To Teeside in a pacer for the UHMLG Summer Conference themed around “Failing to succeed”. The UHMLG summer conference is a bit different – quite small and definitely perfectly formed it has more of a workshop feel than most (NB – I am on the UHMLG committee). This edition was no exception with a first afternoon workshop followed by a mix of sessions on the second day and a manageable sized attendance. The glorious sunshine in Middlesbrough was a treat and the venues were convenient.
After a quick carb up lunch (pizza and wedges FTW) we spent a useful afternoon thinking about failure led by Andy Priestner. Recognising that failure is valuable learning and a part of life we thought about how we might better set cultures that enabled having something fail not become something that feels like it has to be hidden. The session drew on Andy’s and our own experiences of different forms of failure. There were lessons from his work in UX where failing quickly and cheaply allows for rapid progress of ideas. Libraries are small c conservative institutions as a rule and this can make accepting failure hard. I liked the warning against “caretaker management” – just keeping things ticking along rather than seeking to match or provoke the progress the people we work with need. Andy was happy that no one was going to die due to things we had done which provoked discussion around the genuine anxiety the potential for patient death can cause in some around health information work. In the end we are not the ones that make the clinical decision! Something to follow up was the “How to fail” podcast that a number of people had enjoyed. It was a great presentation with useful sharing exercises.
I found the next section of the workshop worked less well for me. I think this was as I had already used the ideation techniques Andy took us through in other contexts and didn’t find they sat quite right with the question we were tackling. We did have useful conversations around how we might better support a positive culture around when things we try don’t come off.
A take away was that your perceived failure may be viewed as a success by others. I would suggest this is more the case than the opposite given the difficulty most of us experience with self compassion.
After a happy, chatty social evening meal it was great to have a #Libraruns morning outing with Tom, Eli and Brian Clough.
The first two lead a session on Imposter Syndrome something I suspect old big head would not have suffered from.
I freely admit to being a bit dubious of the rise of this as a condition. I was certainly an outlier in not recognising it in myself in any recent times. On reflection I put this down to a combination of things. Firstly I am in a fairly sweet spot professionally – I have been around for a fair while and feel ok that I know what I am talking about – I am in a good job for me. Secondly I am a privileged person – as a white man things are generally easier for me and library land is a space where there are few questions about my presence (the days of being told I am awfully young for a library manager are some way behind me). Finally I suspect that where I am flailing out of my depth I am OK with this just being somewhere I need to learn things rather than it being down to me being an interloper (or it could be that I am a sociopath).
Conversely my being in a minority on imposter syndrome means I need to be rather more sensitive to it than I am. Clearly this is a significant issue for many people and the discussion of tactics to address it was useful for me to think about how I approach colleagues who may experience this acutely.
I delivered a lightning talk on how a LibUX experiment blew up in my face
Key learning here – check the politics and talk to more people. Probably always good advice!
After some other bits the final speaker was Olivia Remes on How to cope with anxiety and bounce back in life. You can get a good feel for this session by watching her TEDTalk. After a run through of some of the forms of anxiety (clinically speaking) and some of the causes she ran through ways to cope / coping strategies. Self compassion is a good place to start and a number of the strategies related to this. An idea I had not met before and liked was “Wait to worry” – essentially you book a time to worry about a specific thing rather than have it sitting on you the whole time. I could see this being very effective to park an issue and prevent it escalating in your mind.
I had a bit of time to kill before my (failure of a) train home so went for a wander round Middlesbrough – I can recommend a look at the transporter bridge, the “Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? With Black Artists & Modernism” and a cold drink at the station on another scorching day in the North East.