Category Archives: 4 Solution Crafting

Solution-Crafting: Essential Questions

  • What role do imagination and creativity play in your chosen profession and in your current industry, organization, and job? In your other roles (citizen, parent, partner, single person, homeowner, gardener, cook, athlete, whatever)?
  • What are some specific creative challenges you face currently?
  • What would you like to make?
  • What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
  • What types of solutions would transform your industry or profession?

The Big Solution

Whether your career and adult life are on the verge of lift-off, going full throttle, or floating in that space of pre-retirement satisfaction, nostalgia, and regret, you need to think about this essential question:

How can I respond to this present time of rapid technological change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty in a way that will fulfill my vision for the future?

That is the ultimate example of what I call “solution-seeking.” Here are some practices to try:

  1. Choose multiple paths. You seldom need to settle for either/or. Sometimes you can choose one project, career, or lifestyle and still have the best of the option you didn’t pursue. The harder the choice was to make, the better it is to try this.
  2. Take thoughtful detours and side trips whenever you can. Don’t neglect true talents because they don’t pay your bills. Assert your right to try something different. Dabble unapologetically.
  3. Be both an intern and a mentor. Everyone always has the potential to be an intern at one thing and a mentor at another. Everyone could benefit from having and being both. Any group of three or more people can find a project on which to collaborate.
  4. Pretend honestly. The world of make-believe can be your friend, as long as everyone affected agrees to play.
  5. Look across conventional boundaries for knowledge, ideas, tools, and collaborators. Anyone willing to think and work can contribute to any project even if it’s only in a small way. Outsiders and amateur can make invaluable contributions. Teams can be fluid. You can energize solution seeking by linking your challenge to someone else’s.
  6. Embrace slowness if necessary. It’s better to take a long time to get there than it is to wait until the right time or give up. Always be conscious of the process, but be very thoughtful about imposing deadlines, outlines, timelines, and needless constraints. Put your dream at the radius of everything you do rather than on its own linear path.

Not all of these approaches require you to work with others, but most will steer you toward collaborative relationships. Those relationships could be the beginning of your Think Pond.

Think Ponds: Who Benefits?

Whatever field you are in, starting or belonging to a Think Pond can be a vehicle for:

  • Doing joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
  • Having conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
  • Making “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, more purposeful, and more aspirational.
  • Becoming attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects.
  • Working with a diverse array of minds and talents.

People in the following situations can benefit especially from Think Ponds:

Good Job, Dreams on Hold

You are starting to feel that dreams, creativity, and fulfillment are luxuries that must take a back seat when seeking employment, keeping your well-paying job, and getting ahead at work. You find the future too unnerving to consider. You often remind yourself that you are lucky just to have a job that pays the bills.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have an outlet for expressing who you are, a reduced likelihood of burnout in your job, and a better likelihood that you will be ahead of the curve when your profession or industry changes.

Fulfilling Career, Financial Uncertainty

You are in love with your job but worried about whether the income you earn will sustain you and whether you will be ready to seize opportunities to go to the next level when you have grown out of your current job. You are trying to “make it” in a creative sphere and are having trouble getting noticed or accepted into the dominant group.

Think Pond Benefits: By participating in small projects whenever you can, you will have opportunities to tap into additional income streams without detracting from your job and to show what you can do to people outside your industry or profession. You will increase your visibility as a professional by creating new avenues for sharing your creative work and unique skills in more diverse contexts.

Career Success, Change Agent

You are secure in your job and confident that you have the foresight and agility to stay ahead of the next wave of change in your profession or market. Your work is energizing and fulfilling. You have a clear, compelling dream, know the path to achieve it, and have the necessary knowledge and resources to boldly step onto that path and follow where it leads. You would like to help others.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have greater visibility, opportunities to accelerate success and diversify your network, a wealth of ideas and topics for your blog or Linked In presence.

iPresence: Artistry, Artifact, Artifice

By Deborah Vrabel

In the last post for Rich iPresence, I talked about similarities between iPresence and what we might call “real human presence”–when we or our organizations are with the audience both physically and mentally, both giving and commanding attention.

Still, we need to stay aware that our iPresence is a virtual human presence existing in a virtual reality. It doesn’t happen the same way life happens. We create it out of the stuff of who we are and what we do. It is a combination of artistry, artifact, and artifice.

Artifice. When I talk about “artifice,” I don’t mean setting out to deceive other people by creating content that is patently false, as in “catfishing” on Facebook or creating deceptive pop-up windows. By artifice, I mean purposefully playing the games that sustain the illusion of the Web as more than a technology. Most of us accept the premise of making believe that this virtual commons is really a place where real communities gather. Then we promptly forget and never accept the need to do the work of community or sometimes even observe the rules and courtesies of community.

