Looking to the Future and the Past and Shifting our Vantage Point. #32 #cong20


A random set of ideas I have come across in 2020 that perhaps should be considered when we think about Society 3.0.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. I don’t know what the future looks like.
  2. Accept that it’s OK not to know where we’re headed.
  3. Maybe we’re not meant to be at the centre of system.
  4. Look to the past as we move to the future.

About Clare Dillon:

Clare Dillon has spent over 20 years working with developers and developer communities. Lately she has been exploring the world of open source and InnerSource (the practice of using open source methods inside organisations). She is particularly interested in topics relating to the future of work, alternative collaboration systems, innovation trends and digital ethics.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect on LinkedIn.

By Clare Dillon

When I close my eyes and think of the future I would like, the first thing that comes to mind is…..[insert long pause here]. Here’s the thing – I can’t seem to form a clear vision of what an ideal future would look like.

Every time I try I feel a mix of surprise and concern. Surprise, because I have been thinking a lot about what I would like the future to look like – and so it continues to amaze me that I am not even getting close to visualising a version of the future. I mean I have vague notions, but nothing concrete. Concern, because if we don’t know where we’re going, how will we ever get there?

So, I’m not going to offer my view of Society 3.0. But I’m just going to list three things I have learned in the last while that I think might help (me, if not you! ;).

1. Accepting I don’t know where we’re headed and that’s OK.

This is going to take practice – I’ve spent so long learning to visualise goals, and define targets, that it feels uncomfortable to just “trust in the process”.

I am a fan of Dave Snowden, who created the Cynefin framework for sense-making.

I’ve included some of Dave’s quotes below (taken from a medium post by @brixen.)

“Managing the present to create a new direction of travel is more important than creating false expectations about how things could be in the future.”


“In systems thinking, you define the ideal future state and you try to close the gap. In complexity, you describe the present and see what you can change. You define a direction of travel, not a goal.”


“If you start on a journey, you will discover things you didn’t know you could discover which have high utility. If you have an explicit goal, you may miss the very things you need to discover.”

Why do I like these ideas? It stops us from all this “what is the answer?” theoretical discussions, and puts us on a path of experimentation, observation and response or action.

2. Maybe we’re not meant to be at the centre of system.

I recently read a book by Tyson Yunkaporta called “Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World” . One of the central premises of the book is that humans are here on this earth in the role of custodians. Thinking about the future with this perspective results in a different set of priorities. It makes space for long term planning. It promotes a focus on sustainability. I think it helps to put us on a better path.

3. Look to the past as we move to the future.

Our stories shape us. And our stories teach us some things we have forgotten. In his book, Tyson also spends a lot of time pointing to the wisdom that comes from listening to the stories passed down from generation to generation among the indigenous population of Australia. He’s also keen to point out that we all have our own stories – and that those from his past may not be the right ones for the rest of us to listen to.

I do love a good story and good story-tellers. As a result, I am a huge fan of Candlelit Tales – an amazing story-telling duo who re-tell Irish myths and legends. Perhaps these tales have something to tell us about where we came from and where we might go. We could note, for example, that poets in ancient Ireland held high ranks.

I watched Joe Biden use Seamus Heaney’s words to move a nation. And I marvel at the power and potential a poem can have. I wonder what would happen if we experimented with the idea that poetry and art could and should have a more important place in whatever society we are currently building, one that might be particular to us here in Ireland.

Three thoughts to offer to this year’s Congregation – I look forward to hearing many more!

Thanks to Drew Beamer on Unsplash for the lovely photo.

Knitting a Community SCARF for the 4th Industrial Revolution #35 #cong19


The 4th Industrial Revolution promises to change how we work and live. The very act of transformation can threaten our sense of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness (SCARF). Being part of a great community can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with this changing world.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1.   David Rock’s SCARF model shows how our perceptions of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness can impede rational thought.
  2. Digital Transformations often fail because of gaps in skills and capabilities and people not ready for change.
  3. Individuals perceiving threats to their SCARF will be less successful in learning and transitioning to new ways of work.
  4. Great communities  can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with change.

