Being Open

On June 22, 2009, in Coaching, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, by jason

One of the concepts of social computing or web 2.0 within organisations is “Bottom Up” vs “Top Down”. Top Down is the traditional lock-step military approach where taxonomy, ideas and processes are set by the senior people in the organisation  and employees are expected to conform to this inflexible model. Evidence suggests that this approach is not effective at tapping tacit knowledge, encouraging creativity, or obtaining commitment and encouraging passion.

What do you see below? A beautiful woman? A saxophone player? An elephant?


Figure 1: We have different mental maps. A one size fits all approach does not work well for humans

A “Bottom up” approach is about facilitating an open conversation with a larger group of people so that everybody interested can contribute their thoughts, ideas, and aspirations. A Bottom Up approach provides valuable access to knowledge that cannot be easily described or identified in advance. Further, the act of listening to and empowering people unleashes their creativity, initiates passion and is great for building healthy relationships.

“People don’t need to be managed, they need to be unleashed”
Richard Florida 2002

So where else can I be bottom up?

I have been thinking about how I can be more bottom-up with my teaching. In the past I have always tended to invite ideas, suggestions and feedback: but how can I truly empower my students? I would love to incorporate some kind of “choose your own adventure” pathway into their experience. For example, in my Enterprise 2.0 unit where they are to blog on weekly podcasts, can I involve the students themselves into selecting the best podcast for that week? Can they provide insight into the framework of the planned discussion? How can I unleash my students?

Bottom Up vs Top Down is also a leadership paradigm. I recently delivered a workshop to Queensland Heath on Facillatative Leadership (in collaboration with my colleague Pat Smith). This workshop aimed to enhance deep listening; clear communication; influencing; and the ability to capatalise on a group’s best thinking. We trained leaders in coaching principles to lead by enquiry (bottom up) as opposed to leading by advocacy (top down). These diagrams explain the concept on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Continuum:


Figure 2: Bottom Up (Facilitation) is much more effective than Top Down (Traditional)


Figure 3: Top Down (Advocacy) is often reflected and ineffective


Figure 4: Bottom Up (Enquiry) is much more effective at obtaining commitment and building relationships

knowing the right answers will only get you so far. To get further, you need to know the right questions. Let me know if you want help with asking powerful questions – questions that impact on thoughts and feelings. Perhaps I can help you in my role as a coach. Also, take a look at this excellent presentation: Google Tech Talk Coaching Series: Impact Communication

~ Jason

P.S. There is no Elephant (I made that one up)


Last week I had the opportunity to meet with Sacha Chua. Sacha is an Enterprise 2 consultant at IBM who  describes herself as a technology evangelist, a story teller, a blogger and much more. I contacted Sacha after watching a  recording of a lecture on Enterprise 2.0 and Knowledge Management that she delivered at the York University Schulich School of Business. Impressed by this presentation, and the many insights that she shares about social computing on her blog, I thought it would be great to tap her mind on QUT’s Digital Envionrments Major and my Enterprise 2.0 unit. In addition, Sacha looks to closely represents the kind of graduate we want to produce. So, I was delighted that Sacha was willing to speak to me on Skype.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Sacha, I found her very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We talked around Enterprise 2.0 / Web 2.0 but focused mostly on the concept of sharing, openness, and blogging. It was really interesting learning how Sacha got into blogging, starting way back 2002, originally using it as a task list with a view to public accountability. She is now using it as a platform to make connections, share and store ideas and to write to think.

Writing to think is a really interesting concept and could perhaps be the paradigm shift that many need to begin blogging. Having access to ‘cool web 2.0 tools’ is one thing, but actually adopting them is another. One of my PhD students, Fayez Alqahtani, proposed in his literature review on Web 2.0 adoption with organisations that ease of use; providing immediate benefits; and integration with regular business processes are important factors for successful adoption. This, and the fact that cultural issues appear to have a greater impact on adoption (not technology issues) were confirm in my discussion with Sacha.