Rich iPresence means conveying awareness that we are placing our lives, our ideas, our opinions, our work “someplace” and that doing so matters. It asks: Where does my content belong?

Artifact. While iPresence as “artifice” focuses on where we are placing our content–what kind of context we are entering and producing online, “artifact” refers to the trail of individual pieces of textual and visual information we place online. Everything posted online by individuals, whether original or something recycled, becomes a cultural and historical artifact.

Rich iPresence is more than feeding the companies and industries that have the computing power to analyze trends and patterns for commercial purposes and providing free content to the aggregators. It means we think about the message we want these artifacts to convey–both individually and collectively. It means the pieces we place online have unity and coherence. It asks: How long and hard would someone need to work before gaining reasonably accurate picture of me and/or my organization as an online presence? Are we handing them a well-executed scrapbook or a hodgepodge of loosely connected snapshots? Will exploring our organization’s online presence be like a well-organized tour of a historical site or more like picking through old items in a thrift shop hoping to find something unique or valuable?

Artistry. While artifacts carry knowledge and convey history, “artistry” provides original ideas and a glimpse of soul.

Rich iPresence asserts that the “content” we produce through human thought and inquiry must be more valuable than the widgets and images and design elements we use to frame it. It means thinking about not only clearing a path for people to follow but also making meaning. It asks: Does my digital opus illuminate the purpose and meaning of my experiences, passions, contributions, and qualities? Are we populating web pages or living up to the vision of a global village?

The Multidimensional Meaning of “Presence

By Deborah Vrabel

How does putting the adjective “online” or the lowercase “i” in front of the noun “presence” change the meaning? What is carried over from our past use of the word—and what connotations do I want to keep and discard?

I think “presence” has three distinct connotations. I’m going to explore them as a way to “deconstruct” the term “iPresence.” (Apologies to Derrida if I’ve used this term incorrectly.)

A Woody Allen quote captures the most literal meaning of presence: “80% of life is showing up.” The teacher calls your name and you raise your hand and say “Present!” Whatever your academic preparedness or intentions to participate, you have cleared the first hurdle. You are there. Sometimes that simple kind of presence—being there with no distinction, no defined role, nothing unique to say or do—is all that is needed or required. You show up—you smile and congratulate and stand among the wedding guests in one solid block of love and support for a couple starting their journey together. Even if your mind is a million miles away and your mood is anything but festive, you have helped make this memory for them.

Second, presence has come to mean “attentiveness” or “mindfulness.” When we are present to someone, we are more than present physically. We also listen carefully and notice even the tiniest things. We are invested. We are “in the moment.” We “witness and wait” as Walt Whitman said. We are present when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

A similar kind of presence, also called “presence of mind,” speaks to the ability to think quickly and respond appropriately and competently when something unexpected happens—whether a threatening situation, an awkward moment, or a good opportunity. I think Leo Tolstoy’s Three Questions (which are embedded in the Think Pond concept) show the thinking of someone with this type of presence:

  • When is the best time to do each thing? (Answer: The most important time is now. The present is the only time over which we have power.)
  • Who are the most important people to work with? (Answer: The most important person is whoever you are with.)
  • What is the most important thing to do at all times? (Answer: The most important thing is to do good to the person you are with.)

Finally, presence is used to describe an outward demeanor some people have that enables them to capture and hold attention and admiration. Ask ten people to think of someone they know who has “presence” and describe that person in one word or phrase, and you could easily receive several different answers:

“lights up a room” … “commands attention” … “star quality” … “elegant” … “poised” … “shows grace under pressure” … “unruffled.”

I would contend that part of what gives them this demeanor is the inner quality of attentiveness, as described above, along with self-confidence, purpose, and inner strength.

I think all of these are relevant to iPresence. Clearly, Think Pond needs to be “there” in the social media milieu. And “showing up” needs to be more than just setting up that web site or blog, signing up for that account, and reposting other people’s writing.

Think Pond has to show up with meaning and over time. How many times have you heard the plea “Like us on Facebook” and then found a page that serves no discernible purpose and seldom changes? I know I have created a couple of those.

Think Pond needs to cultivate the “attentive and mindful” kind of presence I described, as well. That means learning from others, commenting on other people’s work thoughtfully, noticing things and making our own conclusions. It means being relevant–which is impossible without paying attention to what’s going on around you–both online and off-line–and taking your opportunity to jump in and participate.

And that will help with developing the last kind of presence–that ineffable quality that people admire and find reassuring. If Think Pond consistently practices the other two types of iPresence, we’ll have that voice that commands attention, that always seems poised for anything. We’ll be well on the way to Rich iPresence.

