Sharing about Sharing

I’m writing this down from a secret location, not far away from the banks of the Thames.  Forgive me, reader for being a little more cryptic than my usual Smiley self.  It’s just that I have recently moved house and if I was to reveal to you the full location, then I fear that I would be entering into uncharted waters.  You have to be careful what you share these days…

Just last week, I was listening to BBC Breakfast, as the presenters skipped through the headlines, covering everything from the state visit of president Obama to the incoming ash cloud from Iceland.  A strange coincidence, I thought.  And certainly one for the conspiracy theorists, who might think it a suspiciously good moment to ground planes, just as the most powerful man in the world flies into town.  Downing the last of my cup of tea, I tweeted this silly morning musing;

“Conspiracy theorists will enjoy the return of the Icelandic ashcloud coinciding with a state visit of a US president”

You can imagine my surprise when the next day I received a message from a colleague (met, appropriately enough, through a Transatlantic network) telling me that she had rather enjoyed my tweet, when she had read it in a national newspaper.

Sure enough,  there it was, as one of a selection of 140-character excerpts in that day’s Independent!  From local to national in one short step.
Indie Tweet

The idea that humans can control the weather is, of course, ridiculous.  Or so I thought until a recent conversation with the talented Hamish Forsyth,  recently escaped Civil Servant, and now founder of start-up One Leap.  I forget how we got onto this, however  Hamish was telling me how the Chinese had managed to bombard the clouds above Beijing with Silver Iodide to make it rain during the Olympics, ridding the air of pollution and leading to clear and sunny skies.  The process, (which sounds to me like Spiderman meets Vera Lynn) is known as Cloud Seeding.  Cumulonerds can read more about it over here.  Perhaps London 2012 bosses will be inspired by this silver lining, should the skies turn grey next summmer. 

I was speaking about Super-Heroes recently, on an impromptu visit to the National Enterprise Academy.  Before I tell you why, let me say that the pupils I encountered on the day were amongst the most impressive I have met.  The team have done a cracking job in inspiring and training some really exceptional people. 

The point that I was making to the students was that, whether they realise it or not, they have a very special Super-Power.  They are, every day, seeing businesses and organisations for the first time, and so they have this amazing ability to spot things which are out of place or which could be improved.  This is an essential quality for change-makers everywhere and gives them super-hero powers of something akin to X-Ray Vision. 

Whilst I was there in Amersham, I was sure to sound one note of warning,  using my copy of that day’s Independent to make my point.  Weilding my Indie, I said that the things which we share have an uncanny ability to shape our future.  The darker side of this involves silly asides appearing in national newspapers and inappropriate photographs emerging years after they were taken (greetings Butlins friends, and wasn’t that a fun themed evening?). 

As a brief aside, if you would like a powerful and (in my view) upfliting example of just how much Facebook knows about you, then look no further than Intel’s Museum of Me, launched this week.  It sucks pictures, updates and connections into a movie which imagines what a museum dedicated to YOU would look like.  One to bring out the exhibitionist in anyone, not that we know any rampant self-promoters, do we..?

Where was I?  Yes, on sharing…

Perhaps the lesson from all of this is to keep our plans, thoughts and dreams to ourselves. 

Of course I don’t agree. 

In fact, our increasing habit of sharing things can unlock the biggest opportunities.  As a way of connecting people, a shared piece of information can often be the spark that triggers the introduction.

Hamish, by the way, when he is not pondering weather systems, knows a lot about connecting people.  His company, One Leap, have a bold vision which imagines that we are all just one step away from anyone else.  I like it.  Their site enables people making the first steps in their career to connect with influential people (called Shakers, as in “Movers and..”) for a fee.   Before you fall off your chair in mock-shock, I should point out that the lion’s share of this fee goes to a cause of the Shaker’s choice.  It’s simple, disruptive and as I said to Hamish and Robyn Scott (his excellent and just-as-smart) business partner, it is “Outrageous, but in a good way”.

Someone else who is, in theory at least, one leap away is Rachel Botsman.   Her work and thinking on the subject of ‘sharing’ is creating a real buzz in the UK at the moment, following a recent successful visit.  I read with interest this piece in Fast Company Magazine which features her and tempts us to imagine what physical things we will one day share with friends and neighbours, as opposed to owning for ourselves.  From cars to cash, music to mowers, it’s interesting to read about the sort of schemes which are already springing up all over the world.  One of the hottest start-ups in the US right now is Airbnb, the site which allows you to find a floor to stay on or, if your budget allows, a yacht to rent by the day!  I met the co-founder, Joe Gebbia in San Francisco earlier this year (see picture, below right).  If I had known more then about his company, I would certainly have shared a great deal more!  Airbnb will allow thousands of people to make some money during the Olympics, for example, by renting out that spare room or (the scenario which inspired the name) that air mattress.  Perfect for the traveler on a tight budget or the President stranded by an ash cloud.
Michael Birch, Oli Barrett, Joe Gebbia

Do you think that we will look back in twenty year’s time and wonder why we shared so much, or why we shared so little…

My conclusion:

Be careful what you share.  Because it  just might appear in a newspaper tomorrow. 

And it might trigger the connection which changes your life. 

Sending one tiny particle into a cloud of millions may seem crazy.

But it can lead to unexpected results and surprisingly sunny outcomes. 

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