In case you didn’t notice (and WHY haven’t you been paying attention?), I’ve been having a spirited discussion with Dustin Walper in the comments on yesterday’s post about fast versus slow leadership. We’ve each presented good, well-reasoned rationales for our respective positions. It’s been fun – and sparking such discussions is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place (thanks, D.W., you fell into my well-laid trap. Bwa-ha-ha-hah!)
The point is, by engaging in creative abrasion, we’ve both learned something, and both been tempered, at least a bit, by the opposing view. In other words, we’ve grown. And that’s the desired outcome – in the activity of presenting point and counterpoint, both sides have the opportunity to learn something, and be enriched by the exchange of ideas. (Note the italics – learning is always a choice.)
I love this quote from Beth Agnew’s article:
“In its quietest form, creative abrasion is the catalyst for producing a pearl. The oyster is so bothered by the unpleasant abrasive effect of the sand inside its smooth shell, that it works on the sand to smooth its rough edges and coat it with essence of pearl. The result? A beautiful, valuable gem.
In its most energetic form, creative abrasion brings two teams, people, or ideas together like flint on steel. It creates sparks that ignite a wildfire of ideas or innovation.”
Thus the purpose of creative abrasion is to find new ideas or prompt innovation.
A few years ago, when out of work for a while, I organized a company called Mars Hill Group composed of nineteen fellow job seekers, all of whom held PhDs (alas, “The Society of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was already taken. As was “The Society of the Large-Brained”). The plan (no wait – let me add sneer marks: the ‘plan’) was to pool our collective knowledge, experience and capabilities and come up with something that would earn us a living.
We even developed and submitted a proposal to the Dept. of Homeland Security, and developed another that would help with Iraq’s post-war recovery. Sadly, nothing came of it. But the idea that bringing together folks with different outlooks, experiences and even cultures to spark new ideas was and is still sound.
Think of creative abrasion as a continuum, with polishing compound and fine sandpaper on the left (the “quietest form”) and fireworks and dynamite on the right (the “energetic form”). Where do you fit in this spectrum? Someone like Seth Godin, who describes himself as “the guy who likes to set off fireworks in a propane farm” would obviously be on the far right of the scale. (It’s easy to spot the energetic ones – they’re the ones who get all the “press”.) Others manage quite well being abrasive in a more subtle, quiet way (Mars Hill Group is an example of the latter).
Now back to my original question. What these professions have in common is that all of them use sharp and/or abrasive instruments in their work. (The pen is mightier than the sword, remember?) Each one uses these instruments (a saw, a grinding wheel or a pen) to change or modify rough objects (wood, carbon crystals or words) into “a thing of grace and beauty and a joy to the eye of the beholder” (a phrase I picked up somewhere.)
For me, at least, that’s what blogging is all about – creating (or synthesizing, if you prefer) something new out of existing thought.
It got me to thinking (in case you were wondering what that grinding noise was): what if we established a small, select group of bloggers (maybe 3-6?), choose a few topics – change management, relationships, or bird watching – it doesn’t really matter as long as controversy is likely – and start blogging with the goal of deliberately sparking spirited discussions. Publicize it widely.
Speaking for myself, of course, I would have a few rules: stay away from politics (mainly because it’s being done to death already), keep the language “G-rated”, and positively NO flames. Otherwise, let the dogfights begin. Now wouldn’t that be fun!
Pretty soon others will find the discussion, start following along, and eventually join in via comments. (To help speed the engagement process, it would help if at least some of the bloggers had a large following already.) Then, as its popularity grows, our Technorati rankings go up… soon we’re in the top 100… the top 10… we take over the blogging world… overthrow governments… become kings of the world… masters of the universe – oh, sorry, was I thinking that out loud? (By the way, that’s not my goal. Really.)
Actually, it reminds me of something I used to see on PBS; a group of 4 or 5 actors portraying actual historical figures sitting a table, discussing various ideas as if they were the actual persons they played. I think one show had Attila the Hun, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Antoinette, and one other I can’t remember. Remarkably engaging discussions!
So what about it? Like the idea? Who would you pick for this “dream team” of bloggers?