About Clare Dillon:

Clare is an independent Technical Evangelist helping organisations capitalise on emerging tech and related business trends. She also help organisations spread their ideas.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.


By Clare Dillon

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communities, and how they can be leveraged to address some of today’s work challenges. Communities popped into my head again when I was recently reminded of David Rock’s SCARF model – which looks at five domains of human social experiences and how they impact collaboration:

  1. Status – our relative importance to others.
  2. Certainty – our ability to predict the future.
  3. Autonomy – our sense of control over events.
  4. Relatedness – how safe we feel with others, are they friend or foe?
  5. Fairness – how fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.

David Rock’s paper on the topic describes how we, as social beings, respond to threats and rewards in these areas as much as we do to threats and rewards to our physical safety or survival. Threats in these areas trigger our “lizard brain” and “flight, fight or freeze” response and literally make us incapable of rational thought. Looking at how the 4th Industrial Revolution is leading to many changes in how we work and live, it seems particularly relevant at present.

Today, almost every organisation is examining how they are going to digitally transform. Those that don’t risk becoming irrelevant. However, McKinsey says 70% of digital transformations fail, and common pitfalls often list a gap in skills and capabilities as the reason for failure. Gartner reports that “in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers”. Most analysts are expecting organisations to invest significant efforts in retraining and/or replacing staff to ready themselves for the future.

Let’s now think now about these trends frame digital transformation projects in organisations. Significant changes to individuals’ roles, activities being automated, previous expertise becoming irrelevant, and potential project failure are now the norm. These trends can easily be perceived as threats to existing status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and feelings of fairness. Digital transformation seems almost designed to be a SCARF threat trigger for individuals within organisations. Is it any wonder there is a rise in workplace anxiety and stress? We need more tools in our toolbox to deal with these challenges. With this amount of change on the horizon – I believe communities can play a role in increasing our sense of SCARF.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many great technical community and user groups throughout my life. It’s always amazing to me what groups of passionate volunteers can achieve when they come together with a common cause. Members of these communities are often inspired by the kind of intrinsic motivation corporate leaders dream about after reading Daniel Pink.

The best communities positively influence their members sense of SCARF:

  1. Status – rewarding and celebrating achievements that perhaps only other community members can recognise.
  2. Certainty – helping level set status of technical trends, learn best practices and how to avoid pitfalls.
  3. Autonomy – members can shape conversations and agendas by investing their time, effort and passion.
  4. Relatedness – communities are places where deep friendships are formed that persist through different roles and organisations.
  5. Fairness – the best communities are safe spaces where informal or (more recently) formal codes of conduct ensure every member is treated with fairness and respect.

I have also been extremely lucky to have worked in some amazing teams throughout my life. I used to say the best of them felt like family, in terms of the supportive environment they provided. But the more I think about it, we were probably more like a great little community than a family. After all, we weren’t related by blood and didn’t spend Christmas together – but we did share certain values, attributes, interests and identity as well as a sense of a common place (whether physical or virtual). That sense of community has lasted long after I left those jobs, and I have learned to associate it with some of the best work experiences of my life.

So as we face the challenge of transitioning through the 4th Industrial Revolution, I think we need to start thinking about how communities can help us thrive: treating our teams as little communities of their own, building communities of practice across silos in organisations and joining communities outside our organisations to provide additional support. There is nothing like a big cosy scarf to make me feel warm and happy, safe from the wind and rain – now is the time to start knitting together a community SCARF to help us feel exactly the same way as we are buffeted by the winds of change.


Technology Evangelism – the discipline of spreading good ideas in a digital world. #17 #cong18


What is Technical Evangelism and why do we need more of it in today’s digital world!

