Dangercast #8 – Learning Over Expertise

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Ankit Sura discuss the Gangplank Manifesto: Learning over Expertise

Transcript:

Jade Meskill:  Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Dangercast, where we talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Ankit Sura:  I’m Ankit Sura.

Derek Neighbors:  And I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade:  Today we wanted to talk about…continuing to talk about the Gangplank manifesto. We’re up to “Learning over Expertise.”

Derek:  Do we have an expert to talk about this?

Ankit:  I’m just learning what’s happening around here.

Derek:  Perfect.

Jade:  We came up with this. We were faced with a lot of people who like to project themselves as the experts. The problem with experts is they tend to shut down conversation and exploration for other people who don’t feel that comfortable.

Just like the other values of the manifesto, it’s not that we don’t value expertise. It is very important. It’s something that we think is useful. It’s that we value learning so much more than somebody who claims to be an expert.

Derek:  A lot of it goes back to some of our work with agility and the concept of inspect and adapt. If you’re constantly challenging the status quo it means that you’re doing stuff there are no experts on. You can only be an expert on something that already exists and already has a large body of work.

If you want to do something new that nobody else has really done before, by default you can’t really be an expert because everybody is learning what that is. The second thing we wanted to push in is, a lot of times when you are exposed to something and an expert is the one teaching it to you, not only do you feel inferior, but oftentimes you will not actually learn.

You’ll take it from rote memory. “Give me the cheat sheet, I’ll just use the cheat sheet that the expert gave me,” instead of taking the time to really learn what that is and master it yourself. We wanted to reinforce that the culture we want to create is that you should always be learning.

It goes back to “Be Dangerous.” Be Dangerous is always doing stuff that is so new to you that you feel uncomfortable, that’s part of being dangerous. The only way you can do that is be in learning mode all the time. If you’re in a situation, you’re like, “I totally got this, no sweat, no problem. I’m not challenging myself.” You’re not challenging yourself, that’s the problem.

Ankit:  On this note, actually, something very interesting comes into my head. “The Learning Organization” by Peter Senge, I forgot the name.

How do we create an enterprise, an organization which is constantly learning, but coming to a space where people are working in different settings? How to facilitate learning between different people in a space requires a culture, and probably this ethos that we are emphasizing over here is trying to cultivate that. That’s how I feel.

Jade:  There is no expert of how to be in Gangplank. It’s never been done before, we’re doing new things. We have to build that into the culture. It has to be based around teaching other people to be comfortable with learning new things, or we’re never going to go anywhere.

Derek:  Some of that is part of the culture is rewarding people who learn. When people take risks and say, “I’m not the expert, but I’m willing to learn it,” we should be rewarding that. The culture should reinforce that behavior and say, “That’s good, do more of that.” We try to put things in place where we don’t hold people’s hands a lot.

When you walk into Gangplank for the first time, it’s kind of scary. You don’t know what to do. You have to learn how to go through even that process. Just to engage in Gangplank is a learning thing, and you see it in people’s eyes. They walk in the door. They look around a little bit. “Maybe I’m supposed to fill this out, maybe I’m not supposed to do this…”

But they learn, and they figure it out. It’s how do we create interactions, how do we create mindsets that propagate that? If you come in here and you’re like, “I’m the expert at this, and you should listen to me because I’m the expert,” people should reject that almost instantly, and you see that.

Jade:  And they do.

Derek:  When we see [indecipherable 04:34] speakers come in, or prisoners come in, and they come off with that ego of, “I know everything.” People round here are like, “Yeah, their ideas are tired and old. They think they know everything. Let’s move onto something more important.” Which I think is great.

Jade:  So you’re pretty new to the community and you said you’re still learning some things. How have you felt? When you walked into the Gangplank community for the first time, could you feel that learning was very important around here?

Ankit:  Let me build on what Derek just mentioned. When you go in the process of learning itself, stepping in the door, it happened with me too. I just read Gangplank, on the website, what it was. It’s a free co‑working space. I couldn’t believe it then, all the beautiful stuff that was there. I came over here and entered.

Someone walked up to me that was Brian at that time. He walked up to me, leaving his work, and said, “Are you new over here? Do you want a tour?” Gave me the feel of the space, what the space is all about. When I got the feel, and afterward they’re summarizing it with the manifesto, introducing me to what they believe in, what this is all ‑‑ why does he hear, why?

When I understood that, it just clicked. Then you just have to get to know people, introduce yourself, what you do and what they do. Learn about the people, get to know them. That’s where the relationship building process starts. Learning happens with good relationships that you’re building on.

Derek:  That’s a great point. I think one of the things that we’re building is a culture of sharing. If you see somebody struggling, the deer in the headlights, you see that, that you’re willing to help teach. If you’re going to build an organization that says we value learning, you also have to build a culture that says that we value people teaching new things.

That goes hand in hand. You see it a lot when people come in. They’ll say, “I need this.” Usually people won’t say, “I’ll give you that,” they’ll say, “I can teach you how to do that,” which is a very different thing. If you’re willing to own learning how to do it, I’ll help you. If you just want me to do it for you, I’m not really interested in that.

That is a big part of the culture and building those relationships. I think the other part of having a strong learning culture is that people understand and collect who knows what. “Hey, maybe I don’t know Spanish, but I know so‑and‑so talks Spanish. If you want to learn Spanish, you should maybe talk to so‑and‑so.”

Ankit:  Go to…

[crosstalk]

Derek:  Yeah. It fosters or propagates learning. When you do that through relationships…If Jade wants something and I know you know how to do it, and I say, “You want to learn that?” I make that introduction, Jade is more likely to teach you it because there’s a relationship there, even though maybe you two don’t know each other.

Those are all corresponding things within Gangplank. When we talk about Gangplank the collective, that’s what we’re really talking about. How do we start to connect nodes on the system? Whether they be physically in or outside of the buildings that we have, how do we connect those nodes to continue learning, and to foster even more deep connection and learning?

Ankit:  Derek, since you have been with Gangplank ‑‑ and Jade, you two have been with Gangplank for a very long time. I’m a very new person in this enormous, beautiful concept. Could you give me an idea of how the offline physical learning, physical interaction is happening and how are you building on the virtual learning, learning that’s happening in virtual spaces? What’s happening there, how are you doing that?

I see some things happening there too.

Jade:  That’s something that we still haven’t mastered. We’re definitely not experts in that area. We were very focused on the physical connections and face‑to‑face for a very long time because it is critical to building a strong community. Now we’re starting to experiment with some other ways of connecting.

Now we have multiple Gangplank locations, we have communities that are starting to be built that don’t have a physical location. We’re experimenting with a whole bunch of different ways of helping them to learn and teach each other. Really, it comes down to having presence with each other. We’re experimenting a lot in those areas.

We are learning a ton on what is working, what isn’t working. We are certainly not experts in this area, and I think some of the unique nature of Gangplank itself ‑‑ there really are no experts at all for what we’re trying to build because this is a very unique thing. To tie that back into the teaching thing, my favorite way of learning ‑‑ and I love to learn ‑‑ is by teaching people.

When you’re truly teaching, you’re not just dumping knowledge into their head. You’re exploring, together, what the possibilities are. I usually learn so much when I’m helping someone to learn something new. They’re always teaching me something.

Ankit:  That’s actually true. When someone teaches, they actually learn themselves.

Jade:  Of course. I find no better way. To really know something, I need to be able to teach it to someone.

Ankit:  You actually become better and better at it.

Jade:  Somebody who doesn’t know anything, they can ask the questions that you can’t think of any more when you think that you know something.

Derek:  Or they need it explained in a way that is difficult for you, which opens up new ways for how you think about it. I also think there’s a lot to be said on helping somebody to do something. Maybe I know how to do it, I don’t do it for them, but I have them do it and I help them do it. That tends to unlock a couple of things. It tends to unlock a better understanding.

