Saturday, December 15, 2007


I've never been one much for painting words into a corner. They wiggle too much for that. And I think by and large they should wiggle...

Enabling is something like helping, but it is also different. Enabling is more pivotal. It fulfills an essential articulation between action and failed attempt. But enabling never seeks hegemony.

Teachers enable more than help. It's a sort technology really. Enabling with regard to learning is a means to open up capacities that would otherwise probably sit dormant.

Enabling is not accidental. It need not be planned but it isn't pure serendipity as I mean to use it. You cannot accidentally facilitate a meeting as an enabling leader...that said, you can enable some outcome accidentally. That's a quibble.

By enabling leadership I mean something someone does to move someone from a place they are to a place they want to be under the moral weight of making a decision to assist. It is that moral weight, the feeling of it, that embodies the leadership I'd like to describe. And that weight is, to my mind, almost always suspended in tension with other desires and prospects.


Who do I define as my audience? I suppose my primary audience is myself, which seems an odd thing to write. But it is true to the extent that I write more out of an need to extend my thinking than I do to impress someone or move something. That is, in this avatar, I am not an activist. I am of course not without ego, but the main part of my work is to say things politely to myself. I am...learning, sort of.

What I take to be polite and what others do will, at times, differ. When I am in doubt, I will refer to my own standards and keep an open ear (and hopefully an open mind) about what others think. Collaboration and dialog matter a great deal, but so does individual responsibility which must be in tension sometimes with collaboration. Some things also cannot await collaboration. Action is its own imperative; writing is a form of action. One hopes (that is, I hope) that things always come back to a dialog...but I don't count on it, particularly in any sort of timely fashion.

Beyond myself, I would be flattered if teachers, learning scientists, human ecologists, social theorists, and people with interests in these areas found their way to this blog. In my last blogging effort, I was overwhelmed by the response. But I took the easy way out of linking to lots of other folks' good work. I don't expect as many readers here, and that's OK. I hope more for thoughtful participation than I do for "marketshare." I've never much believed in eyeballs as a measure. Whose eyeballs has always mattered more to me. I'm not selling anything, not even myself.

Terms and definitions

I'm something of a pragmatist when it comes to terms and definitions. In fact, I follow people like Bruno Latour and Michel Callon who people call "actor-network-theorists." In straightforward terms that implies I like to play a little loose and fast with definitions and terms.

That said, it is a waste of time to not say something. And there are better ways to waste time than writing. Writing is work.

Under the label "terms and definitions" I am going to try to wrestle with some awkward words that stand between me and communicating my ideas. We'll see if I make any progress.

Managing my digital life

I generally blog when I have something to say that merits 15 minutes or more of concentrated thought. That goes here from now on.

Random ideas and utterances generally go to Twitter.

Facebook is where I maintain an online identity...movies, pictures, games and whatnot.

LinkedIn and, to a lesser extent, Ning and Xing, are places where I have some professional or old friend interaction.

Email and google reader keep me up to date. I prefer to receive these on a big screen but I'm thinking I'll be moving to something like an iPhone sooner rather than later for a lot of it.

I use iGoogle and Google docs but I tend to edit in MS Word still. I know it well.

I love Tumblr as my clipboard.

I use Skype for VoIP (long distance phone calls for free to family using wireless links...) I also use Google Talk for this.

When in doubt, email me, but any of these will do. I more and more rely on twitter as my life begins to accelerate again.

What this blog is about...

I want to explore what I think is my own take on how leadership is evolving. I call that evolution "Leadership as Enabling." I got into the idea based on my own background in learning sciences and social studies of various forms.

The core idea is relatively simple: "Old leadership" was about identity. Identity is a way of gathering people to a common goal. It's politics are the politics of agenda. It's manifestation is organizational structure or institutions.

Because the world is increasingly interactive, people need identity less and support more. They are transitioning from institutions like nations, states, firms, and families to ad hoc linkages that are spontaneous, continuous, emergent and usually without leaders or agendas. We tend to gain esteem in these new spontaneous elements by our ability to adapt and to learn rather than our ability to command identity.

Collaboration, flatness of order, transparent governance and free association are important elements of these new forms.

Because I am interested in emergent organization, I research ecology in various forms, sociology, philosophy and learning sciences / teaching. My main area of application is the formation of responses to disasters--disaster relief. I also have a professional and personal interest in training enablers in governments and civil societies.

This is the merest pastiche of what I am talking about, but I hope something here clicks and you take an interest. Welcome.

Contact Ryan

I am on several Web 2.0 social nets and related systems:

  1. You can find me on Facebook under Ryan Lanham. I will generally agree to be friends if you explain who you are and why you want to know me.
  2. Same for LinkedIn.
  3. You can also find me on Twitter as Ryan_Lanham. Feel free to follow me.
  4. I have a SkypeIn number and my SkypeID is Ryan.Lanham1
  5. My email address is on the Blogger Profile page. I check in every few hours at least.
  6. I bookmark at Google, Delicious, Facebook and Magnolia. It's a mess.
  7. My scrapbook is at Tumblr.
Those are the main "virtual" places I hang out at these days. Look me up!

New Blog

Well, I'm starting afresh.

My old blog was on Wordpress and was called Identity Unknown. It was more a mashup of other people's stuff than my own. This will be substantially my own writing.

I keep a clip posting blog at
Feel free to look it over.

Opinions here are my own and no one else's. I alone am responsible for content.