Starting Small

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IMG_0940I have been writing to a friend in Osaka about the apprehension I harbour in beginning the first Design Forum next month.

She gave me some advice to persevere and not to worry, but just to begin with these words:

Starting small is the most important thing. No matter how small, it’s a start.

The Design Forum have become the second phase of an epic quest, and themselves mark the real work the comes from the effort expended in running the 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to open the conversation which is framed for the Design Forum. The conversation asks an important question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

I was explaining to my friend the metaphorical deep breath that I am taking ahead of commencing this next phase of the journey.

Running was hard work. There were too many problems and challenges to recall without flinching. But it was worthwhile. And it was in some respects easier because it was just me running, and because of resource constraints not a team of people running. If there had been a team running, the journey would have been different. If the journey was well-funded from the start, it would have been different. Not only was it what it was, but I contend that it took on its own life in the way that Joseph Campbell describes the narrative of an epic quest being guided in his writing about the Hero’s Journey.

The Design Forum presents a different challenge, and I think harder work.

Even though the journey has began already, this new journey of the Design Forum has just begun. And the first Design Forum might be small.

I don’t know how large the first Design Forum in Osaka will be. Probably small. And I fell a little embarrassed about that. Why do I feel embarrassed, I ask myself? I think it because of the useless action of comparing our own work against the juggernaut of how big this conversation is as presented by many of the institutions are in the world. As a side note, over the last four years I did speak with plenty of these groups to somehow partner or work together in this pursuit, but mostly drew polite responses of rejection largely associated with their fundraising and messaging objectives.

The words of an old American Army Special Forces buddy are ringing in my mind when I think about the advice from my friend in Osaka. He was doing some post-graduate study in management when we met many years ago, and later taught me a memorable small saying his professor taught him: “SS – TS -DV -SF“. And so I will!

Start Small. Think Strategically. Deliver Value. Scale Fast.

There is not a moment to waste! As Campbell would no doubt say: Follow your bliss!

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2 thoughts on “Starting Small

    pengenie said:
    January 13, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I love that saying Start small. Think strategically. Deliver value. Scale fast. That makes so much sense. The wonderful thing about a good conversation is its aliveness and potential. Starting small means you can foster and shape it and then begin to expand it as others join in and the shape shifts and grows. The beginning will allow time for trying some things and being dynamic and getting a sense of how next steps can play out. Hopefully this exploration will be interesting and fun as well as serious in its role of building a platform for more forums. Churchill said “Away we dash over the currents that may swirl around us, but the tide bears us forward on its broad, resistless flood.” You’ve already begun, you’re already got momentum…it won’t matter if it’s a small forum as it will pick up and move forward the conversation and you can then check the map, change direction, do what makes sense next.

      Pathfinder responded:
      January 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      That is so true! And increasingly, I am coming to recognise how profound what you are saying is. It is not simply a description of process, but an acceptance that whatever it is will be enough. So frequently we measure against a perceived notion of ‘success’ which is essentially useless because it carries nothing of what matters.

      I think Churchill was describing the messy chaos and uncertainty that comes with doing, and being in the current is enough as long as you aren’t extinguished. I just realise that the currents he was talking about which we struggle against will also take us to places that we both never imagined and were out of our reach on the safety of a dry shoreline.

      Here’s to some filthy weather and perfect storms allowing fate to guide us to where we are destined to be!

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