Books and breadcrumbs

I was recently in New York for the first time and, among other brilliant experiences like watching the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Center, strolling through Central Park, admiring the stunning work done on the urban park the High Line, and catching up with wonderful friends such as John Stepper and Jenny Ambrozeck, I also had the chance to visit the famous Strand bookshop and do something I love: book shopping!

I bought two second-hand books that had long been on my wishlist: Tim Brown’s “Change by Design and Etienne Wenger’s “Cultivating Communities of Practice.

During the weekend I started reading Wenger’s work and only then noticed that the previous owner of the book had left inside it two used plane tickets as page markers: clearly he must have been travelling across the US and reading the book while doing so, and now I knew his name and where he was travelling to. And I felt we shared some sort of connection.

This got me thinking about the “breadcrumbs” we leave about our life and experiences, increasingly doing so online and available for the world, or at least our extended network of connections, to see: what we did, where we’ve been, with whom, what we think about certain topics, what we read…

As my mind wondered, this in turn got me thinking about the importance of sharing our own work (John would call it working out loud) and of blogging (it is no coincidence that I had just finished Euan Semple’s book “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do” where he talks extensively about the power of blogging).

The traces I’m leaving online have led to a recent contact about a job opportunity. They also led to a contact from someone that discovered my blog through my TEDxOporto participation, related to what I’ve been writing about, and sent me a very kind email asking if I could recommend some resources to help her with a professional project she’s developing. They also led me to invitations to write, speak or teach.

The “breadcrumbs” we leave are important to help shape our reputation and serendipitously put unexpected opportunities in our path. But we must be conscious that they are also important to, as I’ve shared in my TEDx presentation, augment our individual and collective humanity, and not just our vanity.

Now back to that book…




3 thoughts on “Books and breadcrumbs

  1. Paul J Corney (@PaulJCorney) shared my post on Twitter and asked a very interesting question: “So is what we publish (hence share) who we are perceived to be? Requires us to quit comfort zones?”.

    I’ve decided to reply here 🙂 Increasingly our network of connections is amplified through social technology, reaching those that might not otherwise have continuous access to what we do, think and share, either because they are physically far or because they are not direct connections we see often. So, in my opinion, those digital breadcrumbs we leave, and what others say and share about us, continuously help shape our reputation and help others build a profile of who we are.

    In part, sharing who we are and do often means we need to have the courage to step outside our comfort zones 🙂

    Am I making sense? Thanks for sharing & for the question!

  2. Total sense!
    Two comments:
    1 only works in an environment where to express an opinion on a subject in public is an accepted norm.
    2 trusted content is king: we are influenced (and buy) by the judgements and opinions of people we respect and trust. Technology today can accelerate those networks (your accelerator effect). Those that don’t share lose out on this.

    Keep blogging.

    • Thanks for commenting Paul!

      Your comment on “only works in an environment where to express an opinion on a subject in public is an accepted norm” is true but we must understand that we are leaving digital breadcrumbs even if we don’t usually use digital channels to express opinions. Also, the fact that we now have a glimpse into the lives of people that live in very different contexts is, I believe, also redefining our notions of “accepted norms” even in places where “free speech” is not the norm… redefining our notions does not mean that we immediately alter our behaviour but the seed of change, or at least of questioning “accepted norms”, stays there.

      Terrific times to be alive, I think 🙂

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