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Some thoughts on how to define Technical Evangelism
  2. Key related competencies
  3. Why Technical Evangelism is important in today’s world.

About Clare Dillon

Clare is an independent Technical Evangelist helping organisations capitalise on emerging tech and related business trends. She also help organisations spread their ideas.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Clare Dillon

Ideas, ideas, ideas – I love ideas. Every time I have a good one, or hear a good one, I get a little burst of adrenaline. And yet, so many ideas end up being nothing more than a quick high unless something is done with them. I was thinking about this, when I realised it is exactly what I have been thinking about on a regular basis for the majority of my career.

For the past 15 years, I have officially had the words evangelism or evangelist in my job title. However, I have discovered that people often do not actually have a very clear idea about what technology evangelism is or what technology evangelists do. This article aims to discuss that and include some thoughts on why it is a skill we need more of today.

The word evangelist is perhaps best associated with the four evangelists in the Bible. However, evangelism originally stems from a Greek word meaning the reward given to a messenger for good news. For me, evangelism is all about ideas that are good news, how those ideas spread and how they have impact in the world.

To be fair, it’s not that surprising that people don’t know what evangelism is – as there are not too many people declaring themselves to be evangelists. Even in LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements section, “Technology Evangelism” is listed under “Other Skills – These skills do not fit under the available categories”.

Indeed, in my early years in Microsoft Ireland’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, I used to drop the “E” word entirely from the group name, for fear that it would conjure up awkward jokes about whether or not I was associated with any religious groups. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I felt comfortable using comfortable using the words “Technology Evangelist” as a title. The turning point for me was probably seeing some colleagues from the US confidently use the title here in Ireland, without anyone making the sign of the cross at them (that happened to me quite frequently in the early years when people read my business card!).

But despite my original reticence to use the word – I have always passionately believed in the power of evangelism as a discipline.

There are three main competencies in evangelism:

  1. How to craft a message or story that best embodies an idea.
  2. How to best spread those messages/stories through various communication channels and engagements.
  3. How to engage and support communities that keep those ideas alive and help them evolve and grow.

Essentially it’s all about how to use ideas to change what people think, feel and do… at scale.

In an evangelism team there may be different roles. For example, in our team we had: developer/architect evangelists, program managers, audience marketing managers and over time, business evangelists each of whom specialised in one or more of the areas above.

There are many similarities in the skills required for marketing or sales, for example utilising best practices in social or pipeline management. But there are also a good many key differences, including:

  • Evangelism teams often have a high ratio of subject matter experts who are skilled in passionate communication.
  • Evangelism success is often measured by rates of market adoption (sometimes of free technology) or sentiment rather than revenue/sales.
  • Most notably, there is a very high emphasis on community support and engagement.

Why is technology evangelism an important role today?

In my early years in Microsoft, we were all about spreading the news about technology platforms within the technical community. However in the latter years, and in particular with the rise of cloud computing, we had shifted to evangelising new business models that the technology enabled – or how technology should be applied in business contexts. With the recognition that successful technology transformation is as much about culture in organisations as the technology used, evangelism is a useful tool in accelerating culture change.

Technology is also evolving at such a speed that there is a growing gap of understanding between those who can build cutting edge solutions, and those for whom the solutions are being built. I spoke recently on a panel with Lisa Talia Mortti, who introduced me to the fascinating field of study around sociotechnical blindness, a name for the disconnected relationship that sometimes exists between technology and humanity. Lisa has a white paper that explains the idea here. I personally am concerned about the digital divide that is growing in society whereby only those who are sufficiently “connected” can access the benefits digitization is bringing.

When good ideas emerge about how to best use technology for the benefit of society – it’s important for those ideas to spread and stick. And not just within technology circles, but also within broader industry circles and in society. There is a job to be done to open all our eyes to the potential opportunities (and sometimes the risk) of how we use technology in business and our lives. Technology evangelism has its part to play in that!