Sponge or Umbrella?

I’ve been thinking about the ways that people – and organizations – approach new tools and information.  I’ve been thinking about this in watching our tweets, posts and from the readings, but started to gel some thoughts when responding to a post on Patapsco Steve’s blog.  Thanks, Steve!  Informal learning at it’s best…

Some seem like sponges – soaking up anything that comes along, assuming it has some use somewhere.  Others are like umbrellas – repelling anything that doesn’t conform with the status quo and absorbing only that which is necessary for survival.  Of course, most people and organizations fall somewhere along the middle of the continuum and probably move back and forth within either a narrow or wide range, depending on the situation.

Sponge organizations would, I think, tend to be smaller, newer, network-centric and focused on a mission that’s not overly traditional.  Umbrellas would be larger, older, organization-centric and focused on a more traditional mission.  Transparency, trust and opportunities for collaboration are most certainly easier in a sponge organization than an umbrella.

Personally, I’m a sponge.  Soak up now and assess/filter later.  I work for a sponge organization now, so it’s a comfortable fit.  But comfortable doesn’t always mean successful/profitable does it? I left an umbrella organization five years ago, mostly because I felt like a fish out of water – to use another water-related analogy.  Maybe I could have persisted and made more of a difference there than in my newer, more comfortable organization where I’m surrounded by other sponges.

Any thoughts?

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One thought on “Sponge or Umbrella?

  1. I really like the sponge/umbrella notion… While I have always seen myself as a sponge when it comes to my personal interactions with new information and technologies, I have come to realize (especially this semester in my interactions with you and with others and the activities and readings) that my keeping-personal-professional-separated has not worked so well to my advantage. Perhaps it is my own umbrella that I bring with me because I have not taken advantage of more opportunities to let the rain come through. What’s the good of knowing and using these technologies in one aspect of my life, but not in another. I have taken the reluctance of colleagues and have allowed myself and my organization to stagnate. I don’t work with sponges, I assure you. But I have come to realize that throwing all of these ideas into the ocean possibility might produce some very interesting new life forms.

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