Things other than size are becoming important.

-Mike Gras

“Participation is key,” shares Jim Stogdill in a presentation on Culture Virus. He writes:

Open source software is a culture virus that has the potential to carry community, transparency, and collaboration across the government / citizenry boundary – with community participation as the carrier…I talked about this idea in my Ignite Philly talk (video) earlier this month.

Culture virus–a zero day exploit of the membrane that separates us from our government and carries with it alternative cultural norms…policy is dictated but culture emerges in an organization and open source software can trigger that culture emergence as community participants find their perspectives, their worldviews and psychographic profiles spliced in with those community norms–things like transparency, collaboration, and a strong bias toward meaningful participation. As people absorb this virus, they become carriers and hosts to it themselves and carry it deeper into the organization in which they work and…change the way organizations function.

I found this talk interesting because of the idea of open source as a culture virus to enable community, transparency and collaboration. Are we all infected? Consider that those who are advocating change in TCEA are those who are heavy users of free, open source tools…and are becoming increasingly outspoken, probably beyond the acceptable norm. Why? Would it be safe to say that if we could spread the “culture virus” to more TCEA users–through advocacy of Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, and other free software–that the desired changes we want, including transparency and meaningful collaboration, would result?

For fun, I whipped out my high-powered drawing tool–at the exact level of complexity optimized to match my art skills–to create the following representation:


Source: Get Infected – Culture Virus, MGuhlin.net

When I review Scott Floyd’s list of ideas for the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA), it should comes as no surprise that we can organize the list under the 3 main categories that Jim suggests in his presentation. And, while Jim is speaking to Government, couldn’t we generalize and re-apply to non-profit organizations?

So, here’s the list under those categories. Could we point to these categories and list of what is desirable as the impact of the culture virus on our expectations?

Transparency

  • Transparency for Board Meetings
  • Make content subscribable via RSS feeds for the web site and listserv
  • TCEA must become politically active and it’s work should be transparent and open rather than locked up in a committee.
  • TCEA staff should stay out of Board elections or encouraging people in areas to run against another.
  • At a time when communication tools are readily available–blogs and podcasts–there’s no reason why each Board member couldn’t do MORE than engage in one-way communication.

Collaboration

  • TCEA needs to step up as an organization and spear-head collaboration with other entities.
  • By embracing organizational change, by being committed to our children by envisioning a tomorrow different from yesterday, TCEA’s leadership can completely change the conversation in Texas.
  • TCEA should find a way to Celebrate Texas Voices! and serve as the largest repository of ed-tech success videos, audio and storytelling in Texas.
  • TCEA must use technology to engage the organization and community…the goal isn’t to use technology to lock-in people to one perspective but rather, to find a way to bridge the divide between vision and reality, between perceived and actual needs.

Strong Bias towards Meaningful Participation
(some of these are examples of what is desired)

  • The Board needs to revisit its vision, mission and goals with a fresh eye and with stakeholder concerns in mind.
  • Ensure TCEA’s vacant Board positions are filled as quickly as possible.
  • No longer can TCEA rest on its laurels of being the largest conference organizer in Texas…I would challenge TCEA’s leadership to focus on being Texas’ largest stakeholder need satisfier.
  • How can TCEA amplify the voices of its members?
  • If TCEA’s goal is professional learning, then it should use tools that allow its membership to share ideas quickly, creating vibrant communities of practice and learning.

Of course, while some believe that technology can’t transform our culture–as I think Jim suggests–Seth Godin’s points in Meatball Sundae have to be given some attention. Essentially, Godin argues that it is important for an organization to fundamentally change before it embraces new Web 2.0 technologies and tries to strap them on. I like to think of this as a “heavy” person trying to wear a muscle shirt…it can be done, but may not be the best attire. However, if someone fundamentally changes their approach, shedding weight and gaining the muscle, the muscle shirt’s use approximates its original or commonly held purpose–show off the muscle.

Does that analogy work? Probably not as well as Meatball Sundae. Here’s how someone else described Godin’s point:

His main point, which is that grafting these new ideas onto an old-world thinking company doesn’t work, is important. A meatball sundae is “the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas.” And having tried to evangelize these ideas within corporations, I have seen this over and over.

So, how does any organization achieve the change it desires so that new ideas (e.g. culture virus norms) aren’t just being grafted onto an “old-world” thinking (e.g. TCEA’s conventions are most important) organization?


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