Have we Lost the Art of Chat? #31 #cong19


Communication is key to sustaining communities and creating a collective sense of purpose.  The solution could be simpler than we think and small actions to participate more and embrace conversation will enrich both ourselves and the community.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We need patience for old school conversation.
  2. Communities need a sense of purpose.
  3. Listening is as important as talking.
  4. Small changes can have far reaching impacts.

About Eoin Kennedy:

Communicator, trainer, entrepreneur, digital marketer and founder of CongRegation.

Contacting Eoin Kennedy:

You can follow Eoin on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

By Eoin Kennedy

As a child I have vivid memories of unprompted visits to my family home of relatives and friends.  For each of these my mother had an uncanny ability to muster up a feast of sandwiches while my family and I got a chance to hear stories of the past, updates on family members and usual selection of tall tales.  We also had one of the few phones when we grew up and calls were long, lengthy and concentrated with long updates and sense of connection.

This was brought back to me in sharp relief when my door bell rang I was genuinely confused about what the noise was, having heard it so infrequently.  In the currently world of only scheduled visits I feel we have missed out on random encounters and more importantly a vital channel of communications.  However with a quick flick of my phone I can get vivid updates on what friends, family member and the community are doing but its not the same.  Social media is good at projecting, abeit controlled by a faceless algorithm, what people are doing but its does little to connect we with what they are feeling and driven by likes it tends to favour a false sense of positivity than a balanced portrayal of what is really going on in people’s lives.

My mother grew up in a rural area and retained many of those cultural values. She knew the importance of micro updates and face to face chats.  I now live in a rural area but experience less and less of these.

So how does a community communicate with each other and how is it changing.

