Thursday, July 11, 2013

Notes from Brussels Conversations - Joe Kearns


The notes below are my personal recording of ideas, comments and dialogue during the week-end's conversation. As Marco Croci pointed out in the first Conversations meeting in Milan, we are all responsible for our own learning. These are my, rather random, learnings. I have tried to attribute comments to those who made them where I remembered to note that. Where the comments are unattributed please forgive me if your wonderful insight was not recorded as coming from you - everyone contributed great insights! Text in red is comment by me after the week-end

Please not also that the attributions here reflect the groups I was in.

Joe Kearns 
11 July 2013

Abbreviated names:

JB- Jo Bastiaens
KB - Kristin Brogan
MC - Marie-Therese Claes
MD - Marie Dancourt-Cavanagh
ME - Matthias Enderle
JF - John Field
JK - Joe Kearns
TK - Tony Kearns
JR - Jacquelyn Reeves
SS - Sonja Sch├╝tz
EV - Elio Vera
SW - Steven  Wellens

ML - Marijke Lemal
SB - Sujata Banerjee

- Saturday 29th June 2013 -

Conversation 1 : Student experience abroad

Notes from my group:  
(Jo Bastiaens, Joe Kearns, Marie Dancourt-Cavanagh, Sujata Banerjee, Kristin Brogan)

Experience of Indian students abroad – Sujata talked about Collectivist Culture

Student’s ability to absorb language or learn about culture is driven by motivation. 
  • Thought – It is important to reveal to them at some stage or for them to come to understand the very existence of culture and its importance. The very existence of culture is not obvious to most people. (JK)
Positive aspect of technology – Allows them to continue contact with their overseas friends when they return. May lead to a deeper understanding of another culture. 
Technology is only a means to an end.

Why are we using the technology? What is the purpose?

Is our memory capacity and concentration negatively impacted by Internet use?

BOOKDigital Dementia. The effects of internet use on our minds. Click to read more

The amount of time you have available to you is still the same! How much does the Internet take up?

Internet as a source of knowledge. 
  • Thought: Child learning to ride a bicycle. They can watch all the videos they like but until they physically get a bike and ride it they won’t learn. Physical activity helps you to remember things – on the Internet everything is flat and it becomes hard to remember.  (JK)

With virtual people – do you care about them? 
  • Thought: Is physical presence and interaction a pre-requisite for caring about another human being?  The people on my list for the Conversations that I have met are more real to me than those I have not met. (JK)
Explicit vs. Implicit: In an online environment there is a greater need to be explicit. Hard for some cultures. 

Feedback from other groups

Is Erasmus working? Why are people doing it? Job prospects enhancement? Global Need?

Social media as an online preparation for overseas experience.

Learning vs. Integration: Do people continue to learn as they Integrate? Or do they reach a plateau or even decline in cultural sensitivity with exposure?

Different words used in different places for the experience of cultures meeting:
  • Assimilation
  • Acculturation
  • Bi-cultural

Conversation 2 : Virtual teams/work

     Notes from my group
          (Marijke Lemal, Kristin Brogan, Tony Kearns, Joe Kearns)

(ML) Internal Social Media Use in Government departments. Jammer (like facebook for internal use) . Some people known as ‘lurkers’ who are on the system watching others but don’t contribute.

Organisation culture can drive positive or negative use of tools

Talk about hiring policy: What kind of people do you hire to work on a virtual team – low social skills(?!)

Digital Natives – just because they grew up with the technology does not mean they are any good at it!! (ML)

How often should a virtual team meet? Depends……

Second Life – there is now a Virtual University in Virtual Life! 
  • Thought – Yes but would any normal person want to use it! (JK)
Snapchat: take a photo, share it and then it auto-deletes after 10 mins or so. (ML)

Some talk on burnout in virtual teams.

Mix of some people virtual and some people local – bad idea. My experience in hp

Problems of speech cadence. Japanese vs French for example

Going from face-to-face to virtual simply to save costs without considering the long term downsides – bad move

Feedback from other groups:
When is it good for Virtual Teams to meet?

