BrAIN Story: Chapter 5

Collaboration vs Taking and Running – Jan-Mar 2017

10 min read

By this point the word about BrAIN had started getting out. People were being sent the YO paper and the BrAIN annex, or they were finding it left on printers. I had started a Twitter account that people were starting to follow and I was getting quite a lot of emails.

I had a couple of very close allies at this point who were also sharing documents and ideas via emails and they were spreading the word to people they thought would be helpful.

Then one day in January I found out that a Brigade was intending to run a Young Officers event. I was asked to dial in to the planning meeting and explain a bit about the concept of BrAIN and I then heard someone on the other end being tasked to basically run a BrAIN event.

Umm pardon?!

I remember coming off that call feeling a bit confused. I didn’t really know quite what had happened or what was going to happen next.

A few days later I received an email of key takeaways from the conference call.

The email started:

“Please allow me to update you on a conference call I joined with XXX, XXX and Lt Kirsty Skinner who now runs a Young Officer development programme on behalf of DCGS”

WHAT?!?!? Do I?

Firstly BrAIN was NEVER designed to be something for Young Officers alone. That is completely against the entire concept.

Secondly BrAIN was never on behalf of anyone else. To this day I continue to pay for this website myself and it has always just been me sat behind it. No influence from on high or anywhere else.

Ok back to the email. The rest of it was basically just saying that this person was going to produce Terms of Reference for the event he was running. No mention of BrAIN anywhere…cool.

Maybe I had over reacted..

A few days later, another email:

“Kirsty,

Just writing the terms of reference for this project. I was thinking of a name for the conferences. How does BrAIN Box sound? The physical manifestation of your digital project, if that’s not too trite?”

Ouch, on so many levels.

At this point I had to seek advice from people less emotionally involved than me. They told me to try and be happy that these people were running an event and that the BrAIN name was getting out there etc.

So it kicked me up the bum to get into action.

I put the idea of BrAIN box as a name for events to the people I had already gathered as a community and they seemed to think it was ok. By this stage I also had a small group of about 5 or 6 who were keen to take an active role in planning and running BrAIN. So I felt like I was starting to get some traction of my own and therefore the BrAIN Box thing would be less of an issue.

Then another email:

From XX-BrAINbox-OIC

“Kirsty, Firstly check out the new email address!!

BrAINbox is gathering pace. I have attached the draft flyer for it.”

Cue sense of humour failure, self doubt and hurt…again.

I’m making this sound light hearted but honestly writing about this and re-reading through the emails is still really painful. It felt/feels like being kicked in the chest.

But it was tough because I didn’t want to look like I was being selfish or unprofessional and I also knew this person was acting under orders from their extremely enthusiastic Chain of Command. It wasn’t their fault I felt offended/upset by it all.

Anyway, the day went well by all accounts. I ended up doing a quick intro via Skype at it and the rest was up to them.

By this point (Mar 17) I was just a few months away from arriving at CHACR at which point I thought I would be able to show what I had wanted BrAIN to be and I could start taking some actions myself but it didn’t quite go to plan.

Reflections:

This whole thing felt so painful because I felt powerless to do anything from where I was. I wanted to be a good Learning Development Officer and give my best to the students that came to our education centre for courses. I was also doing my PGCE at the time and I went through a flurry of invitations to speak at Army events so I was researching stuff for BrAIN during my evenings and weekends. I was also panicking about my posting to CHACR.

I had spent so much time and energy getting to this point with BrAIN, only to feel trumped by a Brigadier and his resources/ ability to task someone to “get it done”.

When you have an idea or something you want to create it can be really painful when someone else seems to take it and run with it before you have really had the chance to.

This is the kind of reason that people end up keeping their ideas to themselves and I can see why – this really hurt me.

If they had just wanted to run a YOs event that was similar to the YO forum then that would have been different, but BrAIN was meant to be something different and I didn’t feel that event represented the BrAIN ethos I had wanted to create.

I am certain that the people involved in this didn’t intend for it to cause hurt or upset. They probably aren’t even aware that I was this upset about it. But I mention it because sometimes people can be so keen to act and just get things started that they may overlook intricacies such as people’s feelings or how things might be perceived. It’s not usually malicious, but it can still feel sore if you’re the one feeling left on the sidelines or overlooked.

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