What are your intentions in reading this?

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Forgive the personal question that titles this post. I am, however, genuinely interested. I’m presuming that you’re reading this because you’ve got at least a passing interest in what I’m doing/thinking. But let’s go a little deeper than that – why are you interested?

I ask because in the light of recent events, I find myself somewhat reticent to share some things that I think could be helpful to friends and colleagues who are using SenseMaker® and running projects using narrative research. It reminds me of something that happened very early on in Narrate’s history. I’d run an open workshop with a group of London communicators, sharing thoughts on narratives and experimenting with story-based exercises. At the end of the session, a couple of people came up and introduced themselves as a company who were directly competitive and thanking me for the session.

A few months later, I was talking to a prospect about a potential project and they responded “but isn’t that a copy of XXX’s tool?” The practitioners had lifted the exercise wholesale, slightly modified the name and were claiming it as their own work. I was sanguine, and after some thought decided that this was not enough of a reason to not share exercises in open sessions. It all built the market, I believed that part of Narrate’s USP was the perspective I brought to the work – and that at worst it meant that I had a spur to continue to be innovative and coming up with the next thing to keep ahead of the magpies.

It’s a strategy that’s stood me very well for over a decade since then – and I’ve been happy to share my experiences and practice with SenseMaker® and other tools since. It’s built some great partnerships, created exciting new products and generated enough money to pay the bills!

In the past year, however, I’ve found a few things that have made me consider whether giving advice in this open forum is such a smart move. Recent events in the past year make me wonder if I’m naïve in some of the relationships I have built. My name and advice has been taken on board without due consideration – and I feel the transparency and openness has not been reciprocated and, on occasion, actively contravened – approaching my clients, etc.

I say this, not to accuse, but to give voice to a disquiet I have in sharing some of the practice I’ve developed – I want to talk about some elements I’ve found really useful in SenseMaker® – but I find I’m reluctant to share and that I am disappointed to find myself being guarded and considering my words and thoughts more carefully.

[I’m posting this at the start of a very busy two weeks, so I may not be as fast as I would like to blog again or respond to comments – silence should not be taken as anything other more meaningful than “busy”!]


Marcusguest · 11 March 2014 at 7:51 am

Tony, as people buy from people (who have done it before) my guess is your client who highlighted that someone had lifted your tool ended up buying from you anyway?
Deciding not to share is an understandable, though extreme reaction, capable of doing yourself more damage as you opt out of the wider knowledge flows that drive your own innovation.
Perhaps consider using the openness of the web to expose transgressors is a strategy (many seem reluctant to do this), combined with local tactics (such as staged charging for knowledge sharing – making sure they at least pay for what they steal and keeping premium content for verified clients) to manage short-term disruption?
Finally, solace in the fact flattery is the best form of imitation, in the long run we’re all dead anyway, and karma’s gonna get us in the end…

tquinlan · 21 March 2014 at 3:42 pm

Marcus, thanks – and to those who’ve emailed.
You’re right – I won’t be overly restricting what I write, but I noticed my reluctance and wanted to make it public. I also wanted people to understand when I do draw a line on what I’ll share in public versus private.
There are those who see the “open source methods” in the Cognitive Edge approach and expect that to apply to everything. And that’s not appropriate – we have choice over the limits we choose. I could, if I chose, decide that I’ll only share my words of wisdom in exchange for cash – but then I’d have to be pretty sure they’re actually words of wisdom!
In fact, that first occasion they never did buy from me – and all but accused me of lifting other people’s material. A useful experience, but not one that’s restricted me over the years.
Nor will the current experiences. But they will make me more sceptical of some of the offers/partnerships people approach me with…

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