Lets take a closer look at this powerful insight writing to think. It appears evident that:

  1. Everybody is required to think and plan (this is part of our usual process)
  2. Everybody needs clarity of thought (clarity of thought leads to immediate benefits)
  3. Everybody needs recollection and input (recollection and assistance are beneficial short and long term)

So, assuming that the platform is accessible (ease of use) then it looks like blogging or writing to think may well increase effectiveness and save time in the long run. By thinking better we are less likely to make time consuming mistakes. By sharing more, we are more likely to generate good will and to be able to leverage off the experience of others to avoid pitfalls. So the question may well be do I have time *not* to blog.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Sacha. As well challenging my thinking, she proposed a number of ways to incorporate blogging into my course in a step by step fashion. In addition, Sacha also offered to be involved in my course and provide insight to my students at key points.

Sacha has the words living an awesome life blazoned on her website next to to her name. After meeting her, and experiencing her positive energy, it looks to me that she walks her talk. Thank you Sacha.


As a lecturer, I see much value in holding interactive discussions. To achieve this in my (planned) Podcasts I would like to record Skype conversations. This is not a trivial DIY task as Skype is designed to keep the input and output separate to prevent feedback. Many people resort to using two computers. My objective was to find a way to do this with one computer: my MacBook Pro. In addition, being an open source buff, I did not want to pay for the solution (after all, I need to find a method to recommend to my spend thrifty students).

There does appear to be some free options to record Skype conversations for Linux (Skype-rec – works well) and Windows XP (Skype Call Recorder – not tested yet) but I was not able to find a free option for the Mac that suited my needs.

Unfortunately, the free option that I could find for the Mac resulted in my own voice being fed back through my headphones with a 1/2 second delay. This option did get me a long way towards my target by using two free applications: SoundFlower and LineIn. However, I found the prospect of facilitating a discussion with my own voice booming back at me rather disturbing (yet nostalgic of long distance calls in the 80’s). After failing with each of the solutions suggested by the article to reduce feedback I decided to find an alternative way.

The solution I found is similar to the one I found in the article and uses the same software. However, my method involves an additional stage and requires multiple instances of LineIn. If you want to try it, I strongly suggest that you first attempt the method that I found in the article (and install Soundflower and LineIn). If the method in the article works for you, cool. However, if you have the same echo problem that I experienced, and you don’t find your own voice stunningly attractive when parrot’ing back at you, perhaps have a go at the following solution:

Step 1: Set up Skype audio. You need to send the sound that Skype makes to a separate channel so that it can be forwarded on to two places 1) your headphone set; and 2) a channel being monitored and recorded by your recording software (I use Audacity, many use GarageBand). To achieve this pipe the output of Skype to “soundflower 16ch” for further routing by multiple instances of “”.


The next few steps will use multiple instances of Multiple instances can be created by typing the following in a terminal:

open -n /Applications/
(create 3 instances. note: they may appear directly on top of each other)

Step 2 (Set up instance no. 1): Route “soundflower 16ch” to your headphones so that you can hear the other person talking.


Step 3 (Set up instance no. 2): Route “soundflower 16ch” to “soundflower 2ch” for mixing with your own voice and for monitoring (and recording) by Audacity.


Step 4 (Set up instance no. 3): Route your microphone to “soundflower 2ch” for mixing with the sound that Skype makes. Both your voice and the voice of the other person are now mixed to “soundflower 2ch”


Step 5 (Set up your audio recording software): Set your recorder (Audacity / GarageBand etc.) to listen to “soundflower 2ch” and to output to your main speakers. Make sure that the ‘Pass Thru’ Button in each LineIn is checked and disable “pass through” options in your sound recorder.

You should now be able to record both sides of a Skype recording without hearing your own voice in your headphones. Make sure that you mute your main speakers when recording (or monitor the line out with a seperate set of headphones).

By the way, if you use Skype a lot, I strongly recommend that you obtain and use a USB headset as voice quality is much improved if the Anologue to Digital conversion is done outside of the pc (away from the noisey motherboard circuitry). I use a Plantronics headset but I am thinking of buying a professional microphone.

Finally, but importantly, please do not record conversations over Skype without all participants being aware that they are being recorded. Also, you should advise the participants of precisely how you intend to use the recording. Be ethical and keep within the law.

Hope this helps!



From my iphone

On June 3, 2009, in Uncategorized, by jason

typed from my iphone on the run: another test


Hello world

On June 3, 2009, in Uncategorized, by jason

Hi, this is my first blog post: a test