How can I explain see-saw development?

I tried explaining see-saw development, then called re-co-venturing, to a friend a long time ago. It wasn’t easy.

“Oh, I do that through networking,” she said, and gave me a long list of the very impressive connections she had made with others, around her own venture. “And you need a short strap line that draws people in.”

“But what if,” I replied, “the idea of see-saw development is simply not something that is in people’s normal experience? What if it is far enough from their normal experience that a strap line just won’t be effective?” Because, I was thinking, when you give people those few strapline words, they understand them in terms of their own experience so far. If they don’t have that kind of experience, it will probably miss the mark, unless you are very lucky.

Now I’m quite ready to admit freely that I’m not so extravert that I’m always building up relationships with everyone I meet (though wouldn’t that be really great if it happened!). But from what my friend said, I was left feeling rather inadequate. Why can’t I use networking opportunities like other people do?

“Maybe even extraverts have something to learn in networking,” I felt like replying, but I couldn’t say just that, because networkers are experts — they are in their element in their kind of context. The fact is that when I’ve been supposedly networking (quite a lot actually for a relative introvert, over many years) the conversation has often had difficulty getting beyond the level of strap lines. So how might it go … “Hello, this is what I do,” you say. Do I relate to that? Of course, as a good networker, yes! “What a great idea! I can imagine … and this is what I am trying to do.” Will you relate to that, yes or no? Can I express enough in a couple of sentences to capture your attention? I mustn’t panic …

And, of course, often it doesn’t work. My friend went on to say, very sensibly and understandably, that what I might do in this situation is at least to make people curious. But how can I hope for that to be effective, in a world where we are all suffering from such a deluge of information that we seem to have barely any time to follow up our curiosity? Do I have to make some outrageous (and probably untrue) claim? Well, frankly, no, I’m not into that at all.

Perhaps I could give my problem a fancy Latin name. Let me see now … how about “reticulatio interruptus”? What could I give as the cause of this fancy-named syndrome?

On the one hand, it’s difficult to be sure whether the other networker is interested in knowing more about an idea, if it is difficult to encapsulate. Their eyes are likely to be glazing over, their gaze wandering, before real engagement. And how should it be otherwise? They have all come with their own agenda. A failure to connect — the ultimate networking faux pas, perhaps — and you’d better connect quickly, as time moves on …. Whoops! There goes another non-consummated meeting. And you can imagine what that does for one’s networking confidence.

Outside the networking context, I have often found that it can take up to an hour and a half really to get the measure of someone’s new idea, where there is no initial preparation. I allow that sort of time for discussing anyone’s PhD thesis. But maybe, with suitable preparation, a lot can be done in less time?

This whole issue provides a basis for explaining see-saw development. So here are a few key points.

Everyone prepares properly before the conversations.
The result is, there is no time needed for smalltalk. Everyone has prepared two briefs: one presenting themselves as a person who might be interested in the right venture; and another presenting the venture they have selected that day as worthwhile. Both sides have put in time and effort to conveying what they are presenting in a concise and clear way. This is a great help to starting useful feedback without wasting time getting there.
There is a pre-set agenda.
The conversations don’t have to start with lengthy negotiation about what to talk about. They are much less dependent on social expertise. Maybe this is a little like speed dating, where I guess the agenda is “do we fancy each other enough to go out for a longer date”. But see-saw development has a much richer agenda than speed dating, and needs more time. It’s reassuring here that people I’ve talked to suggest similar lengths of time. I’ve focused on 15 minutes overall.
There is a pre-set objective, though how to reach it is completely open.
The objective is to find a role for the individual with the venture. It doesn’t have to be a full-time role — it could be as small as giving one-off advice or sharing contacts. On the other hand it could be a role that is vital to the venture. In any case, it will be meaningful to both sides. The easily achievable objective means that people are very unlikely to be left hanging. Every conversation will be positive, meaning that confidence will build up.
Equal status is reinforced by role reversal.
In many recruitment situations, the employer has nearly all the power, the candidate very little. But in a see-saw development meeting, each participant meets each other one in both roles. This is likely to lead to mutual respect and equal status. This takes away a potential source of stress, as well as priming people to build up ideas on a collaborative basis.
The playing field is levelled for extravert and introvert.
In real life, very few ventures really want all one personality type, but standard networking greatly favours extraverts. By bringing all personality types together in a common framework, the various types can not only meet, but also have time to appreciate each other. Perhaps the extravert advantage wears off after a few minutes, and see-saw development gives this time to happen. The resulting mixture of personality types, and respect between them, is likely to lead to healthier ventures.
No gimmicks are needed.
This will be an enormous relief to people who don’t have the knack of showing off, or who don’t have naturally high levels of “emotional intelligence”. It is not only allowed, but positively encouraged, for everyone to present themselves as they genuinely are. And it’s not only the more introvert who gain. Because the less confident are more at ease, there will be fewer barriers hindering genuine communication between them and the more confident.
The format feels more secure, giving more confidence.
Building on the last point, the fact that there are fixed slots for conversations means that no one can just walk off and leave the other person after only a minute or two. Again, anxiety is likely to be reduced, meaning that all communications can be more open. Talking about values close to one’s heart is inherently risky, and people fear criticism. The secure format of see-saw development will help people to be comfortable taking those risks.
You don’t have to finish it all off straight away.
15 minutes is still not very long, but I’m betting that it is enough, when well prepared, to get a really good taste of whether, or when, the possible connection is worth following up. See-Saw development helps in this, as there are not that many participants at one meeting, and at the end of the meeting there is a time for people to get out their diaries and arrange to speak further.

I guess you’re understanding more now. I would find it really hard to put that all across in one strap line. Even the straplines I’ve actually used — “advancing our ideas and ourselves” “developing ideas for people” — may not bring the right things to people’s minds in advance. Maybe what I have are “un-strap lines” rather than strap lines. Or “slow straplines.” Or “backstrap lines.” They work backwards — they’ll make sense when you know what I’m talking about, but not really until then.

Then — now I hope — perhaps you’ll be able to share with me the optimism that this really is different, and could open up exciting new possibilities for many good people.

Welcome to the world of the See-Saw. Read the web pages if you like, where among other things I explain the name, then arrange to come and try it!

Personal development

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