In January 2015, I teamed up with Chris Sadler to bring the Global Jam community to my home town Birmingham. So far, I have worked with Chris to design and facilitate four of these events for the city. Having been through the process so many times with different people, I’ve seen many different ways it can have a positive impact on their lives. As a team, we don’t necessarily do anything dramatically different with each jam, but the people really make it amazing, and this is why I’m still involved and looking forward to the Gov Jam at the end of this month.
As we prepare to run Birmingham’s 5th Global Jam, I thought I’d take a moment to share a little insight into why I still Jam personally.
I was that 90s kid who always wanted to make stuff. Whether it was hacking something together with cereal boxes and paper mache to create something useful I saw on ‘CBBC’s Bitsa’ or collecting all the parts to build a ‘Real Robot’ through a magazine subscription, I had the guts to tinker with, and try just about anything, and when things failed, I would get over it quickly and move on to the next thing.
In many ways, this ethos of creativity, improvisation and experimentation is something I have carried with me into my working life but as I progressed further and further into the working world and took on more responsibility, the stakes got higher. I became more risk-averse and the working cultures and environments found myself in slowly chipped away at the space to safely explore and experiment which I found fulfilling. I began to lose this motivation to try new things and instead I would just repeat what I already knew worked, only making minor changes where necessary.
Take one role I worked in for example. I was responsible for developing the organization’s digital presence on various social media channels. After months of trying lots of new things, developing ‘best practice’ and inventing ways of doing using the latest social media platforms and other digital tools, it came to a point where I realised that any real progress would actually require us to find different ways of working together. This was something much bigger and beyond my remit to experiment with. I had no idea where to begin and it didn’t feel safe to start making suggestions, it felt like I’d hit a glass ceiling. Nevertheless, I stayed ‘in my box’ for a while and continued to do what I’d always done, keeping things ticking over making things a little bit better day-to-day.
The sense that we needed to change the way we were work in order to really seize the opportunities digital had to offer was something that remained in the back of my mind. However, I knew there were some things I needed to learn first. Eventually, fate and the internet connected me to this school called Hyper Island, whose philosophy really intrigued me as it was all about learning by doing and learning through failure. My intuition told me to explore Hyper Island a bit further and this resulted in me attending in 2014 and completing their Master’s course in Digital Media Management.
Among many things at Hyper Island, I was introduced to design thinking and how this could be utilised as a collaborative approach to addressing big complex problems in short periods of time. Hyper Island had this way of creating spaces where people feel safe to experiment and test new ideas and bringing together diverse groups of people with their expertise, skills, and talents that I had never experienced before. Through a variety of talks from professionals across many different industries, I began to understand that the world is changing a lot and that I was not alone in my experience. This change is affecting organisations across all sectors and it’s an opportunity for us to collaborate in different ways use our creativity in order to think about new possibilities for the way we work and do business.
My Hyper Island experience was life-changing, as it helped me to find a meaningful context for my desire to tinker, experiment and improvise. Young Daniel from the 90s was reborn and I was in my element when using craft materials and role playing to simulate our ideas and help some companies really think through their digital challenges.
When the time came to come back to Birmingham, it dawned on me that there are probably many people who like I was, are doing business as usual but recognise the need to try something a bit different. This is why I believe in building the Global Jams in Birmingham. It is a space where everyone can experience another way of working together and use their creativity to think about, and do things differently.
Both as a child and as a Masters student, the continuous exposure to new ideas perspectives and the sense that anything is possible is what gave me the confidence to continue trying new things. I believe that if we can create these kinds of spaces for everyone, we can go some way to making positive change in our city.
I’m Daniel Blyden and #ThisIsWhyIJam.