Watching somebody else do something that I know how to do makes me understand how even I do it better, because I have to explain to them the intricacies that are committed to my memory, or my muscle reflex, that I don’t think about. You see this when a guitarist that’s really experienced teaches someone who’s not experienced.

They’re like, “Just do this.” When the person doesn’t get it, you can see their head think…

[crosstalk]

Jade:  …Just do a G‑shaped bar chord, and then blah, blah, blah….

Ankit:  This is like implicit and explicit knowledge, something, something.

Derek:  The other thing it does is it really creates a bond or connection between the teacher and the student. That bond is part of what really makes Gangplank. It builds that vulnerability and trust. It takes an enormous amount of vulnerability to say, “I don’t know to do something. I’m an infant, I don’t know to eat, I don’t know how to drink.”

Even if it’s, “I don’t know how to play guitar,” I have to admit that and say, “I’m totally at your mercy. I don’t know how to do this.” Taking that responsibility and walking in that person’s vulnerability to help show them how to do it and grow with them creates this event between the participants that then carries on to other things.

Ankit:  Gangplank is a great place to start just coming over here and learning. Learning is a lifelong process and it just goes on. This environment that I have experienced over a short period is that learning can never end, because there is so much somebody knows.

Different people know different things, and you can just go on talking about different things, learning new things, having new experiences, through other people’s experiences.

Jade:  One of the things we’ve tried to do from the very beginning is make it OK, and make it easy, to fail. That’s a fast track to learning. If I can try something and find out that it doesn’t work, I’ve learned a whole lot along that way. Now I have the confidence to try something else because I tried it and it didn’t work, but it wasn’t really that painful, right?

I failed, but now all these people know I want to do this and they’re all going to help me, teach me. I’m going to learn new things.

Derek:  The other thing, too, is it allows people to try new things. Sometimes it’s not even that I fail. I might even be doing OK at it, but it’s like, “I really thought I wanted to play guitar, and then I went to some lessons, and that’s not really want I want to do. What I really want to do is digital music and mess with things with the computer.”

It gives people that ability to not have a whole lot of pressure. When you have this expert coming up and telling you all this, and it’s all really formal, it’s a lot harder to say, “This isn’t really for me.” It’s like opening up a book, reading the first chapter, and saying, “I don’t really care for this book, but because I bought the book, I’m going to read the whole thing anyway.”

[laughter]

Derek:  The same thing happens when you get too formalized in learning. “I already paid for the class, I’m two classes in, I’m just going to stick it out because…Whatever.” If it’s a much more informal thing, it’s like, “That wasn’t really for me, but this other tangential thing is,” and nobody really looks down on you on it.

“Oh my gosh, you didn’t get the degree in whatever it is you were wanting to learn?” Doesn’t matter. Just move on and explore what you want to explore. That’s another part of it, is exploring. I think Gangplank creates a culture where it really encourages you to explore. I almost think of it as like temptation heaven for people that want to learn.

[laughter]

Derek:  There’s so much stuff going on that is interesting. You walk in here and it’s like, “But I want to learn that, and this, and I only have an hour here! How am I going to…I want to build a 3D model, I want to print, do music and I want to hear this podcast…”

Ankit:  You have to get focused, right?

Derek:  Now I have to choose, right? When my son comes here, that’s one thing he really articulates. There’s so much to do, it leaves him a hunger for “I want to come back because there’s other stuff I want to try.” If you don’t have that learning environment built in, it’s all about becoming the expert. If you don’t do that immediately it just sucks, it’s like a grind.

Jade:  We’ve been doing this for a long time and I still feel that every week. There’re still new things for me to learn, new things for me to try. It never runs out.

Ankit:  It’s fun, actually. Learning is fun.

Jade:  Great fun. I would’ve quit a long time ago if there wasn’t more opportunities to learn.

Derek:  It’s funny you say learning is fun, because I don’t know if we’ve got anything around fun in the manifesto. I don’t believe we necessarily do, but I think at least for Jade and I, learning is fun. For us, that was a big part of ‑‑ being the expert feels like the suit and tie kind of…

Jade:  It’s a burden to carry.

Derek:  It’s a burden. Learning implies when you make a mistake, nobody can criticize it because, “Hey man, I’m learning. I didn’t know any better.”

[laughter]

Derek:  “I’m sorry I blew up the car, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to cross those two wires.” I think that some of the element of Gangplank’s fun is that playful curiosity of a young child learning. I think that’s in the spirit of the culture as well, is that it’s OK to play. Learning is playing and playing is learning, so play a lot.

Ankit:  That’s like being dangerous, right?

Derek:  Yeah, sure.

Jade:  Awesome. Well, that’s all the time we have. Join us again next week, when we talk about “People over Personalities.” Thanks.

play audio Dangercast #8   Learning Over Expertise

Chandler Community Meeting Notes 11-6-13

Meeting notes (from Stephanie Liebold):

If you have a topic for a community meeting that you need more time to discuss, present the topic at a meeting and then be willing to facilitate it at an upcoming meeting (we can advertise the topic if desired).

Trish is giving an hour to Gangplank Chandler projects, such as cleaning, creating flyers, etc. Tuesdays at 5pm. If she’s planning to do a particular project, she’ll post it. Everyone doesn’t need to join, but you’re welcome to join her.

The CCCC food drive is going on now. Details are on the DCCP blog.

Rock the Block is this weekend. We need volunteers to give Gangplank tours, even if you can only be here 1 hr.

Upcoming events:
Desert Code Camp’s after party will be in the Itericom space. Need keyholder to be there.
AZEC is a week from today (11/13).
We’ll do a complete move out of the space – couches, everything will be moved to back, except arcade games, which will be moved elsewhere. Breakdown for this will start at 3pm 11/12.
If you have a desk, please plan to break down then. If not, we can still use help.
Basically everything else for Weds. is cancelled. You may be able to do Hacknight after 7pm. Kevin’s improv class is still on.
Move desks will go back in the main space Weds. night in a new layout.
Francine needs extra ice chests/coolers for drinks. Please bring them Tue. (GP has some buckets, but she may need more.)
Startup weekend doesn’t require move out.

Construction on 260: We are waiting to be cleared by the city to start.

Chandler Fire Department Open House

The Chandler Fire Department is holding a free open house for the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Fire Station No. 8 at 711 West Frye Road. The event is part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to educate residents about the services provided by Chandler Fire, and to share safety, fire prevention and emergency preparedness information with the public.

chandlerfire Chandler Fire Department Open House

Copyright PJ Geraghty

In addition to tours of the station, there will also be fire truck & apparatus displays and demonstrations, drowning prevention information, and children will get hands on instruction on how to get out of a smoke filled environment at the Fire Safety House display. Department mascots will also be on hand, and free balloons and fire helmets will be available for children. 

Throughout the event, Fire Department staff will be available to talk about the Crisis Response volunteer program, smoke alarm program, Fire Cadet program, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

This open house will also feature instruction on Hands-OnlyTM CPR, which when performed by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as “conventional” CPR in emergencies that occur at home, work or in public. There are only two steps to remember: Call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Fire Station No. 8 is located on the south side of west Frye Road between Alma School Road and Arizona Avenue. For more information about the open house, please call 480-782-2120.

The Maker Summit

logo The Maker Summit
makersummitheader The Maker Summit
The Maker Summit
You are invited to attend the inaugural Maker Summit, a gathering of like-minded community members who are actively engaged in the Phoenix Valley maker movement. Get to know other Valley leaders, educators and resources for making; make some cool take-home stuff; create a plan to build the maker community; and enjoy some tasty local catering!

Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013
8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center
249 E. Chicago Street, Chandler, AZ 85225 [map]

davidlang The Maker Summit
Summit Highlights:

  • Enjoy our keynote address by renowned maker David Lang, co-founder of OpenROV, contributing editor to Make: Magazine, author of “Zero to Maker,” and 2013 TED Fellow.
  • Participate in a speed-networking activity and connect with other makers, maker space leaders and maker educators
  • Join breakout sessions that explore topics such as developing maker spaces, teaching STEM through making, how to make for a living and the economic impact of makers.
  • Engage in hands-on workshops conducted by TechShop staff to build a cool take-away
  • Be one of the first to get a sneak peek tour of the soon-to-open ASU Chandler Innovation Center, including TechShop Chandler

makersummit The Maker Summit
The first 20 registrants will receive a free signed copy of David Lang’s new book, “Zero to Maker.” Registration is $15 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

Register to Attend
register The Maker Summit

Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible. The registration deadline is Monday, Nov. 11.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Katherine.m.clemens@asu.edu.

Find College of Technology & Innovation on
Facebook: ASUCTI / Twitter: @ASUCTI / Instagram: ASUCTI

Social Media Boot Camp November 2, 2013

To learn more, please visit http://www.meetup.com/Gangplank-Avondale/events/145437152/

“Social Media Bootcamp” is an immersive experience in learning and improving all areas of your social media marketing . There will be classes ranging from Intro to Twitter, G+, Linkedin, Facebook, and Youtube to classes that help you to create better content. We will also have mentors to help critique your current social media accounts and a photographer to provide head shots.

When you are not in a workshop, enjoy our drop in collaborative workspace. Bring your laptop and work on creating social media accounts, get expert feedback and critiques from fellow social media users, and develop content for your social media or just work on a project while sharing the fun collaborative atmosphere.

Please note that for the weekend, our drop-in space will be on our second floor which is unfortunately not ADA accessible.

To learn more, please visit http://www.meetup.com/Gangplank-Avondale/events/145437152/

Episode #7 – Boldness over Assurance

Clayton Lengel-Zigich, Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors and Jade Meskill discuss the next item in the Gangplank Manifesto: boldness over assurance.

 

Transcript

Jade Meskill:  Hello, welcome to another episode of “The Danger Cast” where we talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Roy van de Water:  I’m Roy van de Water.

Clayton Lengel‑Zigich:  I’m Clayton Lengel‑Zigich.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade: We’re continuing our series and talking about the Gangplank manifesto. We are up to boldness over assurance.

Derek: I don’t know if I feel comfortable talking about this.

[laughter]

Jade: Let me assure you, Derek, it will be OK.

Roy: I am only participating because you said this would be good.

Clayton: Is it all right if I participate in this broadcast?

Jade: We’re demonstrating how assurance might work.

Roy: Cut all the jokes out.

[laughter]

Jade: Derek, you remember why this came up?

Derek: I am trying to rack my brain on this, I am not remembering an exact example or an exact reason why this came up, but I think it was more that people had scary ideas a lot, but they wouldn’t really act on them.

I think part of what Gangplank started to do was be like the teenage catalyst that like, “Hey, it’d be really cool if we lit a can of hair spray on fire.”

Roy: I did that once.

Derek: Normally, you’d think, “I wouldn’t do that, that’s dangerous,” but instead Gangplank became a place like, “Yeah, you should totally light that on fire. You should throw it.” It escalated to that…

[laughter]

Derek: “You know what would be cool, if we’d throw the whole propane on the fire. That would be awesome.”

Roy: Then we made it into a kid’s event.

[laughter]

Derek: This is kind of the one that embodies the kind of whole “be dangerous” spirit which is, it’s the thing that says, when you have something in your gut, that you totally know, “If I could do this, this would be a really big deal, and this would make a real impact.”

Then your lizard brain talks you out of it, tells you that you shouldn’t do it or that you’re not good enough to do it, that sort of thing.

What we tend to do is, we tend to go around and try to get assurance from other people that It’s going to be OK. Not until we have enough of that currency of assurance do we actually execute. This is same like, “Just go out and execute it, and if it’s a right thing, it will be awesome, if not, that’s OK. People will support you.”

It doesn’t mean be bold from like a jerk’s perspective, when you know you should be doing something, do it. Don’t be passive in doing it.

Jade: Just like be dangerous doesn’t mean jump off a cliff without a parachute. It’s about taking risks.

I remember that we’re having a lot of trouble with getting people to even show up. There was this weird resistance to, needing to be prompted a whole bunch of times, told by a whole bunch of people, to even walk in the door at Gangplank.

I think that also informed this virtue that we put out here is that, you should just be able to take the leap and just walk in. Don’t worry about it being scary, it probably is scary and that’s OK. Just do it, just get out there and try it.

Roy: That’s interesting. That’s always one of those things where I’ll like, if Gangplank costs money, it would be easier because then you are buying your assurance.

Jade: We’ve had a lot of people tell us that. If I can make some sort of transaction, it eases that tension.

Derek: I actually think that, now you kind of spark my memory a little bit. I think a lot of where this came in is, we got so many complaints when we moved the Gangplank.

Gangplank 1.0 you had the kind of Come in, there was a secretary downstairs for another business. When you came in, you are like, “Is this Gangplank?” They would say, “Oh no, they are upstairs.”

You’d come upstairs, when you open up the stairs, there were some desks right at the front of the stairs that you could kind of say, “Am I in the right place?” You could get assured twice before you engaged.

We moved into the new building, you walked into a lobby and there was no desk in the lobby, there was no receptionist in the lobby, there was nothing in the lobby.

When you walk through the lobby, you were still in this wide open space where there were no desks. It was obvious what the primary desk was. We would get complaint after complaint, “You should really put a desk up front so that people know who to talk to before they come in.”

It was a pattern that kept repeating continually, people that were in the space all the time, “That’s dumb, just come in and talk to people.” What we kept hearing was, “Because some people, they need to understand, and they need a way to interact.” We started to really talk about, “If that’s the type of person you are, Gangplank’s probably not right for you.”

I think that translated into the boldness over assurance. If you need to come in and you need to be coddled, that’s probably a deficiency in interacting with Gangplank culture that is going to hurt you long term.

Roy: And hurt Gangplank, if it’s so difficult like that.

Derek: Hurt you and hurt Gangplank where if you come in and you are going to say, “Yeah, I am going to have the confidence to walk in and own it, and deal with it and do it.” You probably are embodying that boldness of like, “I am scared crapless. I don’t know anybody here, I don’t know what I am doing here, but I am really scared but I am just going to put a smile on it and act like it doesn’t bother me.” It works out.

Jade: You know what’s funny? I still feel that way sometimes. I was away for a while and I came back and I didn’t know most of the people that were here.

I went from knowing everybody to knowing just a few people. Definitely had to re‑kick in those values, “That’s OK, I’ll just go talk to them because they’re here and they’re a part of Gangplank, too, so it will probably just work.”

Roy: They don’t want to be talked to, they probably would’ve stayed home.

Jade: Or gone somewhere else.

Derek: I think that’s translated into everything from relationships to municipalities to relationships to third parties, to starting new initiatives, you name it. That’s one of the things in community building that’s difficult.

If you are going to try new ideas that are truly new, you’re never going to get assurance. In fact, you are going to get the opposite of assurance. You are going to get people telling you, “That’s not possible, you can’t do that, that seems scary.”

Clayton: Yeah, nobody tried this before.

Derek: Right. If you don’t have boldness in what you are doing, you are never going to make it. We tell people all the time one of the ways you know you are doing good work is when people are getting mad at you. Because when you challenge the status quo and you put it in people’s face, that you are making a dent in the universe, they will attack the shit out of you.

If you’re not bold in doing that, what do you think is going to happen when you start to get attacked? You are going to fold like a two dollar Walmart chair with a 400‑pound fat lady sitting in it when they come after you. You got to have some boldness to own it.

