We co-wrote this article earlier this Autumn with my fellow entrepreneurs and learning friends at Percolab, Samantha and Yves. It has been previously published at the Percolab blog, and is licenced with CC-BY license.
Entrepreneur to entrepreneur, business to business, talking and sharing openly and freely can become a way of working. Ville Keranen, co-founder of Monkey Business based in Jyväskylä, Finland and Percolab co-founders Samantha Slade and Yves Otis, based in Montreal, Canada have been practicing “learning conversations” together. In this article we share our thoughts on how this practice has supported our learning and work.
Ville: Throughout all my life as an entrepreneur, I have been (inter)dependent to people who are doing similar things or things in a similar way than me. One could call them mentors, co-learners or something like that. Since their visit to Monkey’s Yellow Office back in February 2011, percolab’s Samantha and Yves have been one of those. Currently we host each other on a more or less monthly call over Google Hangout.
Samantha: Colearners, cohosting each other. This is what I aspire to all around. What is it that allows you to go from a one time encounter to this rich space of thinking out loud and exploring ideas together with someone you barely know? Perhaps it was the sauna in Monkey Business’ office that just helped soften us all up. There is something to be said for the finnish sauna tradition.
Yves: One question I brought back with me from our visit to Monkey Business in Finland, was how to maintain this complicity that we were feeling? How to talk about our practice, our work our questionning? And how to do that without tripping up on our cultural or linguistic differences? or the time difference?
Ville: These calls are very interesting and important to me. Many times I have felt tired before the call after a long day at the office (due to time difference between Finland and Canada we talk at 4pm), but in the end I have left the call energised and with more clarity than before it.
Samantha: These calls offer a space outside of our regular contexts, with another human across the planet who is sharing similar experimentations, opportunities, ideas. To have flowing conversation in this space helps to gather clarity and strength to act.
Ville: One could call us sister or twin companies. I see or take the analogy from Twin or Sister cities. E.g. City of Jyväskylä is a sisters with the City of Debrezen. However, I believe our connection is more informal and relaxed I suppose. Like friends.
Samantha: There is a term, «impersonal fellowship » that comes to mind where you have deep connection, conversation and trust with someone with whom you don’t necessarily hang out with. This is a concept that fascinates me. We are fellow learners.
Ville: Over the calls we start with a check in, just sharing what’s up and what’s going on in each others’ (mostly professional) lives. What kind of projects are on right now, troubles, challenges or worries, visions, dreams or questions etc. Many things are shared. We share also what we have learnt or read about lately. Our talks are dialogue.
Samantha: And dialogue is the path of learning and sense-making. It is so crucial to have this kind of dialogue when you are working in a domain of innovation – that’s to say that your ways of working, thinking, being are not necessarily shared by those around you.
Yves: No agenda. No program. We run on questions that lead to conversations. What one person says immediately gets bounced around with perspectives and angles that we wouldn’t have imagined.
Ville: We both, Monkey and percolab, share the same way towards our work. Our work is about co-creation of the desired future, where people get along and can be themselves, and thus be more creative, feel better and also be more productive. We both work with various types of clients, and dialogue and doing is at the core of what we do. Thanks to this shared field of work, there are many connections and many things where other company’s experiences help one another.
Samantha: Yes, Ville says it so well. By talking together we reveal to ourselves what we are doing. We get greater consciousness.
Yves: And each conversation leads to its own rosary of little pearls that we put to use right away.
Ville: We have planned concepts together, such as “properly funky entrepreneurship training program”, or an “informal network of companies working in this weird way”.
Samantha: Yes, this free flowing dialogue with trusting open exploration between different cultures and languages lends itself naturally to creative emergence. It’s surprising and not.
Yves: With the desire to continue this conversation, to see what will emerge from it, without any obligation other than a little bit of learning.
Our conversations have always been pertinent and we hope others will experiment with this practice. For those who are also exploring better ways of learning and working together we would love to hear your story.