Surrounded by Positive People

Today was a very Bay Area day, from work meetings to dinner with an old friend. I was surrounded by positive people, even when the subject matter wasn’t particularly positive. Even the street and sidewalk art was positive. And you know something. It makes a difference. A big difference.    (N1U)

I haven’t been blogging much recently, although I’ve tried to sneak in an occasional tidbit on Twitter and Identi.ca. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and synthesis using IBIS and Compendium, and I’ve had a bunch of great conversations. There’s been a lot of work, but it’s been very gratifying. Looking forward to sharing more here soon.    (N1V)

April and May Gatherings

Normally, I love to travel, but last year tested that love. I was out of town almost twice a month for work. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and ultimately, too much. I resolved not to travel for the first four months of 2007. It’s now April 2007, and I’ve successfully fulfilled my resolution (depending on how you count), wonderfully refreshed and ready to travel again.    (M5D)

As I noted earlier, I’ll be in Baltimore next week for Creating Space VIII, the Leadership Learning Community‘s (LLC) annual gathering. The theme is Collective Leadership. They’ve already got record attendance, and I believe registrations are still open, so if you’re in the area and want to attend, I encourage you to register. I joined LLC’s board late last year, participated in some of their gatherings, and was blown away by what I saw. Can you tell I’m excited?    (M5E)

Next month, May 2-3, I’m co-chairing the Compendium Institute‘s 2007 workshop at the NASA Ames Conference Center in Mountain View, California. It’s going to be awesome — highly practitioner-oriented, with lots of close interaction with some of the most experienced folks in our community. If you’re already a Compendium user, or if you’re interested in learning more, I strongly encourage you to register and attend.    (M5F)

May 14-16 is Internet Identity Workshop 2007a, once again at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. There will be some major Identity Commons announcements there, as well as cool demonstrations of the latest advancements in interoperable Digital Identity systems. If you’re at all interested in the identity space, I strongly urge you to register.    (M7H)

I get a day to recover, then it’s off to Montreal May 18-20 for RoCoCo (RecentChangesCamp Montreal), hanging out with my fellow Wiki compatriots and other community builders. I’ll be releasing a vision paper on Wiki interoperability that same week. I’ve had tremendous fun researching and writing it, and I can’t wait to hear my community’s reaction to it.    (M5G)

Finally, I just joined the advisory board of Tiffany Von Emmel‘s Dream Fish. They’ll be holding a workshop on Leadership for Sustainability on May 30 in San Francisco. It will feature four outstanding teachers, including Alexander Laszlo and Kathia Laszlo, two of the smartest and most decent people I’ve ever met. Register before the end of this month for a discount.    (M5H)

February 2007 Update

A month has passed, and the blog has been silent, but the brain has not. Time to start dumping again. But before I begin, a quick synopsis:    (LR8)

  • The month started off inauspiciously, with a catastrophic system failure that occurred over the holidays. Quite the story. I hope to tell it someday.    (LR9)
  • Last year, I joined the board of the Leadership Learning Community (LLC). It was an unusual move on my part, since I was also in the process of clearing commitments off my list in order to focus more on my higher-level goals. In the midst of saying no to many, many people, I found myself saying yes to LLC. We had our first 2007 board meeting earlier this month, and I participated in their subsequent learning circles. Let’s just say I have no regrets. A week with these folks generated enough thoughts to fill a thousand blog posts.    (LRA)
  • This past week, I co-facilitated a three day Lunar Dust Workshop for NASA, using Dialogue Mapping and Compendium. It was an unbelievable experience, also worth a thousand blog posts. For now, check out some pictures.    (LRB)
  • For the past few months, I’ve been actively involved with a project called Grantsfire. The project’s goal is modest: Make foundations and nonprofits more transparent and collaborative. How? For starters, by getting foundations to publish their grants as microformats. I’ve hinted about the project before, and I’ll have much more to say soon.    (LRC)
  • For the past year, I’ve been helping reinvent Identity Commons. Again, I haven’t blogged much about it, but I’ve certainly talked a lot about it. Not only are we playing an important role in the increasingly hot Internet identity space, we’re also embodying a lot of important ideas about facilitating networks and catalyzing collaboration.    (LRD)

In addition to a flood of blog posts, other things to look forward to this month include:    (LRE)

Visual Thinking and Shared Understanding

One of my favorite conference moments occured at the Computers and Philosophy 2002 conference, where both Bob Horn and I spoke. I sat next to Bob during the other talks and peeked over his shoulder as he took notes. That man is insane. My notes are barely legible scribbles; his are pristine visual diagrams.    (LEX)

A few years later, I got to work with Bryan Coffman at the MGTaylor 7-Domains Workshop. As with Bob, I got to see Bryan’s notebook and concluded that he also was insane.    (LEY)

Visual languages are extremely powerful and totally underutilized in collaboration today. Part of the reason for this is that the techniques seem inaccessible. If you can’t draw a straight line, you’re probably not going to be doodling your notes, much less doing it live on a whiteboard in front of a crowd of people. Tools like Compendium and Mind Mapping are great in this regard, but they represent only a fraction of what’s possible. (In the case of Compendium, I think it’s question-orientation is as important, if not moreso, as its visualization capabilities.)    (LEZ)

When I found out earlier this month that one of Dave Gray‘s mentors was Bob Horn, I told him I had to peek at his notebook. No problem, said Dave. He posts many of his sketches on Flickr.    (LF0)

Dave also told me about an exercise he likes to do at his workshops, which is to ask participants to draw a diagram of a toaster. You can see the results from a workshop he recently did in Toronto. I like this exercise a lot, because it shows the very different ways that people think about a relatively mundane device in a very concrete way. Each of those pictures are clearly different, but they are all also accurate.    (LF1)

This technique is great for building Shared Understanding, and there are all sorts of great variations. You can have people draw, build things, and so forth. Luke Hohmann had us design cereal boxes at DCamp last May that would make people say, “DCamp — gotta buy that conference!”    (LF2)

Michael Eakes recently blogged about a sixth grade exercise, where the teacher asked her students to draw Mickey Mouse from memory.    (LF3)

https://i1.wp.com/www.eakes.org/blog/images/mickeyposter-small.jpg?w=700    (LF4)

Read Michael’s analysis of the variation; it’s fascinating.    (LF5)

Recent Dialog Mapping Lessons

On the HyperScope mailing list, Jeff Conklin recently asked how we were using Compendium for the project. We’ve been using it for the design phase of the project, walking through scenarios, capturing requirements, and developing specifications. I started the process by developing a template for the project — loosely based on previous projects — and by seeding the map with content from asynchronous sources.    (KFU)

I first presented the map at our weekly face-to-face meeting two weeks ago, and it’s continued to be the centerpiece for our discussions ever since. Other than the initial seeding and nightly refactoring, all of the content was generated during these group meetings. After each refactoring, I would post new versions of the map to the web.    (KFV)

Now that we’ve basically completed the scoping process, I’m going to convert the map into a design document (on Augment!). Compendium isn’t scheduled to make a reappearance at our meetings anytime soon, but you can be sure that if the need arises, I won’t hesitate to break it out.    (KFW)

A few years ago, I published a case study on Dialogue Mapping that described my early work in this area. I’ve continued to apply a lot of the lessons learned from those very early experiences. Here are some standbyes:    (KFX)

  • Take breaks    (KFY)
  • Avoid Yes No Questions    (KFZ)
  • Multiple maps are your friend. When a map grows too large, (take a break and) make a new one.    (KG0)
  • The map should be another participant in the meeting. The physical location of the map is critical to its success.    (KG1)

Here are some new and old thoughts on Dialogue Mapping based on my most recent experience:    (KG2)

  • The fact that so many early lessons are still relevant should be further encouragement for people to give Dialogue Mapping a try. The first few times I did it, it was hard. Once I took those first lumps, however, I shifted into an expert usage very quickly. Once you’ve gained this experience, the tool is invaluable.    (KG3)
  • In that early paper, an observation I made without comment was that I rarely used Argument nodes (Pros and Cons) in my early maps. Over the past five years of using Compendium, that pattern has held true. However, when I have used Arguments, they tend to be Pros rather than Cons. With the HyperScope map, I used Cons much more frequently. This reflects the circumstances of the project. We’re replicating an existing implementation that all of us agree is fantastic. We also have a very tight schedule. Most of our discussions have centered around implementation difficulty and desired constraints, and so naturally, things tend to be framed as Cons.    (KG4)
  • I think that a low percentage of Argument nodes in a map indicates expert usage. In meetings, Arguments are often a reflection of group politics rather than of logic. Reframing Arguments as Questions and Ideas depoliticizes the discussion.    (KG5)
  • When I first start using Compendium with a group, I never explain the tool. I just use it. People find it very natural to follow (assuming you’ve positioned your Shared Display properly), and they often take ownership of the map very quickly. The one thing I do find myself explaining on occasion is that an Idea is just an Idea. It is not a decision, and its presence indicates no value other than that someone in the group proposed it (which is not to be underestimated).    (KG6)
  • You know the process and tool are working when participants start saying, “Make sure you capture that,” or, “Can you put that there?” It’s a sign that they consider the map a participant and that they are taking ownership over its content. It also makes the facilitator’s job easier.    (KG7)
  • The resulting map is an artifact of the discussion, and as such, it’s more useful for participants than it is for nonparticipants. Folks like the fact that the maps are available, but they don’t recognize the value until I walk through the map with them. More importantly, those who have participated in the meetings (and hence, the map’s development) have found it extremely useful.    (KG8)

Here are some new and old thoughts on Compendium, the tool:    (KG9)

  • Compendium calls Idea nodes “Answers.” I understand the logic behind this, but I think “Idea” is a superior framing. This is partially captured by the fact that the node is represented by a light bulb, but I’d still like to see the name changed back to “Ideas.”    (KGA)
  • I used Decision nodes a lot for this project, which was natural, since this was a scoping exercise. I also made a big show every time I created a Decision node. This shifted us away from discussion mode, which may sound obvious, but it had a powerful effect on group participation. It was a group acknowledgement that we had captured the relevant issues and that we were ready to move on.    (KGB)
  • After the last Compendium workshop, I resolved to add some Visual Modeling techniques to my Compendium usage. I’ve managed to incorporate it a bit in other projects, but it hasn’t been useful at all for this project. I love the idea, but Compendium isn’t optimized enough for this kind of usage for me.    (KGC)
  • Compendium still has some subtle but annoying bugs, mostly related to layout. Michelle Bachler has done a great job of stabilizing and improving the code, but the project could definitely use more development resources.    (KGD)
  • My number one most desired feature: A slider bar that cycles through previous versions of your map. It should work with exported maps too.    (KGE)
  • Speaking of exports, using Compendium to work on the HyperScope really emphasizes the utility of things like granular addressability and applying viewspecs on a single document, features that don’t currently exist in exported maps.    (KGF)