  • Chats in store and post office.I frequently remember being frustrated with standing in a long queues as a neighbour updated the harassed staff with updates on what is happening.  As shops naturally focus on efficiency there is less chance for informal sharing of stories.  It still helps but the local book store, where the pace is slow, tends to offer a better opportunity for shared updates.
  • This is a uniquely rural occasion where neighbours gather for a mass in a local person’s house and are offered a glimpse into each others lives and stores from the past.  I have only experience this once and its rapid decline is matched by the decline of mass in general.  Both unlikely to return.
  • The age profile of mass goers clearly indicates how the transfer of knowledge from parish notes and chats outside the church is likely to go.  Those who do attend tends to rush to their cars leaving elderly members to catch up with each other, shielding the young from stories.
  • At the mart.From what I can gather the weekly mart sessions still offer famers the chance to share a tea/sandwich with commerce playing a secondary role to social interaction.  However the part-time nature and absence of younger farmers entering the poorly paid profession means this will also decline as a mode of communications.
  • When you look at the ‘Strengthening Rural Economies and Communities’ report by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and the Department of Rural and Community Development an emphasis is put on the library system.  The report shows little in terms of how a community should communicate but is heavy on the supports and money spent.  The local library system is incredible but aside from posters, flyers and the occasional event it is under utilised in what it could achieve in helping to enable the rich flow of information.
  • Local community voluntary groups and Sporting groups. Every community has a vibrant selection of community groups from old age to Tidy Towns and these are a hive of people working together to improve and keep the community alive.  As Dermot Casey points out in his excellent submissionparticipation in these activities is what counts.  Merely by working together stories, introductions and genuinely caring are easily enabled.  Sporting groups especially the GAA, with parents waiting idly by to watch their children learn new skills, connects people from different walks of life and transcend the barriers than new entrants into a community find hard to penetrate.    The GAA, in particular in a move from a sporting organisation to its root in a cultural one, recognises this but it can tend to be a hard silo to break if children are not sporty.  All these rely on volunteerism, something that is difficult in the era of both parents working and the daily grind.
  • Yes funerals offer an unfortunate backdrop of community forcing people to reengage with each other.  I had the unexpected task of helping to dig the grave for a deceased uncle in law.  Although it may sound grisly it allowed me to meet neighbours, hear their stories and acted almost like an initiation ceremony to acceptance with neighbours I had never met.  Stories that would have been lost as memories faded were shared and I got a glimpse into daily life.  The small stories are what count the most.  Love it or hate it religion, priests, ceremonies and structure based on tradition have a strong role in keeping communities together.  Messages of love, respect and spirituality have been heavily rocked and challenged with a decades of abuse stories.  The institution may never recover but in moments of emergency, despair and tragedy the can still offer hope and solace.
  • School pick ups. Another great source but the 15 minutes of pick up time, pressures to get home to do homework and both parents working limit its potential for coherent conversation, mostly made up of top level ‘any sceal’ or ‘hows things’.
  • Coffee chats. Cong has a very small population for the range of coffee shops and hostelries, mainly supported by the volume of transient tourist traffic.  Since I moved here the season has expanded to 52 weeks from a summer focus.  The benefit of this is neighbours come out more to meet for coffee and I look in envy at groups of mothers gathering for chats after walks in the forest and sharing stories.
  • Community Centre. I have had the pleasure of assisting with the local community centre.  Thanks to local efforts and government assistance we have an incredible resource, something that was enabled by genuinely civic minded individuals who, to paraphrase a common start up community statement, ‘ate glass’ to make it happen.  Community days and groups act as a central locus for an amazing set of activities.  As a group we struggle with the best way to communicate the activities.  Websites, Social media from Facebook to messaging platforms like WhatsApp are a boom but they are more unidirectional (not exclusively so) and not everyone uses them consistently despite the numbers of smarts phones and accounts.  Postering and flyers are also highly effective as we dash by in our cars but are wasteful and I recently discovered are contrary to some Tidy Town rules.  Community centres themselves are difficult things to get right and rely on voluntary committees and strong executives and staff for their continued ability to thrive.  Financial demands and active engagement by the community are hard things to balance.  Merely having one is not enough to help drive sense of community and I am as guilty as the next person with not supporting consistently.  Excuses abound from tiredness, work, pressures of a young family but they feel like ‘the dog ate my homework excuses’.  All I know is that when I do actively engage I get out more than I put in and the collective contribution makes the community richer, stronger and more vibrant.  I am pretty sure Maslow has a strong take on this.
  • Just Dropping In.Although I see my uncle in law quite a bit we rarely have deep conversations despite living in close geographic proximity.  However when I take the time to just drop in (as per the start of this submission), without the distractions of other people I not only get updates and insights on what is happening locally but also a rich, detailed and fascinating glimpse of what life looked like a generation ago.  What appear as rambling conversations can produce golden nuggest and happen organically as we talk.  These stories help me to peel back the layers of the onion of the complexity of community through stories.  As a ‘blow in’ I don’t expect to ever reach the heart of what drives the community but each layer offer another new insight.  Older people in the community are the dying source of this and I often feel we are in danger of repeating mistakes of the past by not listening enough to wisdom of the past – the elderly are the bastions of this wisdom.
  • The Pub.No shortage of these in local communities and oiled by alcohol, music and chatter these maintain communication in addition to many other positive and negative attributes (excess being one of them).  The local bar person probably has a better insight into what is going on in community than anyone else.   Access to this channel of communication is naturally hindered by the ever stricter drink driving laws and I fear the era of self driving cars will arrive too late for many to be of use for older drinkers.  My occasional trips to local bars are rewarded with a different view of neighbours I pass on the roads.  My saluting from a speeding car does not compete against a sustained chat in a busy bar.  For some this offers the only chance to talk.
  • Although a phrase borrowed from the US, a community gathering to discuss what is happening in a local community is extremely important.  They are also extremely rare and full of dangers.  No community is not facing challenges and all have their share of built up frustration.  Many fail on the first salvo of grievances and it takes a skilled chairperson to navigate them. Airing grievances should be welcomed and the ‘bursting of the boil’ can be needed to create a bed of understanding so a community can start to move forward on collective consensus based principles.  Not an easy thing to do and I am in awe of those who can truly listen, emphasise and build.  Frequently people just need to be heard.  Which bring me to a point that Alastair Herbert will cover in his submission – the importance of listening.  In an era of megaphoning and finding solutions, something men are very guilty of and women have a unique understanding of, listening is a skill that is in short supply.  Listening without precondition is important for humans – we were born with two ears and one mouth after all.  We all need to be heard and understood and sometimes it is enough.  It also means that we are better at communicating.  Businesses have now reverted back to better audience identification through Buyer Personas and Messaging Session so they can target better.  As community members we should remind ourselves of this.  How can we communicate if we don’t understand what is going on in someone else’s world.  I often think that well intentioned government programmes may hear the wrong things or not probe deeply enough before activating complex structures.  The short term thinking of parish politics and threat of losing one’s seat can sometimes create more problems than they solve.
  • Mass Communication.Local radio and print despite threat of digital communications are still powerful mediums.  The daily death notices is highly listened to but conversations with skilled interviewers fuels real world conversations.  However it is broadcast and at best achieving knowledge sharing.
  • Social Media.Primarily Facebook and WhatsApp for sharing updates.  The ease of use makes them indispensable coupled with a central website.  However the loudest voices tend to dominate (positively and negatively) and as public platforms people are careful about what they communicate.  The rise of WhatApp favours curated lists of recipients and the volume of groups can make them very cluttered.
  • All the others!

I am conscious as I write this of the corollary of what I am proposing.  The ‘valley of squinting windows’ is a reminder to me that people knowing each others business is a double edged sword.  There is a fine line between delicious gossip and caring updates on peoples lives.  People have genuine concern for privacy and becoming the currency of idle chatter can be hurtful and destructive.  It takes a strong person to reject, limit and challenge gossip.  Not every in a community wishes to actively engage and communicate, preferring their own privacy.

I see story telling and communication as key enabler of sense of community.  Business have also embraced this with many now moving to a sense of purpose model, something covered by Paul Passemards submission.  Scholarly research  into Sense of community points to the psychological sense of community encompasses feelings of belonging, identity, emotional connection, and well-being.  Others point to Membership, Influence, Integration and Fulfillment of needs and Share Emotional Connection.

All very cerebal but again to my simple mind we are in danger of disconnecting with each other by not fulfilling human needs of listening and communicating.

This difficulty sense of community is not a startling revelation and is potentially in decline. Macra na Feirme in its “Know your Neighbour” campaign makes it more granular where it found that not being familiar with neighbours is more prevalent in urban communities, with almost one in six saying that they do not know their neighbours at all, versus just one in 20 of people in rural communities.