[laughter]

Clayton: Just like that analogy, that was pretty bold.

Roy: Walmart chairs are even made for 400‑pound fat ladies.

[laughter]

Derek: Or a 400‑pound fat dude.

Jade: Don’t discriminate there.

[crosstalk]

Derek: I can say that, as a fat kid.

Jade: Another dimension to this is, we have a lot of people who are entrepreneurs, who are starting their business, trying to make it work, trying to grow.

There are different phases of their organizational life. Boldness is certainly required in that area. If you are looking for assurance, starting your own business is no way to get it.

Roy: Can you imagine being the boss of your own company, who are you going to ask for permission?

[laughter]

Clayton: There have been a lot of people that I have talked to that, based on their personality and the things that they enjoy, would be good fits for Gangplank. They’re very creative or they have the streak in them. I see them a lot, especially on social media. They’ll be talking about how they’re upset about work, they’re upset about this. They don’t have enough, whatever.

I’ll tell them, “Hey, you should go to Gangplank.” It’s amazing they can talk such a big game about all the stuff that they want to do. They talk the game of the status quo basher and the be dangerous stuff.

When push comes to shove, the litany of excuses comes out. “It’s too far. I don’t have the time. Who’s going to do this? Blah blah blah.” I always think that’s interesting that it’s very easy to sound especially bold but then the actual practice of being bold, that’s the part that’s impossible for some people.

Derek: They especially have no excuse because they even got a person on the inside, for them it’s safe.

Jade: Giving them assurance.

Derek: Right. They should be able…

Clayton: I worked with someone once. It was actually right after I left to come work for Integram. He was still with the old company, he hated it even more. I told him, “Hey, you’ve got to come to Gangplank. You are a designer. There are all these people you can talk to.”

He showed up, we talked for five minutes, I said, “Yeah, this is over here.” I did my best by making him feel welcome. He sat on the couch for 10 minutes and then he left.

Jade: We’ve received numerous angry emails about how “I showed up here and I sat down at a desk, nobody said a word to me, how dare you guys run an operation like this?”

Derek: I think my favorite email exchanged something like that, it kind of relates a little bit to this. I made some comments about downtown Phoenix in the state of downtown Phoenix, it upset some folks.

Somebody drove all the way from downtown Phoenix, came right up to the door of Gangplank. They took pictures of the outside of Gangplank, took pictures of the sign of Gangplank. Then they drove back all the way back to Phoenix and they wrote this blog about how horrible Gangplank was, a bunch of things about the people inside of Gangplank.

It was hilarious to have almost everybody at Gangplank call them out, “Did you really just drive 20 miles to come take a picture on the outside and not come in and talk to anybody and then say how horrible we are?”

The person, they’re human, their response back was, “I came because I wanted to talk about it but then I kind of chickened out the last minute, then I just took a picture and turned around and left.”

I think that’s the status quo, that’s what we were talking about when we were not only criticizing this particular thing. It’s also the embodiment of that’s what happens when you look for assurance and you’re not bold.

If you are really passionate about it, why wouldn’t you come in and talk about it? Because you are afraid. I think that boldness over assurance is saying, look, it’s OK to be afraid. It’s OK to want to be coddled and want to have assurance. Everybody wants that when they’re afraid.

It is the difference between walking through that fear and doing it anyways and turning around and walking away instead of entering the door. That, to me, is in a nutshell what boldness over assurance is.

It’s walking through the door when you’re scared shitless instead of turning around and going away, and making some excuse why you can’t walk through.

Roy: It’s not just about walking through the door either. It’s about everything that you do inside of the space and everything you end up doing in life.

Jade: Sure, that’s the great thing about boldness is that it’s really easy to continue being bold. The hardest part is doing that first part where you just open the door and walk in.

That’s obviously a metaphor. It’s not just about coming into a Gangplank but it’s just taking that first step down whatever trail you’ve started, continuing that momentum gets easier and easier and easier.

That would be my advice to someone who is struggling with not having boldness in their life, something scary that comes up that you think, “I don’t think I can do this.” Just do it. With practice, you’re going to get so much better and be able to not worry so much about needing that assurance.

Clayton: I found that I am really good at building up in my mind all this stuff that’s going to happen or the way interactions are going to play out. The way people are going to be and how good or smart, or whatever they are.

One thing that’s helped me is, to try and remember, just assume that I am wrong. “I think I am right about a lot of stuff, but I am going to assume that I am wrong, that everyone in Gangplank is better than me, and they won’t pay attention to me.” If I assume that I am wrong, I’ll just see what happens. That’s the same thing I think you’re making a punch in.

If you take that first step, then you can shatter all those assumptions, that whole thing you built up in your mind breaks down and now you are dealing with the reality of it and it’s a lot easier than you thought.

Jade: And it gets easier every single time that you are bold because almost every single time that you are bold, you’ll get a successful reaction. Every once in a while it will fall back, it will fail. It sucks if it’s the first time you tried, that you failed.

The nice thing is you can show up at Gangplank and I can assure you that walking inside, you are not going to fail if you talk to somebody.

Jade: Even if you fail, that boldness still lives on. You still have that success of just being bold enough to try.

Derek: I guess, if up to me, if I think of this a little like perfection. I see a lot of people that don’t ship their work, or take forever to do something because they are waiting for it to be perfect like, “Oh, if I just get this one last thing, it will be perfect.”

When we look for assurance, we are doing the same thing, we’re saying, “I am afraid of something.” If only I can be assured of this, then I would do it.

I would quit my job and go do this other thing if I could be assured that I would have health care. Well, then if somebody says, “OK great, you’ve got health work.” “Oh, well, I would also need to be assured of this.” You can continue to just say, “that if only I were assured.”

When you walk and you move into boldness, what happens is, you are not any less afraid. If I am afraid of public speaking, getting up on that stage and taking about it, I am just as afraid every single time. The difference is by acting in boldness, I start to believe that, “OK, I am just as afraid but I am able to reassure my own self much quicker because I’ve got more boldness than I have weakness.”

I think that’s one of the things people think of, “Oh, if I only get to this level, I’ll stop being afraid.” The reality is the best people in the world are still afraid at some level. I guarantee you there are major league pitchers that go out to the pitching mound and they’re still afraid. The difference is they just walk through it. They have the ability to say, “I am just going to walk through it.”

Jade: I think that wraps up our discussion on boldness over assurance. Be sure to catch us next time on The Danger Cast. Thanks.

play audio Episode #7   Boldness over Assurance

Dangercast #6 – How Gangplank Works with Municipal Governments

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and special guest Trey Keeler discuss the some common questions we get asked about how Gangplank works with municipal governments.

Transcript

Jade Meskill:  Hello and welcome to the DangerCast where we talk about Gangplank culture and design. I’m Jade Meskill. Today, we have a special interview with Trey Keeler. He was asking us some common questions that we get asked about how we work with local municipal governments. We thought it would make a really great podcast so we recorded the interview. We thought our listeners would be interested in hearing some of the answers. Hope you enjoy it.

Trey Keeler:  Cool. I guess the biggest question I had for you is, I was talking to Gangplank RVA. I met with these guys at that day. I talked to a guy named David Walizer. Usually nice and I spoke to him about what Gangplank is all about. It was really awesome, because Gangplank is new to the Richmond area, so a lot of people are just kind of learning about it right now.

We’re visiting a lot of different coworking spaces because we’re doing this project on different coworking models. I spoke to him and the project that we’re working on is with an organization that has city government funding to do sort of a similar idea. At least the mission or the goals they have are very similar to sort of what Gangplank has already done.

I was kind of picking his brain and he had mentioned that Gangplank in Phoenix had some sort of relationship with the local government, or somehow interacted. I don’t know at what levels.

