Leaving Trails

So I was away for the weekend at a retreat with like-minded souls, Up to All of Us, thinking deeply about the issues that concern us. I walked away with some new and renewed friendships, relaxed, and with a few new thoughts. Two memes stuck with me, and the first was “leaving trails”.

For context, the event featured designers – graphic, industrial, visual – but mostly learning designers. In a session on supporting the growth of design awareness, we were being led through an exercise on body-storming (using role plays to work through issues), and one of the elements that surfaced was posting your designs on the walls in places where it’s hard to see others’ work. And I had two reactions to this, the first being that the ability to share work was a culture issue, but the other was a transparency issue.

The point that I brought up was that just seeing the work wasn’t enough, ideally you’d want to understand what was the thinking behind it (not just working out loud, but thinking out loud). That can come from a conversation around the work, but that’s not always possible (particularly if it’s a virtual wall).

And I thought the leader of the exercise, an eloquent and experienced designer, said that you couldn’t really annotate your thoughts about the work. Which I fundamentally disagreed with, but he then went on to talk about showing interim work, specs, etc (and I’m filling in here with some inferences because memory’s not perfect).

What emerged in my thinking was the phrase leaving trails, not just your work, but the trajectories, constraints, and more. As I’ve argued before, I think showing the thinking behind decisions is going to be increasingly important at every level. At workgroup level, individuals will be better able to collaborate if their (prior) work is detailed. Communities of practice similarly need such evidence. Another colleague also presented work on B Corps, benefit corporations, in which businesses will move from shareholder returns to missions, and such transparency will be necessary here as well as for eGovernment. I reckon, what with ClueTrain, any org that isn’t being transparent enough will lose trust.

Of course, the comfort level in sharing gets back to the culture issue: people have to be safe to share their work and give and receive feedback in constructive ways to move forward. Which is really the subject of the next meme.

(NB: one of the principles of the event is Chatham House Rule, which basically says you can’t share personal details without prior approval, and I didn’t ask, so the perpetrators and victims shall remain nameless.)

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