Most online article and searches on ‘Community and communication’ are focused on how to communicate with communities from the outside rather than communities talking to each other.  They are viewed as a homogeneous things to be exploited somehow.  I fear that as we try to scale communication with greater efficiency we lose sight of what it is.  Communication is a sum of lots of different parts each building on the from chit chat to collective documentation.  All elements in the chain are important we should not forget our basic human needs.

Conversation is art form and sometimes the transfer of knowledge is secondary.  The process alone connects us.  You also cannot rush it.  To an impatient ear much conversation can appear wasteful and efficient, with a desire that the person would ‘get to the point’ sooner.  The best conversations take place when there is mutually respect, understanding, empathy and most importantly trust.  These take time and I sometimes think of it as a test and ritual – interest in earlier stages generally leads to more information.  This is perfectly human, we need people to be interested/concerned with us and not just see us a channel to information.  Although it can seem frustrating that it can takes so long to get the information we need, I feel we have lost our verbal/listening tastebuds and ability to savour the process.  In the era of 140 character micro updates, which by nature of their brevity are highly efficient, we have devalued the ‘Art of the Chat’.

The challenge can seem great but I reflect on some of last parts of Geraldine O’Briens submission which recommends small iterative changes.

Do one small thing, talk to one new person, listen better and participate more.

All these take energy and a fundamental change in behaviour but lots of small changes can transform communities and in this we will all benefit.

Because Community Reveals #30 #cong19


Colleagues with arched eyebrows ask, “Why Cong?” And I tell them, “Because community.” It’s community extending beyond the small town of Cong and reaching levels deeper than the conversations I enjoy every November.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. I go to Cong because of community.
  2. I’m reverting to Old Skool community watering holes that are text-heavy and require deep reading.
  3. I like listening to community conversations through podcasts.
  4. I’m updating my thoughts. Search “big reveals at congregation”.

About Bernie Goldbach:

Bernie Goldbach, an American educator in Ireland, teaches creative media for business on the Clonmel Business Campus. He is @topgold on all good social networks.

Contacting Bernie Goldbach:

Reach out to @topgold on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

By Bernie Goldbach

Colleagues with arched eyebrows have asked me, “Why Cong?” And I tell them, “Because community.” It’s community extending beyond the small town of Cong and reaching levels deeper than the conversations. The connections grow new leaves through networks I’ve discovered and thoughts I’ve shared with people I’ve met on the streets of Cong every November. Eistaigh lom.

Humoured by simple mailing lists in the 1990s when I first noticed how full stops between words communicate passive aggression, I was chuffed to sit across from Sean McGrath in a Cong gift shop as we shared our memories of the earliest days of RSS feeds. Sean was one of the key members of an internet engineering community who helped articulate how information would be seamlessly shared across websites during the last century. Now that same elegant technical specification for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) distributes podcasts without any central control.

Unfortunately, my email services today often restrict easy viewing of mailing lists I use for edtech today. Had they been in use in the mid-90s, I might have never spotted the technical community discussions revolving around RSS. And I certainly would have never heard the respected voice of Catherine Cronin, something that seamlessly happens now since audio apps have become mainstream.

Always a prominent voice in huddles around Cong, the ebullient Maryrose Lyons sparked a memorable session of discussion 17 years ago with me and my wife about the protocols of recording public conversations.  I wonder how she would have expressed her alarm as an Instagram story back then. Her concerns take on a greater significance today in our era of surveillance capitalism.

From his grizzled face to his economical expression, Brian Greene is a walking encyclopedia of all things internet. BHG is one of those “Old Internet People” who is distinguished by a high level of computer literacy. He could probably share a story about whо came up with thе acronym “lоl” and if asked via the Facebook Group for Irish Podcast Producers, Brian might spin out an audio story that explains why the meme is оldеr than thе іntеrnеt.

Most of the people I met before the first coming of the Congregation could be classified as “Full Intеrnеt People” and “Semi Intеrnеt People”. Thеy dialled in during thе lаtе 1990ѕ and 2000s, whеn thе іntеrnеt wаѕ becoming accessible аnd mainstream. They wrote blogs like Paul O’Mahony did when he moved from Bath to Cork with Baby Grace. Today, I’m more likely to hear @omaniblog sharing audio snippets using the closed app Limor or the open platform Anchor.

People in the Cong community who I already know also use direct messaging services like Twitter and WhatsApp. I’ve become dependent on archaeologist John Tierney for highly sophisticated technical and legal assistance he offers about Irish heritage sites. John has shared his perspective from the stage of Ashford Castle and he has led groups of my creative students on walkabouts around Georgian buildings and on tours inside walled towns.

The book “Because Internet” offers a perspective on “Semi Internet People” who use “thе internet for work and other funсtіоnаl tаѕkѕ, like rеаdіng the news. Thеу mіght mаіntаіn rеаl-wоrld relationships оnlіnе, but аrе gеnеrаllу mоrе ѕkерtісаl about electronic communication. Thеу’rе often hіghlу ѕkіllеd іn ѕресіfіс рrоgrаmѕ оr tаѕkѕ, lіkе Phоtоѕhор”.  Some of my most proficient digital animation students are like Zanya Dahl and they appear to be cast from this mould. Some analysts would place these GenZ students into the “Post Internet” segment of the community because they were born into families who already had an internet connection. They finished secondary school with Facebook, Twitter, and Messenger. And although they feel comfortable tapping into services like banking and weather forecasts, they are more likely to delete apps on their phones than subscribe to a new service.