Derek:  Yes.

Trey:  That’s why I was calling you guys to figure out how that works and how that all started.

Derek:  Yes, perfect. So, I think there’s a couple of different ways that we’ve done Gangplanks. Maybe I’ll just go over those, and one of the second two would probably be one that would be applicable to what you’re talking about from a government relationship perspective.

The first way was the way that Gangplank was originally funded, which was really the altruistic model or the benefactor model. Where a company has extra space or extra resources and really wants to invest in their community. So they give time, and/or space, or resources to the community and say, implement a Gangplank in our space. I think that’s the current model that Richmond is going under. They have a provider, a space, a company that’s got some extra spaces letting them use that space in exchange for being around smart, creative people.

The second model that we operate under is doing a service‑based agreement with a municipality of some kind where we provide a number of services. It’s a service contract just as any other service provider would do. They then would pay us for those services. Those services would be put directly back into the Gangplank in that location. So, what normally happens there is a number of services are created in a contract that says we will deliver these 20 services or these 50 services.

A lot of those services are the things that Gangplank natively provides whether that be brown bags, entrepreneurship programs, coworking space, maker space, all of those type of things. Then, the funding that is created goes back to basically pay for the rent, the Internet, the electricity. And then, what we do is we basically give all of the resources away at no monetary cost, but the people that participate in the programming, we ask that they give back through social capital to basically provide the services that we’re under contract for.

So it’s like the city kicks‑starts or the municipality kicks‑starts the program by providing the building, and in exchange for that building they get a bunch of services back. And what happens is all of the programming is provided by the people who are freely partaking in the services, right?

So, instead of charging for those services, we say the only way you can pay for them with is your time, which actually connects people back more deeply that of the community which is kind of the whole goal, is to basically jumpstart communities.

Trey:  Exactly, so in the past when you were talking about the city or the municipality paying for services. Traditionally, that has been through allowing you the use of the space or building, or has it actually been monetary?

Derek:  So, the second way that I was talking about just now was that’s through monetary. Maybe the municipality doesn’t have an existing structure, or an existing building that they can put a Gangplank in, but they do have budget. So what they’ll do is they’ll say, “Hey, we’ll allot this budget, and the budget is pretty much magically equal to the amount that it costs to rent a space, and to provide electricity for a space, and provide Internet for a space, and in return we get these services.”

The third model that we have is a model where a municipality or a government organization actually has physical space, where they own the space. They say, “Hey, for a dollar‑a‑year rent, or a dollar‑a‑month rent, what we would like to do is provide you this space, we’ll provide you the electricity, the maintenance, the physical property to basically run your programming out. And in return, you’ll offer these services for us.”

When it comes to working with local government, we can do it either one of those ways. We can either do it as a you don’t have a space and you’re providing funding, and we take that funding and we basically rent the space with that funding. Or, if you have physical property we can just do it in exchange for that physical property. We do it both ways.

Trey:  I guess the case I’m working on that is a organization that has the physical space and probably lacks the resources and the human capital.

Derek:  Right, so that’s perfect for Gangplank. That’s what it’s made for.

Trey:  So in a case like that, how do you guys keep the culture of Gangplank a Gangplank, and how does the municipality feel like they’re actually benefiting from it? Cause municipalities as always like to take credit for things and kind of toot their own horn. How do you sort of create that balance?

Derek:  I think that’s the beautiful thing in Gangplank. One of the things that cities really struggle with is being dangerous, right? Like they have to do everything by the book which is totally anti‑entrepreneurial, totally anti‑place making, What happens is we enter into a relationship where pretty much they’re able to say Gangplank go do the stuff we’re not necessarily allowed to do, or that our PR is not necessarily comfortable doing, and if it works and it’s awesome, we’re going to share in the credit.

We’re going to say, “Hey, we fund that. We do that. That’s part of us. Aren’t we cool?” And if it’s something where it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know. That’s a little too dangerous for us.”

They can easily go, “Oh, that’s those Gangplank people that’s not a city thing.” It kind of gives, especially politicians, it gives them a way to adopt the wins, and distance themselves from the things that are maybe scary to them.

What we find more often than not, maybe they don’t embrace something because it’s scary but it actually turns into a win and they adopt it after the fact. For us, we don’t care. It doesn’t matter to us. We just want good stuff to happen in the community. We don’t care who gets credit for it. I think that that is one of the biggest benefits that we give cities, is we give them an ability to be like a startup without having to go through like a bunch of pomp and circumstance every time they want to do anything.

Trey:  Very cool. So you guys I guess are on paper more or less a tenant and then if things work out beneficially for the city then they can sort of jump in.

Derek:  Yeah, we’re a service provider. So it’s if it’s not working out they can fire us just like they can fire any other service provider.

Trey:  OK. Very cool. I guess the next question I have is that the entity that we’re working with is, when you think about the coworking, obviously people think about coders, designers, more of the creative class or I guess what popular culture decides what the creative class is. Have you guys ever worked with somebody that has a small business in the classic sense of a small business? Say somebody is a plumber, or a contractor, or somebody has an idea to sell ribs on the side of the road. Do you get to that sort of granular level or is everything have to be sort of trendy‑business business?

Jade:  [laughs] We’re not interested in being trendy at all. What we’re really interested in is that cross section of people who are creators. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the creative class, it means that they are really interested in doing things, making things happen, trying new things. Like Derek said being dangerous.

We’ve met plenty of people who are chefs, or running a restaurant, you know doing these very mundane things, but they’re doing it in very unique and interesting ways that makes them part of that Gangplank culture. You don’t have to be a hacker to be here, but somebody who probably has taken on some of the that hacker mentality and applied it to whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re going to fit in very well with the Gangplank culture.

Trey:  Cool.

Derek:  We’ve seen everything from somebody who was really inspired by Gangplank and how it works and likes the collaborative nature of it. They were really into baking cupcakes, and cakes, and pastries, and they actually went out and started the equivalent of a Gangplank that was for bakers. Where they would share kitchen time, and they would create things, and they were basically starting businesses around cooking or baking.

We’ve seen things like that launched out of Gangplank. We’ve seen one of our current companies that is in Gangplank Chandler, great example, is they’re a coffee distributor, a coffee grinder. One of the things they do is they actually are in the business of investing in coffee refineries in third world countries, teaching them how to grow coffee, process coffee, and bring it back and then distribute it here.

That’s about as non‑high tech as it gets, it’s almost farming. “Chow Locally” is sponsored out of here, which is a way to get farm to table type of stuff why that’s kind of a trendy thing that’s happening right now, it’s certainly not what I would consider your normal high‑tech artsy incubator type of stuff that’s happening.

Jade:  We have another group that’s involved in social services. They’re trying some new interesting things and they fit right in.

Trey:  Very cool, very cool. In the past the Gangplank models that have partnered with government entities, what sort of a process been you as approaching them or they approach you, and how does that relationships ever grow?

Derek:  I think to date they’ve always approached us. I think we do two things as part of that. The first thing we do is, are they a good culture fit for us, because we’re very culture‑driven. We look at cities or municipalities that will be strong partners and let us be who we are, and really jumpstart their community. So it’s usually municipalities who say, “We want something radically different and we know we can’t. We know our culture will eat us alive if we try that, but we would like to partner with you so that you can be the culture we want in our city without us having to change our entire structure.”

Which is I think is a big upside when they approach us. It means they’re ready to have those kind of conversations opposed to if we’re approaching them. I think once that’s in place, I think the next thing is we assess is the community ready for it. Meaning, do they have a community leader that’s willing to really promote and move forward, because there’s no paid positions in Gangplank. It really is like bootstrap, raw, community‑driven stuff.

