Themes from the NMC retreat!/futureofmuseums/status/162227798461784064

The New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report 10th Anniversary retreat has been going full swing all day and night, and I’m exhausted. All this thinking and trying to take on the abundant inspiration coming at us from all sides has been hard work.  Just check out the Twitter feed at #NMChz to get a flavor of the torrent.  I tried to live tweet a bit, but the conversations were too stimulating, and I decided it was more important to be present than to capture it.  Luckily for us all, there are several hundred tweets, videos going up already and all will be catalogued and served on the NMC site.

The following are some of the ideas a and inspirations that I have to get out of my head before I can go to bed and rest up for tomorrow.!/erodley/status/161992306189287424

Notable quotes:

Lev Gonick started with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote that she saw her mission being, “to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the  comfortable.” This appeals to the troublemaker in me no end!

David Sibbet said,

“You need communities, but you need leaders, too.”

Øystein Johannessen said,

“To innovate, you need a solid base of knowledge.”

U.S. Army War College coined the term VUCA (VUCA=Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) to describe the present and its since spread into teaching strategic leadership and other areas. It’s a VUCA world. And getting more so all the time.

Susan Metros, talking about leadership, asked us to think about “What do you value?” and “What influences you?” and find answers to those questions. She then recommended three books:

  • Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking
  • Amos Rappaport, House Form & Culture
  • Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life

Look at the lay of the land and where you want to go and bushwhack your “desire path” to it.

A desire path is the term used by architects to describe those dirt paths that people wear into lawns because the paths the architects put down go in funny directions, so people just cut across the lawn to get to their destination, creating these unofficial paths.

Marsha Semmel, talking about informal education, stating that the big challenges are; Recognition, Research, Resources, Leadership, and “radical” collaborations. Yes, ma’am!

Some general themes that arose for me:

Living in Uncertainty
I love the idea of the VUCA world. It meshes with a lot of things happening in other discussions about museums. Rob Stein has been talking about the same idea at least since the last Tate Handheld conference. The MCN 2012 Program Committee has been wrestling with how to define this issue and how we should respond to it

The “L” word came up a lot today in almost every discussion, and it was both comforting and distressing to see how much people felt that they had really limited agency to affect transformation. Leadership was needed, and of course, the people who needed to display it weren’t in the room. In museum settings, this would usually involve complaining about curators or directors “Not getting it” whatever the “it” was. After today, and hearing about the challenges my colleagues in formal education face, I will try very hard never to complain about lack of leadership. Our afternoon discussion group had a great discussion about leadership and vision and how neither of these are the exclusive domain of those in charge. Shifting all of the onus of leadership onto the leaders is a self-defeating proposition, and one that lets practitioners off the hook.  It’s certainly easier for established leaders to exercise them, but we all have some ability to lead and look ahead, if we choose to exercise those abilities.

How surprising that learning should be a theme, right? Not very, but hearing it applied to us, instead of the “audience” or “students” was very heartening to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what lifelong learning means for practitioners, and the idea that as educators we need to learn about the things we expect/predict/guess are going to be important to our audiences is critical. How will we need to transform our work environments and processes to make this kind of learning a natural part of the culture?

Communities of Interest
The whole day was a great example of the powers of communities of interest as opposed to communities of practice which is how we usually assemble. We employed this methodology in a project we worked on a couple of years ago, and it helped us conceive of how to work with outside and why in new and better ways. See Gerhard Fischer’s works, like “Communities of Interest: Learning through the Interaction of Multiple Knowledge Systems”  

Can’t wait for tomorrow!


  1. I love seeing all the writing in the video of the NMC retreat. Seemed so full and active. Surrounded by tactile ideas and no screens to get lost in. Looks amazing!


    1. It is a right-thinking group! They can wiki with the best of them, and manage very active online communities, but they realize the importance of face-to-face if high-quality, high-bandwidth exchange is what you’re after.


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