I wish #cong19 would attract members of this new cohort into the Community of Cong. From what I can see, the 19 year old students in my academic classrooms often reimagine themselves as new online personas by the time they turn 21. For whatever reason, they ditch their old handles and discard their former avatars for new identities—sometimes three different times throughout the four year Honours Degree programme on the Clonmel Digital Campus where I see them mature into young professionals. And in surprising entries to Media Writing Journals I’ve reviewed, these post-internet teens aren’t having sex as often and they don’t drink as much as previous creative students I’ve watched during my previous 20 years teaching third level arts students. A significant portion of them now use text-based services such as Reddit and Discord to dive deep into topics of interest.

I think it’s worth reading the perspectives of other people about what community means to them. I’ve learned I’m not a boss of any community (if I ever was). As I plan to attend #cong19, I wonder how collegial conversation with these new faces will unfold in the huddles, during meals, and in the pub. I read various blog posts from prospective attendees and I wonder when did they first come online? Were they in Ireland when they first saw the internet? Will I meet people who waited until their phones could browse the web before they jumped into online communities? I’ll share my thoughts about community if you catch up with me during the #cong19 community huddles. And I’ll update my InsideView.ie blog post about “Big Reveals at Congregation” as people share what “community” really means.


Easily reach Bernie Goldbach on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Or listen to his “Topgold Audio Clips” on Spreaker.

Bernie Goldbach has snapped and saved images from meetings of the Congregation.

Sean McGrath – “Community—A Disability Perspective” on the Congregation website.

Catherine Cronin – “The essence of the Open Education Community” on Spreaker.

Maryrose Lyons – “Average. Great. Or Extraordinary” on the Congregation website.

Brian Greene is “Radio Connecting Humans” at radio.ie.

Get on-topic advice about podcast production from Irish Podcast Producers and Listeners on Facebook.

Hear Paul O’Mahony on Anchor.fm or read him on Paulhomahony.com

John Tierney – “The hardest part of starting” on Congregation website.

Gretchen McCulloch – “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language”, 2019

Zanya Dahl – “Communities are born out of thin air” on the Congregation website.

See more about #cong19 on Twitter.


Max Hastings – “The Effects Technology Has on People” on the Congregation website.

Ailish Irvine – “You are not the boss of my community” on the Congregation website.





The Story Behind the CongRegation Themes

CongRegation has morphed and grown since the first incarnation experiment in 2013 although the fundamental structure of what makes it special has remained the same.

One of the key things that changes annually has been the theme and interestingly the original theme of ‘Social Media’ still features strongly in some people’s perception of the event.  Let me take you through the evolution to this years theme.

The first year focused on social media which as a sector was still evolving and needed lots of discussion and guidance.  We gave options to people about submissions ranging from Case Study, Tips, How to Guide through to a what was called a ‘Rant’ (positive or negative perspective on the topic).  Most submissions took the form of a leadership type piece essentially a smart positive rant, where opinions were given space to be elaborated, dissected, reassembled and made ready for discussion.  It was clear that this was the type of contribution and form that people were naturally more attracted to but is the most difficult of all the options.  It takes time to narrow down the vast choices, percolate the ideas, build a reasonable case, research, compose, edit, test, rethink and finally submit.

This single choice of submission was carried into year 2 but the theme broaden out a bit to include digital media, partially as a reaction to the broader nature of year one submissions.  Rather than just document work done, attendees wished to dig deeper and ponder the topic at a more challenging level, rather than just deliver a blog post that could have featured on a regular social media blog. This was the what I saw as the emergence of what I called the ‘Mental Itch’.  We are surrounded by all the theme areas but we rarely really question them or construct our thoughts into a robust argument or stance.  In a world of twitter, microcontent and limited attention span long form content forces us to consider things with a bit more depth, sometimes to quite personal self reflective areas.  We are also all incredibly busy and possibly don’t reward ourselves with higher debate and thinking when stuck in the now.

Year 3 became a bit more challenge focused with the theme exploring the impact of technology on work and personal lives. This evolved from conversations at year two as personal impacts were questioned.  As the diversity of attendees expanded and as the curious nature of attendees grew there was a collective desire to look at something bigger and tap into the collective mindsets.  If my observation from year two was around the general willingness to tested (submission and conversations on the day) year 3 taught me that the more meaningful content frequently involved peeling back layers of the onion to really see what, who was ticking.  This happens naturally during the day in Cong but year 3 contributions contained not just smart insights but also deeper personal perspective.