Do you have people that are hungry enough to build a city and build a community within a city that they’ll invest their time in doing it? If they have those two things, it’s usually pretty easy. We’ve done this enough times that we’ve got boiler stuff that’s city‑approved. Multiple cities have done it, so we can usually give that to a legal team and say, “Here’s a start point, mark it up. However, you need it to be to fit with your organization.”

We can usually put them in a touch with a number of mayors, council members, and economic developers, at places that we’re at who they can talk to and get their questions answered at a very real level. I think, once the matchmaking part is done, the execution of it is usually pretty easy to do.

Trey:  Very cool. What city, what Gangplanks are using this sort of private/public partnership right now?

Derek:  Avondale and City of Chandler are currently using this model.

Jade:  There’s a couple others exploring, they’re in the early stages of going this direction.

Derek:  Yeah, our Sault, our branch in Ontario, who also is currently undergoing. They’ll probably finalize something here in the next 30 days.

Trey:  Cool. This is all really, really awesome.

play audio Dangercast #6   How Gangplank Works with Municipal Governments

Dangercast #5 – Some Gangplank History

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Trish Gillam discuss the some of the Gangplank history, Gangplank Jr., and Gangplank Labs.

Jade Meskill: Hello. Welcome to another episode of the “Dangercast.” We’ll talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors: I’m Derek Neighbors.

Trish Gillam: I’m Trish Gillam.

Roy van de Water: And I’m Roy van de Water.

Jade: So today, we have some questions that a loyal listener has sent to us. And, we’re going to… We’re just going to answer those questions. Some of it is about the history of Gangplank and some of the reasons why we started this whole thing.

Derek: It’s like an inquiring minds want to know kind of thing.

Jade: Yeah.

Roy: So, the first question is “When was Gangplank started and by whom? Why did you feel that it was necessary to start off a Gangplank?”

Jade: Oh wait, wait, you’re asking too many questions.

Roy: This is the first question.

[laughter]

Derek: One at a time.

Jade: [laughs] We’re not very smart.

Roy: “When was Gangplank started and by whom?” Do you guys, Do you guys know the original creators of Gangplank?

Jade: I do, yeah, yeah. We stole the Gangplank from them.

Roy: OK

Jade: [laughs] it was like Mad Max…

Jade: No, we started Gangplank in what about like formally in about 2008…

Roy: OK. Who as we?

Jade: Oh, that’s the next question…

Roy: No, that’s the first question actually…

Jade: …Oh, Derek and I are I guess through like the formal people who started Gangplank…but it’s really started by a group of people that we were connected to…

Derek: Yeah. I think…for those closer was Ward Andrews James Archer Josh Strebel…

[crosstalk]

Derek: [inaudible 01:28] Jade, myself and then the some of the original companies that we incubated which were basically [inaudible 01:39] Beau Frusetta Steve Swedler and Chase Granberry.

Roy: And, how long ago was this?

Jade: …by 2008.

Roy: 2008, so why did you guys feel it was necessary to start of with Gangplank?

Jade: So it really started from a desire to we had a consulting and development company, and we want to find more great people to work for us and work with us. That was really the original intent that we started out with…I think we realize very early on is that we were interested in solving problems that were much greater than just that.
We really want to be around excellent people that were doing all kinds of different things. They didn’t have to be working for us or work with our company in any direct way to perform. We really want to be around the best people in phoenix.

Derek: I mean I think we’re doing other things that were unusual for a company out of size at the time, we had a real both Jade and I’ve a real love for learning and exploring and creating. Internally, our company was doing a hack night every week, where we were working on projects that were outside of our normal work.

There’s just fun stuff to work on, or stuff we thought was interesting. All of our employees would give a brown bag every week, where they would talk about a new topic, or a new technique, or a new technology, something.

We already had some things that were happening that were, really easy for other people to gravitate towards, and I think we both have done a lot of work for the Free Software Foundation, so we’ve got very much like a culture of sharing and of openness, and like “Ideas want to be free.”

When people would stop by and say, “Hey, this looks really cool. Do you mind if I sit through the brown bag”?
I say “Yeah, sure. Awesome. That’d be great, in fact would you want to do one sometime? You know a whole lot about this topic, and we would love to learn from you.” I think that just started to build that community up.

Roy: How does that differ Gangplank from what most people think of as a coworking space? Because I think that’s what most people who don’t really know per se Gangplank has a co working space. I don’t know if that applies, but how is it different?

Jade: Our intention was never to rent people desks. We don’t have a business plan. We weren’t trying to make money off Gangplank. We were trying to solve other, more visceral needs that we had to be around interesting and creative people all the time.

Derek: That’s correct. I think originally Gangplank was doing a lot of…Gangplank entity…was doing some incubator activity, which I think did have some potential motives, to do some financial stuff, but I think all of the community stuff was really separate from that.

I think we transitioned fairly quickly away from incubation, and translated it into all community work. I think we changed from an LLC to a non profit, to represent that change as well. The two big ways we’re different is, number one, we’re vision based, and it’s all about a shared community. It’s not about a desk, so it’s not like “Here’s a space, and go ahead and do it.”

The second way that we’re radically different is, we’ve always taken more toward companies and teams, than individuals. So most coworking spaces tend to like really struggle with what happens if a company of four people comes in. They’re really more targeted forward freelancers, and why we totally love freelancers, and we have tons of them around. That’s not how we see the future economy working is a bunch of freelancers working for themselves by themselves.

We see the world as a bunch of small, talented teams working to change the world and buying into a very opinionated culture about how things should be done. I would say we’re very culture based and very non-transactional based.

Roy: If I’m a member of the Gangplank community, what kind of perks and benefits and offers do I get with that? What’s my signup package look like?

Jade: [laughs] It’s a good question. I think the perks that you get are you get to be around other really interesting, like minded people.

Derek: You’re going to change the world.

Jade: Yeah.

Roy: Get any coupons?

Jade: You have one free coupon to change the world.

Derek: We don’t have any paid membership. Membership itself is like this weird thing for us. We have people who are literally in the space more than once a week who feel like they are not members because they are waiting for the check marks, like “Where do I check the box to say that I’m a member”?

I think if you’re participating, you’re a member. There are people who consider themselves Gangplankers who maybe have never stepped into a physical Gangplank before. I think that’s another way that we are radically different than coworking spaces.

We’re really about community and about doing the work. A physical place is just a way to rally around that work, where a coworking space tends to be all about the space. Doing something outside of the space would seem foreign.

Jade: I’ve taken to saying that you can be a Gangplanker anywhere. As long as you believe the philosophy of Gangplank, that makes you a Gangplanker. A physical Gangplank location is just a manifestation of the Gangplank philosophy in a place and time.

Derek: Yeah. I think a good way to do this, and maybe we’ll do a podcast with this group. We have had a number of Gangplankers who have moved to other places. Whether that be Seattle, whether that be Portland, whether that be San Francisco. What tends to happen is one or two of them will move out.

The first thing they’ll say is, “Man, I can’t find anything that’s like a Gangplank. I’ve been to a bunch of coworking spaces, but it’s not the same.” Because what they’re saying they’re missing is not the physical place. They miss the people.

Portland is a great example where we’ve got about 10 or 15 ex Gangplankers. It’s not uncommon that they’ll meet up together to try to experience the fellowship of being Gangplankers, even though they don’t have a physical space. I think that that is really really different.

If I was just a coworking space and I dropped in, it’s like I could go to any other city and probably find another desk, pay my money for it, and we’re totally good to go. It feels fine because I never really deeply interact with people anyway. I’m just there for Internet, power, and a place to work and a conference room.

Jade: There are co workingspaces with strong culture. We’re not trying to…

Derek: Yeah. Shout out to Indy Hall and New Work City. They are two, I think, that are really pushing the bounds of changing what contemporary coworking looks like from a community perspective.

Jade: I just think our culture is different.