Think Pond: The Essential Question

By Deborah Vrabel

Creating opportunities, incentives, structures, technologies, and spaces for dialogue and collaboration is an important theme for most large organizations. It is often a daunting challenge—but well worth the effort. As a writer, I have been privileged to witness, participate in, and/or chronicle a few groundbreaking collaborative endeavors and agonize along with clients who made valiant attempts in impossible circumstances. I have also seen a few pseudo-collaborative efforts—which invariably failed.

Because of that stimulating, sometimes frustrating vantage point, I have thought deeply about collaborative work and how to sustain and enhance it. But I always thought about how collaboration would benefit my clients—never myself. Until recently, I never asked the question:

“What kind of collaborative relationships would be generative for me and others facing the realities of creating or recreating a meaningful, rewarding career in a time of rapid change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty?”

I started to ask that question and explore what my ideas might look like.

Copyright 2016 Deborah Vrabel. All rights reserved.

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Brain Management

By Deborah Vrabel

Meeting deadlines and achieving goals demands effective use of time and resources. When we look at our workload, we reach for the calendar, the timeline, budgets, and other tools for ensuring that we have what we need and do the right things at the right time. We don’t assume that the resources we need are unlimited and available whenever we decide to use them. We don’t treat our pool of resources as something we can stretch at will to double its original size, and we don’t squander our most valuable resources to accomplish the things that matter least.

Many of us need to follow those common sense guidelines when we allocate our most precious resource–our capacity to think.

I’m not talking here about doing brain workouts like the games sold by Luminosity or practicing mindfulness. Neither am I referring to dietary supplements, exercise, rest, and other health practices that are good for the brain.

Instead, I want to try adapting the tools we all use to manage our time, resources, and productivity to the needs of people whose work spans an array of complex issues and requires versatile use of mental processes and people who are finding their way–whether that means exploring or reassessing career directions, working on a dream and a job simultaneously, or rebuilding and recovering after loss and upheaval.

Think Pond members: Let’s see where this takes us! How might considering flow, mental energy requirements, aesthetics, and social needs help us make better use of thinking time?

What Is Creativity Springs?

By Deborah Vrabel for Creativity Springs

In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative? In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative? What role do imagination and creativity play in your chosen profession and in your current industry, organization, and job? In your other roles (citizen, parent, partner, single person, homeowner, gardener, cook, athlete, whatever)? What are some specific creative challenges you face currently? What stimulates your imagination? What would you like to make? What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen? What types of solutions would transform your industry or profession? Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?

Explore those questions at Creativity Springs–a place for injecting imagination, creativity, and artistry into any project or endeavor.

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Join the iPresence Renovation

By Deborah Vrabel for Rich iPresence

Here is my ineffective pattern of using social media to advance my professional endeavors: 1) Try each new tool as it becomes available or is recommended to me and 2) spend inadequate time thinking about its usefulness for my purposes and learning to use it properly. The result? Lost opportunities, insubstantial traces of my ideas and writing scattered widely and serving no purpose. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to do an iPresence “rehab” project.

I’ll start by:

  • Reclaiming the fragments of my identity littering the social media landscape
  • Retracing and picking up the unfinished threads of thought I’ve left on abandoned blogs and pages.
  • Reconsidering the groups I’ve joined and quickly forgotten.
  • Revisiting the profile pages I’ve never completed.

Next, I’ll enlist some experts and fellow social media wanderers in mapping out more integrated strategies for establishing and maintaining the practices needed to make good use of online media. My goal will be to develop a “digital opus” that matters to me.

Could Rich iPresence help you in becoming a thought leader in your sphere? In advocating effectively for an organization or cause you embrace? In simply telling a coherent, meaningful story of what matters to you professionally? Join me and find out.

What is Rich iPresence?

By Deborah Vrabel for Rich iPresence

The Web offers today’s writers, scholars, experts, and storytellers an unprecedented opportunity to be “present” as society’s problems are discussed and new ideas, trends, or models emerge and take shape. Those who can make their views stand out in this democratic but kaleidoscopic marketplace of ideas have a distinct advantage.

Think Pond will interrogate, examine, and critique this social media “revolution” from different angles and present the alternative–Rich iPresence.

I’ll share some observations about the theories and issues surrounding this concept of iPresence. I’ll comment on books and articles that raise new questions or shed light on our dialogue. I’ll try to engage Think Pond members and others in conversations. To be coherent, I’ll develop a position paper examining those issues that builds on my 1993 Master’s project, which explored the potential impact of the brand new Web on the control and ownership of mass media.

Stemming from my own quest to integrate my “digital opus” and help some fledgling groups with theirs, I’ll provide some practical tools and ideas–and finally a white paper proposing integrated strateges–for using websites, choosing suitable social media avenues, and using other online media to create a coherent, meaningful, and useful online presence.

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