Year 4 ‘The Future’ emerged as a natural extension of the Year 3 theme of the impact of technology on our lives.  Technology has a role but it’s not the only player in town and year three surfaced a lot of fears and reservations that people had about the future direction we were heading.  An attempt to capture on the day insights in the form of an open challenge to create a better future was also attempted but these themes are so big, multi faceted and broad that consensus is almost impossible to achieve.  In fact, we could not even reach consensus on who should get the award for best contribution (the crystal ball is still sitting in my office).   Addressing the final challenge on the day of producing ideas on what would make a better future proved difficult as the more views on the future that emerged the more questions that accompanied it.

The ‘Innovation’ theme of year 5 reflected the emergence of ‘meta themes’ and could be viewed as an additional component of the convergence between technology and future.  This allowed the flexibility to explore experiences, expertise and scratching of the mental ‘itch’ – something that was always nagging you at the back of your mind that you wished to explore more deeply.  The compliance aspect of the submission (ie cannot get a ticket without it) was replaced by sometime cathartic release of energy and focus on a blank canvas topic.  CongRegation creates a peer based, trusted environment to explore areas and it was heartening to hear challenges to conventional wisdom and counter intuitive approaches.  As the attendee profile also broadened so did the entry point and background perspectives. The range of angles, perspectives, commentary, guidance and strong opinions reinforced my own internal view that everyone has a piece of the jigsaw puzzle and no one has all the pieces.

Last years theme of ‘Ideas’ proved difficult for people as not alone do we rarely think about ideas in an external inquiring stance but we generally live in the moment of having an idea and the problems it poses. Ideas is related to the Innovation theme but interestingly many felt that Innovation had become abused as a concept due to over use – words matter.  Similar to innovation, executing on an idea was a key exploration thread.  In normal life this theme gets superficial treatment and is often interwoven into bigger fabrics.  David Gluckman’s presentation in Ashford Castle and his comments about Ideas alerted me to this rich vein – if we just viewed it differently and pondered it more deeply.  Rather than a collection of idea pitches the submissions contained a mix of well thought out reflections and probings.

Informally the theme has come out of conversations after each CongRegation and this year was no different involving late night (strike while the iron is hot) chats in Danaghers after the huddles and ukulele session finished.  Four key suggestions emerged:

Fear: this popped up in a lot of huddles, would connect in a very deep way but also risked becoming very personality focused.

Imperfection: This was viewed both as perfection and imperfection and could produce fascinating divergent views

Transition: This originated from a conversation where it was felt a lot of people at CongRegation has experienced change or were undergoing deep self reflection (career, life).

Community:  In its seventh year is CongRegation becoming a community that takes place in a rural community.

The date and theme were put out as a Twitter poll (not the most scientific way but I wanted to make it a bit more objective) and Community was the clear winner.

Over the last year I have had many conversations with Tracy Keogh about community from a business perspective from how do you define it, to the different perspectives to the joys and problems of working with communities.  I have lived in rural and city communities, in communities in different culture China, Spain, Canada.  I worked with different work communities and communities of practice.  I have watched online communities grow from the early email lists and the fascinating worlds that evolved and have become the tail wagging the dog.  I live in a rural community but see multiple levels, complications, fantastic endeavors, open mindedness, closed mindness to completely unconnected groups.   Everywhere I look I see tribes, formal/informal groups of people and witness the same people behaving in completely different way.  Community surrounds us, united us, it drives and moulds us and we rarely question it deeply.  My curiosity is only now starting and I like all the contributors have permission to think, reflect, express and share our insights.

Only starting also is the awareness of how much I have to learn about this arena.  Since agreeing the theme I have had fascinating conversations with sociologists about community and place, the evolution of communities through migration and the view/power of filtered, collated research to explain what I see daily but do not necessarily understand.   As per Joan Mulvihills comments I have become hyper alert to community related topics to the point of having email conversations with a poet who featured on RTE Sunday Miscellany, straight after the show as he had a unique perspective on a community where I lived.  Coffee time discussions have uncovered doctorates who have tried to implement industrial standard on to a rural community to try improve the community.  Psychologist friends fascinate me on the way the thread multiple theories and thinking into explain how and why we operate in groups and communities.

Personally I am really excited about this theme, I am looking forward to being challenged, reflecting, researching , wondering, writing, scrapping, sharing, testing and I hope, like all the contributors, that this process along will enrich me a little bit more.

Fresh into Ideas #12 #cong18


Where does the word idea come from? What does the word idea mean? What does it mean to have an idea?

What about the tantalising idea or question as to whether there’s such a thing as an original idea. Does an idea come from within the individual mind or our collective consciousness?

Throughout history there have been countless examples of individuals or groups apparently coming up with the same idea independent of one another.

Our ability to have ideas about what ideas are, have ideas and execute those ideas to bring about new physical and social realities is what makes us unique as a species on this earth.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. How we think about and define ideas evolves over time
  2. Are ideas birthed in the individual mind or in our collective consciousness?
  3. Our ability to develop ideas and execute them makes us unique as a species
  4. Ideas are both our greatest power and our greatest responsibility

About Anne Tannam:

Anne Tannam is a Creative Coach and the author of two poetry collections ‘Take This Life’ (2011 WordOnTheStreet) and ‘Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor’ (2017 Salmon Poetry). Her third collection is forthcoming in 2020. Also a Spoken Word Artist, Anne has performed at festivals and events including Electric Picnic, Bloom, Craw Festival (Berlin) and Lingo. She travelled in 2016 to take up a writers’ residency in Chennai, India. Anne is co-founder of the weekly Dublin Writers’ Forum, an open and inclusive group that welcomes writers of all styles and levels of experience to share their work and expertise with one another.

