Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 2: Setting the course

After the check-in, Roger guided us through a process of creating the structure for the course.  He brought a "sticky wall" to aid us. This item, sold by the Institute of Cultural Affairs , is a roughly 1.5 meter by 2.5 meter sheet of parachute cloth taped to a wall. It is coated with a polymer adhesive so that we can place and rearrange 5" x 8" cards on the wall.  By grouping the ideas that emerge from a question posed to small groups, we will, in theory, be able to see the collective conversation taking place in the room.

Roger asserted that normal conversations more or less occur like the making of popcorn. One person says something.  In response to that persons' statements, each person has a set of associations that occur in their minds. They feel an urgency to say the things that pop (corn) into their minds. They then speak in response to their own associations. Their speaking causes another round of associative thoughts within others. The thoughts come with a sense of urgency or necessity to speak them by the thinkers of the thoughts.  In this way, the conversations proceeds like corn popping...somewhat randomly.

Sometimes one can suspend the popcorn response or even suspend the sense of urgency to say what they are thinking. But normally, a group conversation proceeds in a somewhat random, linear fashion by this associative stream of ideas.

The intent of the sticky wall is to make explicit the entire conversation.  The process is as follows (which we in fact followed during our time together):

In small groups, we have a conversation in response to a question. For us, the question was "What teaming models have we discovered?"  (or something close to this...I don't exactly recall).  Each team was to generate a set of team models, writing 1 per 5" x 8" card is large letters.  They were then to place their cards on the sticky wall.

All cards subsequently added to the wall would be added by asking "Is this card like that one or unlike it?"  If it were like it, it would be place in a column under the card.  If not, a new column would be started.  As this process proceeds, themes emerge.  We then name the themes.

For us, there was a set of themes around "principles of teams" such as trust, collaboration, respect. There was a category called "dysfunctional teams," there was a set of team models (x-teams, bio-teams, tag teams, and more), there was a category related to teams around shared goals (emergency response teams, sports teams) and functional teams  (marketing teams, management teams).

The question became, "How should we proceed in this workshop." The thing to notice was the we were actually DOING the thing we intended to study. We were creating a workshop team. The was a brief conversation that revealed the people had different views on what would be useful to them in this workshop.

Roger then had us identify four distinct categories of approaches: principles the go across team models, team models, disciplinary lenses, and developmental stages of teaming. We then physically went to the place in the room that we were interested in.  Of the roughly 20 of us in the room, about 12 had stood by principles, 2 in models, 3 in developmental stages, 2 in disciplinary lenses.  Roger said this suggested where peoples' attention is.

We began to use the attention "distribution" to design the balance of the course.  Roger requested that we self-organize how we might go about presenting to the class.  The idea is that a couple people would research one dimension. We would use half of each week to learn from one another and the other half to dialog about what we had learned.

I will divulge that I noticed my tendency to choose something that I was already familiar with (oh, the shame).  I am actually going to secretly defect to the Models group to push myself to learn something I don't know.

Roger requested that in our presentation, we give attention to the practice of what we are presenting. That is, that we DO what we are presenting, rather than abstractly talk about it.  We shall see how this goes.

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