Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for August 24th, 2010

Eight Ways to Help Your Group More Effectively Share Information

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

Effective group dynamics is essential to solving problems, to designing innovative solutions.  Unfortunately, it’s a curious phenomenon that individuals in a group setting have a tendency to not share information known only to themselves.  In other words, people have a tendency to only share information that is already known to everyone in the group.  Even doctors, people who naturally pool information in order to come up with decisions, when working with other doctors, fail to share vital information that could lead to a proper diagnosis.

How do you get people to share what they don’t know? Next time you’re in a meeting, here are a few things you should do to make sure info is shared:

  1. Do the Know/Don’t Know exercise.  Ask the group the following questions:  What do we know that we know?  What do we know that we don’t know?   What don’t we know that we know? (Think in terms of unused resources or skills),  What don’t we know that we don’t know?  This last question will lead to speculation and that’s good.  All these questions help  flesh out the knowledge landscape.  Try this exercise using Post-It notes and have people post their thoughts as you progress through each set of questions.  Doing it this way helps people objectively  contribute – especially those  who are more shy or insecure.
  2. Have people draw the situation as they see it. Then have them explain what their drawings represent.  Open up the discussion and let people ask questions about the pictures.  Often more can be learned from the questions than from the preliminary explanation.
  3. Before the meeting, have people on the team put together a list of things they believe will contribute to helping the situation.  At the meeting these lists are shared in their entirety. 
  4. No information should be considered trivial.  Encourage people to share what they believe to be the most trivial bits of information they are in possession of.  People have different reasons behind this, but sometimes people don’t share what they consider trivial information because they consider themselves trivial.  Make sure your culture doesn’t belittle and instead elevates team members to feel and act as essential to the team.
  5. Involve people who aren’t partaking in the discussion.  See above.
  6. Ask Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?  Keep the conversation dominated by questions as opposed to answers.
  7. Knock the spinning top.   Change the equilibrium of the situation/meeting.  Introduce some hypotheticals into the discussion in an effort to draw out unknown information.  This can also be done as part of the Know/Don’t Know exercise.
  8. Shift domains into the other senses.  Have people describe the situation using a different sense than the info was originally obtained in.  Ask people what a situation smells, tastes or feels like.  Then have them describe why.

What ways do you get people to share information in group settings?


Posted in Conveying Information, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Eight Insights in Design from the World of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

This past weekend I was at the Midwest Bonsai Expo at Chicago’s Botanical Garden.  While there, I had the pleasure to watch and listen to a demonstration workshop by bonsai expert Michael Hagedorn.

While it was fascinating watching him transform a tree through his thoughtful touch, it was even more interesting to listen to his insights and reflections on bonsai, bonsai design, and hence design in general.

 Here are some thoughts of his from the workshop:

1. A good tree (design) should have three aspects: A – Elegance; B- Dignity; C – Presence.   However, it is not uncommon for these three to be doled out in different proportions.

I love this observation. It is no doubt influenced by his training in Japan.  How do designs (or even brands!) that you know of stack up?

2. “I should be invisible as an artist”  The tree is designed so that it stands on its own; that even though it’s been pruned and manipulated by the artist, it doesn’t look it.  It retains itself, or, “takes possession of itself,” once the designing part is over.  Think of it: after a product is released into the market place it stands on its own and grows into its own.

3. “Great people and great trees are the same.”  This is with regards to how the tree(design) ages, how it shows the scars of life and still comes through it all with Elegance, Dignity and Presence (see #1).

Some additional observations of mine:

4.  A good bonsai (design) is a result of the artist(designer) embracing the constraints.  A tree has branches, roots, soil, certain nutritional needs.  If any one constraint is ignored the result is a sickly tree (design) or worse.

5. It’s not about adding to the tree as much as it is taking away from the design and redirecting the tree to achieve Elegance, Dignity and Presence.  However…

6.  There are  wildcards like weather, those things outside of our control, that can scuttle all our bests efforts.  So all we can do is prepare the tree(design) for whatever the future may hold and hope for the best.

7. While bonsai are shown and meant to be seen from their ‘ front’,  really good bonsai (design) it seems, have something to look at from any direction.

8. Bonsai is a type for metadesign.  The self-building, synergistic, holistic, fractalesque nature of working with bonsai is beyond regular design.  Bonsai is an ongoing relationship and dialogue between the designer and the designed.

So what do you think?  Do these eight insights resonate with your own experience?  Can you think of examples that highlight or contradict them?

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Design, imagination, Life Stages, Meta-Design, nature, Nature of Creativity, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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