Over the past few weeks, I have been disconnected from my regular PLN (Personal Learning Network). For reasons that are difficult to explain, I had to bow out of an online chat group that holds many of my dearest colleagues, friends and greatest professional supporters. I knew my disconnect would be temporary, and I knew that I would miss this interaction. What I didn’t know was what we would all learn from it.
I think I can sum up what I learned by saying “The value of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” This seems contrary to the traditional phrase of a similar nature, but seems to fit more along the lines of real life. Have you ever noticed that you can eat way more of those mini-candy bars than you would if it were just one regular sized one? It’s the same idea. When I left my online group, even knowing that it would be temporary, I left a parting note that I hoped to continue conversations with each member of the group. The dysfunction seemed, at that time, to fall within the lurking and misinterpretation of the group as a whole. From the moment that I posted that note and left the group, I was inundated with emails, messages and other forms of contact from the same people that I interacted with daily. I was still in contact with many of the same people that enriched my personal and professional life, yet something wasn’t right. I was carrying on a series of meaningful, individual conversations, but there was no longer a group dynamic for me. I realized that the power of this group wasn’t in the individuals that composed it. It was in the collaboration that stemmed from the group interaction. The sum of each individual chat was less than the value of the whole group. To find the same value I was seeking, I wasn’t able to carry on conversations, no matter how meaningful, with individual members of my group. It has to be the whole, not just the sum of the parts.
My friend, Melissa, wrote about some of the fall out of the experience at her blog, Technology: Figuring Out How the Pieces Fit.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4273913228/
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