Task oriented might be more suited to virtual teams.

Example of Indian and German engineers (ME)

Nature of the task is critical to how a virtual team should work

Power – there are major issues of Power in virtual teams. 
  • Thought: these derive from things like, language, base of the parent company, historical issues (nationality), perceptions of rank/status. (JK)
Trust and Commitment are higher when people have met face to face.  
  • Thought: the quality of the meetings and shared experience can greatly enhance this trust/commitment. There may also be an argument that negative face-to-face experiences might make virtual work difficult or even impossible. (JK)
The clearer the task the more likely virtual teams will succeed
  • Thought:How do things like Motivation, Reward, Job Satisfaction and Achievement manifest themselves in a virtual team. (JK) 
  • Thought:Most people have a mix of virtual and real environments. (JK)
How do team members stay engaged? 
  • Thought: what makes them care! Fear?
What do managers need to know when moving to virtual team management? 
Remember the Yahoo! Story where people were told to return to their desks.

Culture of the organisation may have to change to manage virtual teams. Teams may need to be more autonomous and flexible to succeed and the org culture needs to support that.

-SUNDAY 20th June 2013-

Presentation by Jo of Hanna Mamzer's work. 

Big discussion about how software shapes the persona you have online. Tools like facebook constrain your personality and reduce imaginative opportunities (ME) 

Big discussion about multiple identities online – Jacquelyn suggesting it is no different to the way we, in the past, had different personas for family, work, friends etc. 

  • Note - in our discussions on the impact of the Internet on modern life we often break down into group who see the change as fundamental, like the Gutenberg printing press, or simply a reflection of things that already exist. This is an endless debate and only time will tell which group is right :)

Conversation 3 : Mental well being 
(Matthias Enderle, Jacquelyn Reeves, Tony Kearns, Joe Kearns)

The fact that we are not sick does not mean that you are well. Things may be building up (TK)

In what ways can someone be unwell?

Feeling of constant panic – raised adrenalin (JR)

Constant flight or fight mode (JR)

If you check and email your brain is busy for 15 minutes afterwards (JR)

Constant email checking – asking “Am I Loved?”  Ditto for facebook, etc. (JR)

Concept of "New Technology Stress". Constant fear that you will miss something and fall behind. (JK)

Changing of behaviours – US Form filling culture becoming pervasive (JR)

Loss of personalisation. The very design of the fields in various tools such as facebook or LinkedIn force you into a certain ‘profile’. They distort you and do not allow flexibility to create a true picture of yourself. 
Tools give an illusion of creating ‘me’

Question about virtual teams and the level of ‘sick days’ or absence – is this measurable? It would be interesting to know if people are out 'sick' more often in virtual teams. (JR)

Virtual teams are constantly changing their make up. Very often matrix management. Who is your ‘boss’? Is ‘boss’ an appropriate 'title'? Is the lead role a manager, mentor, leader? How is this evolving? (JK)
The very culture of the organisation needs to evolve to meet the needs of an environment with constantly changing team structures and the role of leaders or managers.  (JK)
How does a company offer support for people working virtually? What is the role of HR? Depends on the company culture.
Book – “Poor Economics” Banarjee and Duflo ( (SB)

Issue of Psychological Illness for people spending a lot of time online. (JK –

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Below are the meeting arrangements:

Fri 14:00 - For those already in Brussels meet at the Hotel le Berger from where we will visit a suitable weather-appropriate part of Brussels. Coffee mid-afternoon at a suitable venue.

Fri 18:30 - For those available for dinner meet at the Hotel le Berger from where we will go for dinner to

Sat 09:00 - Meet at the PianoFabrik  rue du Fort 35, . We will aim to start at 09:30

Further directions on Sat :)

Things to read before the conversations - food for thought:

In order of most interest
  1. Talk to graduating students - particularly the last15 minutes
  2. Google watching us 
  3. Surveillance