Saturday, 17 April 2010

Lessons from OxfordJam (then promptly back to business..)

I am very aware that we're well overdue a thorough update on Red Button Design's progress. A lot has happened in the first quarter of 2010, much of it good, some significantly better than good (!) and I am genuinely eager to speak about our achievements. Rest assured, all has not stagnated - as you'll see in my next post..

Meanwhile, I'm re-calibrating after OxfordJam: the social enterprise unconference/phenomenon that I mentioned last month I was involved with launching. Broadly speaking it came to be that I was responsible for websites, wikis, social media, a little bit of planning, pr, promotion, design-for-print work and first port of call for all manner of tech and digital fitzjiggery while the event ran Wed-Fri last week. (14-16th April, 2010).

True of all the best things, I found it very difficult to limit my involvement with OxfordJam by the amount of time I had available. Rather, I wanted to limit my involvement by the amount I felt I could usefully contribute. As the amount I felt I could offer greatly exceeded the amount of 'spare' time I had, (and I hasten to add this is mainly by virtue of having little time vs. being vastly talented in this arena!), I had to make the decision to displace some of my non-essential functions at RBD in order to benefit from the experience of helping make concrete something I believe our industry needed. Controversial, perhaps, but I am glad I did. I feel like I gained a lot from the process and I wanted to share with you some of my learnings.

I cannot comment much on the content from a delegates point of view, but suffice to say that feedback so far has been abundant and extremely positive. We'll be collating all this on the OxfordJam website. Meanwhile:

10 things I learned from OxfordJam
..and think apply to all entrepreneurs and small business owners, alike..

1) If you have 'the big vision' don't sweat the detail. It's easy to get hung up on the little things, but act with the vision in mind and the details will align themselves accordingly.
2) Stay flexible. Be willing to re-evaluate everything and anything, even at the very last minute, if doing so will make a positive difference.
3) The strain of long hours and high stakes can be mitigated by working with amazing people.
4) Understand that ultimately what you're creating is not yours, it's the delegates'/customers', and be prepared and willing to let go.
5) Resist the temptation to oversee other people's work. Get good people and trust them to perform accordingly.
6) Tea. Lots and lots of tea.
7) Good communication is the lynchpin of an effective team. Have a protocol for keeping everyone updated with the latest developments, allow disagreements, and have an open line of dialogue for when things get tough. Achieving the latter is by far and away the most difficult.
8) Smart crowds can usually self-manage, and will naturally weed out their own bad seeds if you let them.
9) A little bit of praise, when deserved, goes a long way when things are stressful and spirits low.
10) There is absolutely no substitute for genuine enthusiasm. Not contacts, money, prestige nor a perfect résumé.

A tough but worthwhile experience and great lessons learned. Better still, I do not believe that OxfordJam is over simply because we're no longer gathered in The Jam Factory! I hope to continue working on the project (though at a much more manageable pace) and will propose to help the contributors and delegates build a living, open, resource that will grow alongside our learning and understanding, and that this could also provide a platform from which to begin the discussions next year* As well as proposing this, I'd like to suggest perhaps a regular virtual conference or twitter-based chat in the vein of Ashoka's #SocEntChat and perhaps even the occasional 'tweet up' for us folk for whom London is fairly accessible...

So if that sounds of interest, or for more on OxfordJam, please check out the OxfordJam blog and Twitter feed, both of which are also manned by me.

And the next time you hear from me here (very soon!) it will be with a concrete and informative post about Red Button Design's progress.
Promise! :-)

* and yes, for good or ill, one by one, the OxfordJam team and attendees all gave up saying "if we do this again" in favour of "when we do this again"!


Christina Jordan said...

Count me in to keeping #OxfordJam alive! Thanks so much for all your hard work, Amanda. You and the rest of the team were stupendous hosts. Meeting you was one of my highlights. I'm so very excited that someone with your brilliantly controversial perspective is doing what you do.

Kevin jones said...

So very well done