Contacting Anne Tannam:

You can follow Anne on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, browse her thoughts on her website or send her an email.

By Anne Tannam

Any ideas about how to write about ideas? What is an idea? No idea? Where does the word ‘idea’ come from? Like so many words we use in English, its origin can be traced back to ancient Greek – Idein, meaning ‘to see’ and still in Greek, ‘Idea’, meaning ‘form or pattern’, then into Latin before finally turning up in Late Middle English.

What does it mean to have an idea? The word ‘idea’ has subtly different definitions and usages, which gives us some idea of how difficult it can be to talk about ideas without our head hurting a little. Here’s some of the definitions of the noun ‘an idea’:

1. A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action
2. A mental impression
3. An opinion or belief
4. The aim or purpose

To confuse us even further, the concept of an idea was explored by philosophers who came up with their own definitions of what an idea is (where did they get the idea they could even do that?). For Plato an idea is defined as ‘an eternally existing pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies’, and for Kant an idea is ‘a concept of pure reason, not empirically based in experience.’

We also have lots of informal phrases in English we use that put another slant on the idea of what an idea is. We have the classic usage so beloved of the Irish: ‘Whose your wan, getting ideas about herself? ‘ Or ‘Don’t be putting ideas into that fella’s head.’ Then there’s the ‘I’ve no idea what I’m talking about’ and the This is not my idea of a good time!’

What about the tantalising idea of whether there’s such a thing as an original idea. Does an idea come from within the individual mind or our collective consciousness? Throughout history there have been countless examples of individuals or groups apparently coming up with the same idea independent of one another. We’re all familiar with is the idea of taking an oral language and devising an alphabet to record it, and later, the idea of developing or devising a technology that would allow a people to print and publish those recordings (which allowed for the first time in human history ideas to spread far beyond the confines of one place or culture).

At different times and in different places, the written word emerged because someone who thought of the idea, stuck with it and ran with it. Or an idea, like a baton, is passed from one person to the next, each adding their own spin to it, before passing it on to the next person, often decades or even centuries later, until finally the idea is perfected and executed.

Of course there may have been many more who thought of the idea and didn’t run with it, just left it hanging there, unarticulated and unrealized.

Thinking about ideas can leave us feeling dizzy but our ability to have ideas about what ideas are, have ideas and execute those ideas to bring about new physical and social realities is what makes us unique as a species on this earth. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (see, I robbed that idea from a bloke called Stan Lee!).

As to the question of whether there is such a thing as a brand new idea; me, I like the idea that ideas can be both original and hand-me-downs at the same time. Take these blogs we’re writing: Eoin comes up with the idea of Ideas for the theme of this year’s Congregation (an idea that Eoin came up with a good few years ago, based on, but also departing from other people’s idea of what a conference is). We all came up with ideas for our blogs, drawing our inspiration from our own experiences and from the collective experiences of others. Many of us will have overlapping ideas but hopefully in our approach and execution we’ll bring something original to the table. Not a bad idea, eh?

Your Great Business Idea Is Completely Worthless #11 #cong18


Your great business idea is completely worthless.  Here’s what you can do about that.


4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Most “great business ideas” suck and are going to fail
  2. Validate your idea with real customers
  3. Fail as quickly as possible
  4. Iterate based on what you learned

About Alastair McDermott:

I specialize in helping consultants, speakers and published authors to increase their sales. Unlike other marketers, I focus on customer lifetime value before focusing on conversion optimisation. I’ve been building websites and software since 1996 and I blog, and make media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor.

Contacting Alastair McDermott:

You can follow Alastair on Twitter, Facebook and his website.

By Alastair McDermott.

Have you ever heard someone at the bar say something along lines of “You see that guy making millions – I thought of that five years ago! That could be me!”

No, it couldn’t.

Because your great business idea had absolutely no value – unless you took action and implemented it.

An unimplemented business idea doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t have value until someone makes it happen.

Until you take a business idea and try and turn it into reality, you don’t really know whether it’s going to be truly valuable or not.

Implementing a business idea is the hard part. It takes time and effort, which are the easy ones, and often money and knowledge too, which can be more problematic. Often you need other people to help create the concept, explain the concept, and sell the concept. You need customers willing to open their wallets and give you their hard earned cash in exhange for your idea – implemented.

Wannabe entrepreneurs often encounter this issue: they think they have a great business idea, but they don’t want to tell anybody about it in case it’s stolen.

Here’s the truth:

1) Your idea probably sucks and is going to fail.
2) In the unlikely even that it doesn’t suck, very few people or companies are in a position to implement it.
3) Most people who could implement it are quite happily working on their own ideas, thank you very much.
4) Even if it is a good idea, and you are able to implement it, odds are still against you making a successful business from it – business is hard.

So what’s the solution? Give up?

No, not at all. What you want to do is try and fail. And fail fast. If it helps, you can call it “idea validation”, but have no doubt about this – what you’re trying to do is make the idea fail.

