Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Live for yourself, because tomorrow never comes! It's always today!"

When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, there was one channel on the radio my friends and I always listened to. Naturally it was one of the city's black stations, an R&B station that had the best tunes and the hippest DJs. My favorite would always sign off at the end of his show with his trademark saying, "Live for yourself, because tomorrow never comes, it's always today."
We can debate the "live for yourself" part, but I was thinking about the "it's always today" part yesterday, after having a long and thoughtful lunch-conversation with my old and dear friend Juanita Brown.
Almost exactly 15 years ago, Juanita invited about 24 people to her living room for a conversation about, well, conversation. The idea was that we were headed toward a knowledge economy, an economy of ideas and information. The question was, how would knowledge and information, conversation and dialog turn into a useful tool for companies and communities to effect meaningful, positive, powerful change?
It was a rainy day, so instead of meeting outside on the deck in a circle, Juanita and her partner, David, got out a bunch of fold-up tables for us to sit at. A graphic note-taker suggested putting "table-cloths" on them--butcher paper. Juanita put a flower on each table. The note-taker put crayons out for each table. It was all spontaneous.
Each table talked about the questions that were, literally, on the table, scribbled and made notes. After 20 minutes, one person stayed behind at each table, the three others fanned out to sit at other tables.
After a couple of hours, Juanita collected the "table-cloths" spread them out on the floor, and put another large piece of butcher paper in the middle: What were the common themes from the smaller pieces of paper? What were the ideas that had surfaced and how did they tie together?
There was no planning, no agenda, no prescribed outcome.
But in that moment of creativity, the World Cafe movement was born.
Then Juanita and David and their friends wrote a book on how to have your own World Cafe.
It got translated into about a dozen languages. The idea grew that you could have process innovation to generate social innovation. It spread all over the world.
January 30 was the 15th birthday of The World Cafe--an unplanned birth, you might say.
So here's the question: What's the innovation you could create today--if you stopped planning it?
15 years from now, you might be celebrating another birthday--of your idea.
So go for yourself! Tomorrow never comes, it's always today!

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb