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April 20, 2004 » 3:09 pm

ChiliPLoP, Day 4

Last Friday was the last day of Chili PLoP. Ofra Homsky, Josh Rai, Linda Rising, Joe Yoder, and I met at our usual spot outside of the dining hall for our morning kickoff. We had two items on our agenda: workshop the patterns we had discussed the day before and that Josh and I had written up, and discuss next steps.    (1DF)

Stone Soup    (1DG)

We started with Collab:StoneSoup and decided to temporarily combine forces with the GivingSpace group, which had independently come up with a pattern of the same name. That experiment resulted in some constructive feedback but was short-lived. The most important lesson was that “Stone Soup” was a completely inappropriate name.    (1DH)

The pattern had arisen from a point I had made the previous day about faith in process. I stated that people about to participate in a new process had to demonstrate a certain amount of faith up-front; otherwise, they risked subconsciously hijacking the process. You want to give the process the chance to succeed or fail on its own merit.    (1DI)

Joe suggested calling this pattern, “Fake It ‘Til You Make It.” Ofra was reminded of a story, “Stone Soup,” which went like this.    (1DJ)

A weary soldier discovered a village in the desert and knocked on every door asking for food. Everyone turned him away.    (1DK)

Undaunted, the soldier took his pot, filled it with water and a large, round stone, and put it over a roaring fire, constantly stirring and tasting.    (1DL)

The curious villagers came out of their houses and watched, until finally, one of them asked how it tasted. The soldier replied, “It’s good, but it needs some salt.” So the villager went inside her home and brought out some salt.    (1DM)

She again asked the soldier how the soup tasted, and he responded that it could use some carrots. So another villager brought some carrots. The process repeated itself until eventually, there was enough tasty soup to feed the entire village.    (1DN)

During our group writing exercise, it quickly became apparent that we all had slightly different understandings of the pattern. Mine focused on the point of view of the participant and on adopting new processes. Everyone else seemed centered on initiating new collaboration, setting up enough structure to make the collaboration seem real, at least until the collaboration became real.    (1DO)

When I started refactoring and combining our work into a single pattern, I decided that there were multiple contexts for the same pattern, but that the solution was the same. I also decided to call it, “Stone Soup” instead of “Fake It ‘Til You Make It,” mostly because the former was a noun phrase. I had reservations, however, and our final day’s proceedings confirmed them. When we combined with the GivingSpace team, it became clear that there were at least three different versions of the Stone Soup story, each with different morals.    (1DP)

After we split with the GivingSpace group, my team continued giving feedback about what I had written. I picked up lots of good advice and promised to incorporate their comments into a revision.    (1DQ)

Kick Off    (1DR)

I was happy when Josh willingly took on the Collab:KickOff pattern, because I didn’t think we were close to Shared Understanding. That said, Josh’s work on the pattern helped us make that leap.    (1DS)

Originally, we called the pattern, “Kick Off Meeting.” I had asked whether the Kick Off meeting was, by definition, the first meeting. Ofra and Joe had said that it was not. However, as we started fleshing out the pattern, it wasn’t clear to me what the distinction was. People were mentioning a lot of things that supposedly happened at Kick Off meetings that I felt would happen regardless of whether or not a meeting was designated, “Kick Off.” The key distinction, in my mind, was whether or not those things would happen well. It wasn’t clear to me that denoting a meeting “Kick Off” was enough to make those things happen well.    (1DT)

Josh’s work on the pattern made some of those flaws apparent. Having something concrete to work from allowed us to quickly zone in on the vital piece — benefits from the ritual celebration of initiating a new project. We decided to remove “meeting” from the name.    (1DU)

In the end, this made perfect sense to me. We had defined collaboration as needing shared, bounded goals. We had also cited a pattern, Grand Finale (discussed in Linda and Mary Lynn Manns‘s upcoming book). It made sense that we also had a pattern for the beginning of a project as well.    (1DV)

Next Steps    (1DW)

One of the things I made clear to the group was that I considered this workshop to be the Kick Off to Blue Oxen Associates‘s ongoing Pattern Language effort. One of my broader goals is to do an ongoing series of workshops involving philanthropic foundations, nonprofits, and a variety of other organizations. These workshops would involve telling stories, mining for patterns, capturing those patterns, reinjecting them into the conversation, refining them, and so on.    (1DX)

In the meantime, I plan on further developing the language that began forming at our workshop with the help of our Collab:PatternsWorkGroup. I also plan on submitting some patterns to the PLoP conference in September.    (1DY)

I had an exceptional time at Chili PLoP. Lots of great people were there, and Arizona is warm and beautiful this time of year. More importantly, I was fortunate to have a great group of participants. Ofra, Josh, Linda, and Joe brought a tremendous amount of experience and enthusiasm to the process, which made the process both enjoyable and productive. I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing what we started here, including another date at next year’s Chili PLoP.    (1DZ)

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