Tagged: culture

Workshops make geniuses out of ordinary people

Working on an affinity diagram as part of the KJ Method
Working on an affinity diagram as part of the KJ Method, picture from netmagazine.com.

Much of the literature that one encounters about moderating a workshop is dedicated to the technique and mechanics of conducting a workshop. The technique itself is useful to learn, and certainly becomes an important part of any person’s repertoire of communication tools. At the same time, I tend to think of technique as one side of a coin. The opposite side, progress, is much trickier to achieve, and is certainly worth equal, if not more attention.

I have helped a lot of different teams in the past grapple with difficult problems, and I started off being quite wooden in the approach. Laying out strict agendas, leaving time for food/drink breaks, and giving out homework was about the extent of it at first. I would learn later on that these efforts would result in very little progress, which I traced back to two factors:

  • Inspiration – some participants felt that the literal points of the agenda were met, but the experience did not stick to them or push them further in their everyday lives or responsibilities.
  • Urgency – others felt that not everyone had the same level of buy-in or commitment, or perhaps that the ideas thrown out were not important or high-value.

And so, even when utilizing my favored KJ method1 to elicit mutual understanding and ideas, there was a key nuance that I had to work in: refraining from injecting my personality into the process. This means putting aside my beliefs about the workshop’s objective, ignoring my notions of the “right” way(s) of doing things, and instead acting more like a scribe. If anything, the power of the workshop really comes from the attendees themselves; if you lead them to water, they won’t necessarily drink.

I have seen that groups will come up with all sorts of ideas, many of which have surprised me with their ingenuity or unexpectedness. And once the group comes to a consensus, then the moderator’s job becomes easier. He or she now has the idea that everyone cares about seeing succeed. And turning that idea into reality is far easier if the group is inspired by their work, and believes that it needs to have been done yesterday.

1. For points about how to conduct a KJ method workshop, see: this article at UIE.com by Jared Spool or this presentation by Vice Dean Karl Ulrich of Wharton, UPenn.

Refereeing the Holy Trinity: Creative, Business, and Technical Folks

timeoutWhen it comes to the classic “iron triangle” project management model of time, scope, and cost, the three key stakeholder groups which directly influence and work on a typical interactive project are in constant conflict based on their perspectives. I’ve been asked many times in the past: “What’s your approach to handling this kind of situation? How do you resolve the differences between the creative, business, and technical teams?”

Continue reading

The App Store “Gatekeeper” – Arbiter or Observer?

Before we explore this idea further, I’d like to point out that Apple’s App Store is unique as an entity, but hardly any different from Handango or BPlay. These portals which supported many mobile devices and PDAs aggregated downloadable software offerings for users to load onto their (sometimes, at the time) connected devices. With this context, it is interesting that this Wall Street Journal article discusses two distinct issues that the interactive community has faced for a while: What is the line that moderators/gatekeepers/administrators must adhere to, and who determines that line?
Continue reading