I realize that I have spent a great part of my professional life explaining things. I explain how tools work or how to write a persuasive paper. I may take others through an experience to help them understand and figure things out for themselves, but in the end I am still responsible for explaining and outlining that experience. When I teach, explanations go a long way into creating the ripe environment for action. If I don’t explain how Google Docs works (even a little bit), no one will use it. If I don’t explain my use of Twitter, then no one will engage in that space that hasn’t already made it their home. When I am working in conjunction with others, I tend to explain the workflows that make sense to me and then I watch as either they are systematically rejected or accepted into the project as the way everyone should work. Sometimes, no amount of explaining will change behavior, but still I keep on trying to explain the virtue of not printing out a wiki page because it keeps changing. This is my reality. I am an explainer.
The last few days, however, I haven’t found the need to explain. I haven’t had to tell people how to collaborate or take then through how to set up a skype account in order to communicate with the team. Over the last few days, I have been added to collaborative experiences already in motion. I was added to perpetual skype chats for different departments within Edmodo. I was added to a documentation Google Site which has future plans and previous history of the product. I was added to events as they were happening and I was consulted each step of the way.
As the Android app launched, everyone in the organization knew within 15 seconds. We all brainstormed for five minutes on how to get the word out and then we went on with our business. It was a standup meeting in the hallway that actually took the five minutes that standup meetings are supposed to take. I wasn’t the one who was explaining the strategy. It was all of us, coming up with it from our own perspectives. The developers were proud of having launched the product, the social media folks were thinking about how to start a conversation and the teachers in all of us wanted to take a moment and reflect about how students were going to use it to learn. One of the first comments was whether or not we should contact the schools that are already using the platform as a part of their mobile pilots to make sure that they were feeling supported. I didn’t explain any of it. It just happened.
When you no longer have to explain how to work together, then you can simply collaborate. When you no longer have to explain how to document your work, then you can all simply benefit from the accumulated knowledge. When you no longer have to explain how to communicate, then you can all just stay on the same page and make the work that much better.
When I’m not explaining, I’m learning.