If it’s going to fail, you want it to fail fast – in fact you want it to fail as fast as possible, so that you can learn from it and test your next idea without having sunk too much time.

Testing a business idea is simple. First, you need to ignore what your family and friends tell you. Sorry, but they’re either way too positive, or way too negative for this. You need something a lot more reliable: a potential customer.

Create a working prototype, or a quick mockup. Or just explain the concept verbally.

Take this concept to real potential buyers. Explain it. Ask them for feedback and implement their suggestions. Then ask them to buy. If it’s not ready, make them a pre-sale offer.

(This is not as hard as it sounds – you’ve seen a thousand companies doing this on KickStarter. Book publishers have been doing it for years.)

If no one is biting, you need to change and iterate.

The trap.

There’s a big trap that you might fall into here (I did): “perfect is the enemy of the good”.

Do not worry about perfecting your product before you expose it to the market. If you wait to show it while you’re tweaking and polishing, you’re wasting time and resources. Speed of execution is key. Being too slow, or worse, stuck in analysis paralysis, will kill your idea and your enthusiasm.

My biggest failure.

SelfAssemblySites was a video training membership site I launched with my business partner in 2011. It was a site that taught website owners how to build and maintain their own websites with WordPress. It had over 100 training videos with how-to’s on every aspect of the process.

If you build it they will come.

MVP (Minimal Viable Product) was the exact opposite of what we did. We took the “if you build it they will come” approach. In fact, our product had bells and whistles with their own bells and whistles. When our competitors had 12 pieces of flare, we had over 100. We had automatic video resizing based on user preference and bandwidth levels, even audio-only versions of all content available to download.

We had a huge forum with subsections and further subsections, most of it populated with great questions and answers relevant to to the topic. We spent a long time on deciding the best ways to categorize and navigate the content. If at any point where there was a choice between me adding or improving a feature, vs promoting the product, we chose the former because what could help sell more but make a better product? (2018 me: “Testing the market, that’s what!”)

This “if you build it they will come” approach had a whole heap of effects and side-effects. One was that we spent so much time on product development that after the eventual launch I was near burn-out and didn’t have as much endurance to stick to it when the going got tough. The delay to the launch meant a shorter “runway” to work with before we ran out of our initial personal investments.

Validate your idea with real customers.

Validate your ideas before betting the bank on them. Watch what actual users do. Start with a minimal offering and add features only where users find value. Expect to make mistakes, stay flexible (and solvent) enough to keep re-iterating until you get it right. Make sure the founders discuss their perspective on how they envision the project going and see if that’s in alignment.

Get more feedback, implement the changes, test the market again. You’re learning a whole lot about the market (and the problems they encounter), the product and yourself all the time. You’ll eventually come to the point where you know it’s time drop the idea and chose something else.

Or you’re starting to get sales and market traction – well done, you have validated your idea! Now it’s time to grow your business.


“This time next year Rodney” #10 #cong18


Living with someone with Entrepreneurial tendencies is not easy. People who find it easy to come up with ideas sometimes take this for granted. Having a lot of ideas helps one to plan for the future and solve problems.
Delboy while always having the next big idea sometimes manages to nail it.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Embrace your ability to be creative
  2. Ideas don’t travel alone, you win some , you lose some
  3. Putting ideas out into the world is not always easy
  4. Sometimes Delboy wins

About Ailish Irvine:

A Freelance workshop facilitator, with good knowledge of Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship supports. Wife and mother of 3, likes a good laugh with kind people. Loves travelling and is a long suffering Mayo GAA fan.

Contacting Ailish Irvine:

You can follow Ailish on Twitter, LinkedIn and her website.

By Ailish Irvine.

I often start sentences with “I just thought of a great idea” and hear a huge groan from my long-suffering husband. You see it’s Ok being the kind of person who comes up with ideas. It’s not great being the partner of one. They have to endure Dragon’s Den type pitches over the kitchen table. They sometimes have the cheek to interject with logical, rational arguments as to why your idea may not pay off the mortgage. They have to break the news to you and they have to rain on your parade.
You see sometimes I’m like Del Boy. His enthusiasm for the next big thing is infectious.

I always thought that this ability to come up with ideas was the worst affliction that a girl could have. I sometimes tried to stop the ideas from coming as with them they brought ridiculous things like hope, dreams and positivity. That can’t be good for the soul, can it?
I remember sitting round our sitting room in college telling a group of friends about some of my ideas. I didn’t even know back then that that I had the condition, I didn’t know that I was suffering from a small case of entrepreneurial spirit. Twenty-five years later and the ideas haven’t stopped, sometimes they appear in the middle of the night as I’m about to go to sleep. I awake in the morning to know that they escaped off into the unknown, because I didn’t treat them with the respect they deserved. I didn’t write them down when they appeared at will. I took them for granted.
I teach adults and I like to write. Having the ability to think off the top of your head when people ask you crazy questions is an undervalued attribute.  Convincing them that your response was a considered and knowledgeable one is also an ability unavailable on Linked in’s list of must have skills. It is important though most of all to encourage those with ideas
I know that I’m good at connecting ideas. Who knew that was a skill? I listen to people and I value their ideas. When I meet someone, else who feels the same way, I find a way of matching their ideas and connecting them up.
I love listening to other people’s ideas. The years and the 250 failed Dragon’s Den pitches across the kitchen table have taught me how to go gently with a person’s ideas. The many failures have taught me what not to do. They haven’t killed the spirit, but they have given me wisdom. They have allowed me to spot possible glitches or bugs and they help me to help others.
An idea does not travel alone, they travel in packs. The daft ones, the great ones, the life changing ones, the solutions, the unrealistic ones. You need to welcome them to stay en masse and then you need to know which ones to evict. Know that those who dream, don’t always have only good ideas, the few rogue ones slip in occasionally and you need to give employees the freedom to have them all.
It’s important to have ideas, it’s also important to know that they are not always good ones. It’s important to be around people who care and encourage you. If you have been  affected by any of themes here you need to head in the direction of Congregation. you may meet other sufferers and they may make you feel normal.
Remember Delboy does get his day.

