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robertogreco : wilfredbion   1

Small groups and consultancy and coffee mornings ( 7 Oct., 2015, at Interconnected)
"One permanent pattern in our workshop culture:
Best design consultancy tip I know: Don't criticise without offering something better. Called the Ahtisaari Manoeuvre after an early client


Always have something on the table.

Another: Always use fat pens.

Another: It's important to have the right people in the room -- representing knowledge of technical possibilities, business needs, and market insights. But at the same time, the ideal number of people to have in the room is five or six. Any more than that, you can't continue a single conversation without it turning into a presentation.

Another: The one who understands the client's business best is the client."



"There are a couple of things I'm investigating:

1. That a small group is a powerful way of thinking, and of creating action. That repetition matters, and informality.

2. It might be possible to help with strategy without providing original thought or even active facilitation: To consult without consulting. The answers and even ways of working are inherent in the group itself.

My hunch is this: To answer a business's strategic questions, which will intrinsically involve changing that business, a more permanent solution than a visiting consultant might be to convene a small group, and spend time with it, chatting informally."




"Once a week we get together -- a half dozen students, often Durrell, whoever is teaching the course with him which was Stuart before and Oscar now, plus a special guest.

It's just for coffee somewhere or other, on Friday mornings, and we chat. It's super casual, sharing ideas and references, talking about the brief and design in general.

I'm curious about informality.

The lunchtimes at BERG, everyone around the table with such a broad range of skills and interests... and after Friday Demos - part of the weekly rhythm - the sparked conversations and the on-topic but off-topic sharing... this is where ideas happen too. Between projects but not outside them.

And I think informality as part of the design process is under-communicated, at least where I've been listening. So much work is done like that. The students are great at speaking about their work, sure. But mainly I'm interesting in how we induct someone into a worldview, quickly; how we explain ideas and then listen carefully for feedback, accepting ideas back -- all conversationally, without (and this is the purpose of the special guest) it turning into a seminar or a crit.

I think the best way to communicate this "lunch table" work informality is to rehearse it, to experience it. Which is what the coffee mornings are about.

I try to make sure everyone speaks, and I ask questions to see if I can encourage the removal of lazy abstraction -- words that get in the way of thinking about what's really going on. I'm a participant-observer.

Tbh I'm not sure what to call this. Visiting convener? It's not an official role.

I think (I hope!) everyone is getting something out of the experience, and everyone is becoming more their own kind of designer because of it, and meanwhile I get to explore and experience a small group. A roughly consistent membership, a roughly regular meeting time, an absence of purpose, or rather a purpose that the group is allowed to negotiate at a place within itself.

~

These RCA coffee mornings grew out of my experiment with hardware-ish coffee mornings, a semi-irregular meetup in London having a vague "making things" skew... Internet of Things, hardware startups, knitting, the future of manufacturing and distribution, a morning off work. That sort of thing. People chat, people bring prototypes. There's no single conversation, and only rarely do we do introductions. This invite to a meet in January also lists my principles:

• Space beats structure
• Informality wins
• Convening not chairing
• Bonfires not fireworks

I've been trying to build a street corner, a place to cultivate serendipity and thoughts. Not an event with speakers, there are already several really good ones."



"My setup was that I believed the answer to the issue would come from the group, that they knew more about their business than me.

Which was true. But I also observed that the purpose of the business had recently changed, and while it could be seen by the CEO that the current approach to this design problem wasn't satisfying, there was no way for the group to come together to think about it, and answer it together. Previously they had represented different strands of development within the startup. Now the company was moving to having a new, singular, measurable goal.

So I started seeing the convened discussions as rehearsing a new constellation of the team members and how they used one-another for thinking, and conscious and unconscious decision making. The group meetings would incubate a new way to think together. Do it enough, point out what works, and habits might form.

~

Consulting without consulting."



"I'm not entirely sure where to take these experiments. I'm learning a lot from various coffee mornings, so I'll carry on with those.

I had some conversations earlier in the year about whether it would be possible to act as a creative director, only via regular breakfast conversations, and helping the group self-direct. Dunno. Or maybe there's a way to build a new division in a company. Maybe what I'm actually talking about is board meetings -- I've been a trustee to Startup Weekend Europe for a couple of years, and the quarterly meetings are light touch. But they don't have this small group aspect, it might be that they haven't been as effective as they could be.

There might be something with the street corners and serendipity pattern... When I was doing that three month gig with the government earlier this year, it felt like the people in the civil service - as a whole - had all the knowledge and skills to take advantage of Internet of Things technologies, to deliver services faster and better. But often the knowledge and opportunities weren't meeting up. Maybe an in-person, regular space could help with that.

At a minimum, if I'm learning how to help companies and friends with startups in a useful way that doesn't involve delivering more darn Powerpoint for the meat grinder: Job done.

But perhaps what's happening is I'm teaching myself how to do something else entirely, and I haven't figured out what that is yet.

~

Some art. Some software."
mattwebb  small  groups  groupsize  2015  collaboration  consulting  vonnegut  kurtvonnegut  organization  howwewrite  writing  meaningmaking  patternrecognition  stevenjohnson  devonthink  groupdynamics  psychology  wilfredbion  dependency  pairing  serendipity  trickster  doublebinds  informality  informal  coffeemornings  meetings  crosspollination  conversation  facilitation  catalysts  scenius  experienceingroups 
october 2015 by robertogreco

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