Derek: Yes.

Roy: More than ever before, the economic sustainability of a community is based on a workforce that is able to change, adapt, and acquire new skills. How does Gangplank and Gangplank Academy help in acquiring these new skills every week?

Jade: Gangplank is all about change, embracing uncertainty. It’s just build right into the culture. People who interact with Gangplank, people who drink the Kool Aid, I guess, they become part of…

Derek: Sorry, we’ve got a fly buzzing around the studio.

Jade: [laughs] It just flew right in my face, straight into my mouth.

Derek: It’s really harassing the person who happens to be speaking at any point.

Jade: [laughs] I don’t even know what I was saying. Let’s see.

Trish: Something about chaos.

Jade: Yeah. Really Gangplank is about embracing chaos, and that really is the future of the new workforces. We are entering very uncertain times that are unlike the last 50 years. It’s going to be highly critical for people to have the skills to be able to change and adapt.

I think just by participating in this very strange different culture already gives you a leg up that you are willing to be a part of that. I think we’re taking steps further where we’re very much obsessed with learning new things and obtaining different skills. Roy, you talked the other day, “I want to learn this thing. I have no idea what I’m going to use it for, but I just want to learn how to use a CNC machine or do these other things…”

Roy: In my case, it’s arc welding.

Jade: Yeah, arc welding. We want to give people opportunities to learn those skills, even though they don’t know how they’re going to apply it just yet in their life.

Derek: I think there’s a digital blue collar coming right? So, we’re seeing a ton of, I mean, this is no different than when we made a major shift a few hundred years ago from an agricultural society to an industrial society.
You had farmers that started to get displaced because, with modern machinery, what took hundred of farmers to produce, a single farmer could produce with high fangled machinery.

You had farmers starting to say, “OK, great! I don’t need to be a farmer anymore. There’s not a lot of economic viability for me. I need to branch out and do something else. Maybe I need to learn, can I transfer my skills to be an assembly worker at Ford? Can I you know, learn some other skills to move forward.”

I think we’re seeing that right now where you’re getting a lot of displacement when you have industrial manufacturing, really being able to be replaced by smart equipment, robots. Right? And you’ve got factory workers, you’ve got, certain things, even when you look at like, construction.

A lot of construction that happens now, the walls and the roofs and the trusses are all built in a plant somewhere they’re like manufactured and brought in on a truck, and you just need a few people to basically stand them up and put the nails in, to you know, put them together. You’re not talking raw construction like, I’m taking a 2 by 4 and do everything like step by step.

So what happens to people that maybe have some skills, right? But they don’t know how to translate those skills into meaningful work for the next century. So Gangplank tries to get people and tell them like, there is opportunity there, right?

It’s all about your mindset. If you have a mindset that I can learn new things, most of the stuff that’s out there in digital blue color isn’t all that difficult to learn. It just takes the ability to say, I’m capable in learning something new.

I think that’s what academy tries to do as it tries to do, basically it, no cost, no risk, other than your time, give you the confidence and the ability to try new things that you normally wouldn’t try and see if you can find out what’s the right thing you really want to pursue.

Jade: I think we refuse to put people on a box. So, we’re not teaching you how to be a dot net developer or a clay pot maker. You might be acquiring a lot of those skills to be able to do some of those things. But we’re not saying that you are defined by just that one particular skill.

Roy: So, you guys have been doing a lot of stuff with junior programs as well, right? Like first legal league and the junior journalism program, and DangerScouts. How has that been benefiting the kids that we’re attending these programs?

Jade: I think it has benefited the adult even more than the kids. Working with kids is an amazing, enchanting experience, you know? They’re just little learning machines. They soak up information so quick, they ask you really hard questions. Trying to teach them something helps you learn so much more about what is it that you’re teaching.
For us really, at least for me, my kids are the future, right? Everything I do for Gangplank is for them. To make a different, better future, possible for them. You know, some of the things that we’ve tried have been grand experiments, some have gone so great. Some have gone fantastically well but all of them, we learned a lot of things on how to work with kids, what kids need to work in the Gangplank environment.

You drop these kids into the Gangplank culture and they totally thrive. They come alive because there are, the boundaries are so few and far between that they have every opportunity to learn and experiment and really just be happy with all of the new awesome stuff that they’re able to try out.

Derek: Yeah, what it really is is trying to bend the way how we think about we teach kids. I think all the programming we do for junior, at least the majority of the programming within our, it tends to say like, whatever a normal school would do, don’t do it here. So if you’re not allowed to play with fire at school, let them play with fire here.

Jade: [laughs]

Derek: If you’re not allowed to have a sharp instrument, give them a sharp instrument. Right? If they’re not allowed to touch the keyboard, force them to touch the keyboard.
Whatever your school says to do, do the exact opposite of that in you’re doing in Gangplank junior. Some of the benefits that we’ve seen from this like, for me, the three experiences to me that just do it, for me, for Gangplank junior that says this is our future.

One is we had a, they do fall on summer break, out where we’re at, and that gets, basically a week or two off for the kids. It’s very difficult for parents sometime to find what they’re going to do with their kids.
So, we said, hey, why don’t we just have a day, a couple days where the kids can come in and we’ve got the LEGO robotics competition going on. We’ve got all the boards set up, we’ve got all the electronics. We’ve got art supplies. We’ve got all sorts of, just bring, bring your kids in to work, whatever and we’ll do something for them. Hahaha, let’s put a program together.

Well, the program consists of all the kids here, all the stuffs you’re allowed you know, that’s here, you can do whatever you want with it. Let us know when it’s lunch time and we had kids from eighth grade down to probably four years old.
What was amazing to me is, nobody told them what to do, they just said like here’s a podcast, here’s a video recorder, here’s robot. Five days straight, eight hours a day, they totally figured that out, never came and ask for help. But what was amazing was you had eighth grader making sure that the fifth grader was included, or the five year old was included.

You had the, third grader helping the forth grader learn some topic they hadn’t learn yet. Right? It’s just like this total organic, raw learning and exchanging information.

Jade: The kids were teaching each other Geometry and computer programming and all kinds of stuff without any adult back there telling them what to do.

Derek: Yeah, it was just crazy, and like their diverse interests, right? Like, I mean.

Roy: Just because like, they just felt like teaching each other Geometry? Or?

Derek: Well, no.

Jade: They were playing with robots and trying to make the robot do certain thing, and they had to understand ingles to get there.

Derek: Right, so like, I want the robot to turn and I’ve need the, to turn the radius, to turn that. And so, like, I don’t know, I’m twelve and you’re nine, how do I explain radius to you. I can’t use the word radius, so I get on a board and I start to draw a circle and I start to, so I’m teaching somebody Geometry but all I’m trying to teach them is this is what you do to make the wheel turn so that the robot turns, right?

Jade: Uh hmm.

Derek: And it’s awesome to see that kind of stuff. Another one that I think it’s just totally awesome is during robotic competition. One of the things we had with all of our instructors for robotics, we basically said “You’re never allowed to solve a problem for a student and you’re never allowed to touch a keyboard.” Those are the two rules.

Everything, there are so many times these kids are doing something wrong. Like, oh my God, you’re solving this in the most stupid way ever. I totally want to tell you how to solve this because it’s, and so we drop hints like, “Man, do you think that’s going to be reliable?” OK let it fail much.

What was great, they go into a competition, they end up having a challenge that fails where they did like 6 things all in 1 run. So, they program the robot, it does six things before it comes back. The forth thing in fails.
The robot comes back, they’re almost out of time, they’re ready to go, and they want to get the points for that thing. You see the two kids start to argue with each other and all of us were like, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Do something!” They put the robot down. They run one of the other programs it wasn’t designed to do and they go and get their points.

They totally because they understood the point values, they understood how the robot worked, they understood the programs they totally improvised in the face of complete failure.

