Merce Cunningham, who performed a revolutionary role in modern dance (not really my thing, but interesting), was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air in 1985 when he was 66. He performed until he was 70 and his company only dissolved recently (2011) two years after the end of his life.
During the interview he talked about his approach to dance as he got older (play the whole thing or go to 15 minutes into the interview to hear what he says about dancing as he got older). This led me to think in terms of setting goals just a few years out – 3 to 5 years – rather than planning tasks that would take 10 to 20 years. Sure, you should think about the long-term strategy, but in planning your more immediate work, you should only plan a few years out.
[Photo: from PBS “A Lifetime of Dance” 2001]
I have adopted two primary working rules that guide my participation in projects:
- Even while thinking ahead 10 or 20 years, plan only those things you can accomplish in 3 to 5 years;
- Only participate in events and organizations where you can make an actual and immediate contribution. Go ahead and attend events where you can learn, but be sure they are aligned with the contribution you wish to make during your 3-year-plan.
The first goal makes it possible for me to accomplish things that I can quantify and see. The second goal helps me “not waste my time.”
“We can have our cake and make some more.“ Tom Foremski and I both like rich interactions. I’d walk a couple of miles (or travel much longer) to talk with someone, rather than connect with them on the phone. I went to Paris (after Traveling Geeks) to interview peace activist organizations face-to-face rather than use Skype and webcam. I went to London to meet with tech companies rather than just view their web sites. Tom will drive two hours to get face-time.
Here Tom explains to us about how he loves the richness of media and how it‘s not an either-or world at all.
In the back seat of a London taxi, Howard Rheingold talks with me a bit about how information research centers can form around people who attract talented individuals and then “protect” them so they can innovate.
First he mentions Bob Taylor, who was at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where Alan Kay and Bob Metcalfe, among others who I know, did some really innovative work.
JP Rangaswami, at BT, is also a “people connector” and extraordinary manager who in a big-company environment, such as a telecom company, is doing some interesting things. BT’s CEO Ian Livingston, the night before, had told us there are 200 competing companies here vying for UK business and that this bodes well for services and low prices.
Kinda spooky idea, but Tom Foremski suggested to me that fault lines and disruptive technology appear in the same regions of the world. Speaking of disruption, we were at Reboot Britain when I recorded this clip and were struggling because hundreds of attendees were sharing a wi-fi connection and it was pretty difficult to find enough bandwidth to squeeze up a podcast or video to the Traveling Geeks web site.