Ideas and The Eagle #9 #cong18


Often ideas arise through “need or problem solving” whether it was the need to change, make money or because something is broken.  Throughout history things have become more complex as ideas have developed and the “needs/problems” of the human race have become more complex.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. The Eagle
  2. Problems
  3. Change
  4. Progress

About Carol Passemard:

I am in the business of transforming people’s lives.  My goal is to empower you to be Mindful and Encourage you to be the successful person you deserve to be. Imagine discovering the key that unlocks your full potential and in just 2 days!

Contacting Carol Passemard:

You can follow Carol on Facebook and her website.

By Carol Passemard

Recently Carmen came to work with me on a Breakthrough Retreat; she had travelled all the way from Brazil because she wanted to change the way things were in her life and had heard about me through a Brazilian friend I worked with a few years ago. Carmen brought with her a fascinating story about eagles. She told me this was why she was here and looking to change her own life just as the eagle did.

The Eagle story went like this: When an eagle reaches the age of 40 its talons become worn and they are unable to use them effectively to catch their prey, their sharp beaks become bent and their feathers are old, thick and heavy making flying more difficult.

It is said the eagle has the potential to live for 70 years but faced with two options – death or change.

In order to change the eagle flies up into the mountains to its nest and starts the process by knocking out it’s beak on the rocks so that a new beak can grow in its place. The eagle uses the new beak to pull out each talon and finally plucks out all of its feathers; allowing new talons and feathers to regrow. The whole process is laborious and painful but as the eagle is committed to living for another 30 years it is prepared to make these sacrifices.

I assured Carmen that she would not have to go through such a painful process working with me and that we had two days to get her to a place where she knew how to fly again!

My time with Carmen caused me to think about how we as a human race have evolved from early man as hunter gatherers to where we are now and that in fact it is through our need for change that we create new ideas whether it be to develop new tools to improve our efficiency in growing crops or in this day and age developing computers and the advent of artificial intelligence.

In the early years ideas developed slowly and the pace of life was dependent upon survival. Information around new ideas would have been passed on from generation to generation; through word of mouth and no doubt changed as newer generations developed their own ideas. Interesting books about the way we have developed are:

Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C Cowen
Values and the Evolution of Consciousness by Adriana S. James

Often ideas arise through “need or problem solving” whether it was the need to change, make money or because something is broken.

Throughout history things have become more complex as ideas have developed and the “needs/problems” of the human race have become more complex.

We are at a stage in life where there are now many ways to solve problems and choice has become an integral part of our lives.

In the 21st century with the advent of social media we have too many places to go to look for solutions. I believe we have reached an overload point

Here are 13 simple techniques that you may consider when faced with a problem that you want to fix and create new ideas:

1. What is the problem?
2. What do you have now?
3. Why do you need to change?
4. What specifically would you like instead?
5. What will this outcome do for you?
6. How are you going to know when you have come up with the best idea to fix your problem?
7. What are you going to see, hear, feel and say to yourself when you have come up with the best idea to resolve your problem?
8. Are there any negative emotions coming up that may stop you from achieving what you want to achieve?
9. When do you need to take action with your new idea?
10. Are there any specific benchmarks or timescales to consider?
11. What is your budget?
12. What is your idea going to get for you?
13. How committed are you to making this happen?

By answering these questions you can start to come up with thoughts and ideas that have the potential to overcome your problem.

If you already have a brilliant idea for something; find out if others have come up with similar problems and maybe your solution/idea could help them; in which case it becomes a possible way of making money. Or indeed they may have already come up with an idea the same as yours.

Make sure you do plenty of market research before you go too far down the route of developing your idea.

Create a business strategy and know when you need to stop if things are not quite going according to plan! This will save you time, money and stress.

If your idea is original, viable and attractive to others you will be in a much better position to sell it.

Where are our ideas going to take us in the future? Well we can continue to develop and grow through our ideas ensuring that they are not only beneficial for ourselves and our wider community but we also need to start thinking about what impact our idea is going to have on the planet. If we just create ideas that benefit our own pockets we are in danger destroying our precious planet.

Once the eagle has gone through its process of change it can go on living for another 30 years gliding around on the thermals, feeding on its most favoured prey and continue being the magnificent bird it was born to be.

Watch Carol’s submission below.

Listen to Carol’s #cong18 submission ‘Ideas and the Eagle’.