Nobody else at the competition saw that but us as coaches were like “Holy shit! They did it! They did it! They’re thinking for themselves. They’re solving problems on the fly, under pressure with a clock going down on them.” That was huge.

In the last one, obviously I’m very passionate about Junior and what’s going on here. The last one is, I had my son come in for an entire summer and said, “here’s a list of stuff that you need to learn. Nobody’s going to tell you how to do it. You can ask for help. There are plenty of people in this space that will teach you how to do it.”

He did that. He did program Minecraft with Python on a raspberry pie. He created music videos. He learned songs.

Jade: He learned WordPress and HTML.

Derek: He learned WordPress, HTML, went through all the code academy. All this stuff isn’t what was impressive to me. What was impressive to me was at the end he said, “Dad, do I have to go back to school?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I come here and I learn so much more and I have so much more fun. Can I just go to school at Gangplank?”

That just told me how…I mean, my son does really well in school. He gets straight A’s. All his teachers love him. It’s not like, “I’m having problems in school and I want to avoid school.” It was literally, “I learn here and I want to learn here. Why can’t I do this more often?”

I think that we’re hurting our future generations by not letting them be who they are. Not letting them learn the way they’re capable of learning.

Roy: You guys have this concept called Innovation Labs, right?

Jade: Gangplank Labs.

Roy: Gangplank Labs, OK. What are some of the most innovative projects that have come out of GangPlank Labs?

Jade: Some of the most fun ones have been solving real problems. Gangplank has a very limited number of toilets.

Roy: That number is one.

Trish: For the males only.

Jade: We have a large male population. We had a serious problem in that it’s a pain in the butt to get up…

Derek: Literally.

[laughter]

Jade: …yes, you’re already feeling a little urgency. You’ve got to get up walk all the way down to the hallway, go to the bathroom, walk in the door, realize that, “Nope. Everything’s full.” Walk out the door, stand in the hall looking like an idiot sometimes for ten or fifteen minutes.

Derek: Words with Friends is your worst enemy when you only have one toilet.

Jade: That’s right. So we created a really awesome system to show people whether the bathroom was occupied or not. It involved all this, we had a bunch of Arduinos. We had a bunch of wireless stuff. We ran to Wal Mart and bought all these crazy parts because we were trying to figure out how could we easily detect if the stall door is open or closed.

We ended up building a really awesome system that would light up a light out in the main space if the bathroom was full or occupied. It would turn off the light. We also have a urinal in the men’s room too, so it could detect if you were standing at the urinal or not. So we had a number one and number two sign that would light up. It provided a lot of really great information.

We had a ton of other people in co working spaces wanting to buy the system from us because they were all suffering from the same exact problem. That was bringing together a ton of different things: open source, a ton of different programming skills, hardware, sensors, and really fascinating stuff just to solve our bathroom problem that we got really frustrated with.

We open sourced all the code and all that stuff.

Derek: There’s been some good stuff coming through. There’s a guy that does a bunch of these battle bots for kids that are really cool. We had a guy coming through recently basically doing a guitar effects pedal that fits in the sole of your shoe. So if you’re a musician, you basically just drop this thing in your shoe and you have a full guitar effects pedal everywhere you go.

Almost like the flip flops that have the beer opener in them, only for a musician you have a nice built in effects pedal.

Roy: I’d add a beer opener too.

Jade: That was really cool because they were working with people who knew about the 3D printers, people who knew about audio modeling, they were applying these complex algorithms to the sound that was coming in. They were testing it out with a bunch of different people. They pulled in musicians to try out their stuff and play around with it.
That was a really cool cross section of a lot of different people at Gangplank.

Roy: Lastly, how difficult was it to scale up Gangplank from just a coworking space to a place where you not only space but also vision?

Jade: Gangplank never started out as a coworking space. I think very early on we created the manifesto. We realized we had a whole lot of vision for what we wanted that maybe wasn’t expressed in a way that was consumable for other people.

It helped very early on to put our values down and say, “These are the things that make Gangplank, Gangplank,” even though they might be hard to understand sometimes or lacking some context for people who weren’t there. Those are the things that keep Gangplank honest with itself.

Derek: I’d say scaling the original location was easy because we’re just us. We just let the values organically come from the people who were in the space and what was happening in the space. I think we talk about spreading Gangplank to other spaces, that became a little harder.

We can’t transfer us, we can’t transfer the values everywhere. Those are the kinds of things we’re dealing with now.

We’ve got this really strong culture, how do we get to the point where we can pick that up and basically put it down somewhere else, and let it flourish, and then let someone else pick it up from there, and let it flourish.

Those are the problems we’re currently dealing with. We keep going back to it’s really about having a strong culture and if that happens, good stuff happens. When we start new Gangplanks it’s all about getting the right people seated at the beginning that understand the culture and are permeators or carriers of that culture. When that happens we get really phenomenal results.

Roy: Cool. That’s all my questions.

Jade: All right. Thanks for listening to the Danger Cast. We’ll talk to you later.

[music]

play audio Dangercast #5   Some Gangplank History

Chandler Community Meeting Notes: October 16, 2013

As part of our growing efforts to share our activities publicly, here are meeting notes from our weekly community meeting in Chandler.  (Transcribed by Jeremy S.)

START: 4:04PM OCT 16, 2013
FOCUS TOPIC: Downtown Chandler Rock the Block

Rock the Block

The large DCCP-sponsored event Chandler Rock the Block is upcoming on November 9th, 2013, 10 AM to 4 PM. It is a 15,000 person event that is held literally outside our doors up and down Chandler Blvd.

Last year, Gangplank had an open-house for the second year of the event. Kameron W. had a photo booth, Ed A. provided demonstrations of the 3d printing, and many Gangplank tours.

Lets brainstorm what we can do this year and put it together.

Ideas:

  • Stickers for Free –Greg T./Chuck R.
  • Handouts/Brochure/Bulletin –ALL
  • One table/event sponsored by each Initiative time
  • Blinky bugs/throw men/etc gadgets –Academy/Local Derek N./Trish G.
  • 3d printing demonstration –Labs David M.
  • Photo booth (Studios) –Kameron W.+ Lilimedia
  • LEGO table (Junior)–Jeremy S./Jeremie L.+
  • Facilities to host refreshments, incl maybe Chips and Salsa? –Jeremy S.
  • Business Init –promote Startup Weekend! –Shon B+
  • Jeremy S. will make a directory of what’s going on that day, let me know. jeremys@gangplankhq.com
  • Move DCCP HQ to Magic if available!

Weekly Newsletter

Feedback has been given that suggests that the Gangplank Chandler Newsletter should be published on another date. Jonathan K. of VUURR/Levers (live from SF, CA!) shared some feedback that metrics suggest that Friday PM is a poor time to send out. Brian L. is frustrated as it is difficult to get content for a newsletter timely. Discussion on both. New deadline for content submission is Wednesday after Community Meeting. Send time will move to Thursday at 10 AM, with opportunity for change based on metrics.

Lounge Happy Hour

Jeremy introduced happy hour on Mondays days before he got assigned weekly field work every Monday. He asks more people to get behind it. Derek suggests that we “sponsor”, not necessarily financially, a night by inviting people and friends to their day.

Excuse our Dust

Painting in back rooms is underway. Don will be helping us, let him do his thing! Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to help us move furniture when needed. Also, be flexible with room schedule, etc. We will be done by Nov 1.

260 Construction

260 Construction may begin Monday! We need to finish clear out of 260… like the couches! Please keep your eyes and ears open to help with 260-related stuff too!

Next Week Topic: SciTech Festival

Locations

Avondale, AZ

Chandler, AZ

Richmond, VA

Sault St. Marie, ON

Start a Gangplank in your city!

Upcoming Events

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