Week 10, 2019 — Extending invitations

In the past few weeks Paris has had big grey skies with fleeting moments of clear blues and bright sunlight, while still remaining cold and rainy. It’s not spring yet, regardless of the increase in pollen that’s starting to make me sneeze.

Inviting people into conversations

A brighter beam of sunlight was an observation by my AQ colleague Sachiko about client onboarding, which led to clearer thinking about the essence of onboarding — it’s an invitation to join a journey — and how we might better design for it.

Why are we here? It’s a question that we keep coming back to in all kinds of contexts, and yet, manage not to answer in a clear-enough manner, even in specific ones like kicking off a project. But if we considered how each member needed to be invited into the conversation, perhaps momentum would become simpler to build.

That framing of invitation design came from a podcast episode on The Conversation Factory by my buddy Daniel Stillman. He’s pointed me to a few references that I’m looking forward to pursuing next week.

Daniel Stillman on Twitter

@tomomiq @sachikokop I’ve done work on invitation design+my interview with @DanielMezick was the catalyst for a lot of my deeper thinking about Open Space work and my Conversation OS breaks it down https://t.co/Q2JlHcwMhD

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

I kept seeing references to this book, and the impetus of ‘invitation design’ led me to start reading it. The author makes the point that we spend our lives gathering, which has given me food for thought whenever I’ve met someone in the past week. For lunches, meetings, drinks, with colleagues, friends, new acquaintances etc.

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

“Hosts of all kinds, this is a must-read!” –Chris Anderson, owner and curator of TED A bold new approach to how we gather that will transform the ways we spend our time together–at work, at home, in…

Talking about the book with some friends has already been fun. It’s not a hard read; I think I’ll manage to finish in the next few days. And maybe test myself by hosting a dinner party 😛

A puzzling amount of the book is dedicated to dinner parties… which I find mostly amusing but a bit painful as it triggers a reflection on my ‘report card’ as a host 👀

Retrospectives as a gathering

These ideas feed into shaping how I could articulate the design decisions and goals for my activities with Design Research Tokyo. I’m still working through it though, so I’ll document here a small experiment instead. We ran a retro for the last event, which I approached a little bit differently — or shall I say, more intentionally — as its host. I think it went well. Retros could use a shake-up now and then.

  • Explicit opt-in: Bring up the idea of a retro before sending invites, get acknowledgement for all participants that it’s going to be a thing
  • Set expectations: Share the ‘rules of the game’ as part of the calendar invite, signalling that we’re all expected to contribute towards a productive session
  • Prime the conversation: Create a space for people to start their reflections before the meeting (a Mural canvas with a few questions, in this case) so that the conversation can shoots out of the gates in Minute 1 of the session
  • Go around the table: Each person has a chance to be heard, at the same time, they are expected to add their voice to the conversation. I think this is especially important to protect for retros, where we tend to focus on issues and improvements.
  • End the meeting on time: Good habits lead to healthy teams.
  • Ask permission to assign follow-ups: I think it’s nice when weaved into the flow of conversation as ideas come up, as opposed to dry list at the end.
  • Promptly react when follow-up actions are taken: Re-inforcing good habits lead to healthy teams 😺