Week 15, 2019– Two conferences and a dinner party

Photo: New watering can, French style.

It’s been an event-heavy week with lots of short interactions with a great many people.

Tuesday was the Design Sprint event, organized by Le Laptop and Google Design. The conference was a really enjoyable event, with intense curiosity and goodwill from the participants. Something special was in the air…

Google Design Sprint Conference | Le Laptop : Space. People. Methods.

In collaboration with Le Laptop, Google Design is joining the local Design Sprint community in Paris to announce the official launch of the Global Design Sprint Chapters program. As one of the premier chapters in this new program Lelaptop will be hosting a Design Sprint Day to bring together Innovation and Design Sprint thought leaders to share their knowledge and experience.

I’d decided to try a different kind of talk which wasn’t about How or What but rather about Why, and to share some recent (i.e. not fully developed) thinking with the audience to chew on. I’d struggled to find a landing for the talk, stripped half my slides the night before, and was a lot more nervous than I usually get before a public talk. It was worth it, though. It seemed to resonate deeply with part of the crowd – and I think I found hints that will push my speaking skills to the next level.

But between the speakers’ dinner the night before, this short talk in the morning and facilitating a workshop in the afternoon, I was totally wiped.

Wednesday was an IxDA Paris / UX Paris event with Cennyd Bowles, who introduced key ideas from his book Future Ethics.

There have been all kinds of talk about ethics in our industry in the past few years. I think there’s significance in ‘one of us’ having made the commitment to go deep and is now able to accelerate our understanding and generate experimentation in a way that just might shift the conversations. I’d really been looking forward to this event, and now that we had the opportunity to meet him – and share a beer or two – I shall take my own next step: finish reading the book!

Tomomi Sasaki on Twitter

Thrilled to learn from @Cennydd at @UXParis @IxDA_Paris 😊 Technology was never neutral. Future tech raises the ethical stakes. https://t.co/uoV9gYpa59


On Friday, I had a friend visiting town and took the occasion to cook a full Thai dinner for seven people. Thai cuisine is quite mysterious to me. I love it and have eaten quite a lot of it over the years but there are too many unfamiliar spices and vegetables for me to deconstruct a dish.

Lucky for me, earlier this year in Bangkok, I found a fantastic Japanese recipe book called “Thai meals with fish sauce”.

I think that there are a few key ingredients that, once you learn how to use, opens up a whole vector of dishes. For example, garlic with Italian dishes, ginger with Chinese dishes, soy sauce and dashi with Japanese dishes… and it turns out that fish sauce is one such ingredient.

I’d been quite pleased with two dishes that I’d practiced last week, and was looking forward to doing a whole spread. On Friday, I cooked three dishes and was really pleased with how each one turned out. My guests were happy with the food, and I was happy, too – these were dishes I’d be glad to cook and eat again!

Cooking is such a high ROI life skill.

The before picture.

Week 13, 2019 — Zooming in and out

Photo: A moment of calm along the river Marne.

I ran a series of remote workshops for an international aid organization with my collaborator Alex; bridging six countries, two languages and many levels of hierarchy to help bring about more structure in how they coordinate among themselves. Our eyes had been opened to the possibilities of remote workshop-ing with the Full Circle Leadership workshop last year, and Alex had recruited me to this project so that we could build upon that experience. The common advice for remote facilitation focuses on tools and the practicalities of being remote – in the vein of “yes, it’s possible!” – but what I find most interesting are the considerations for emotional engagement, and what we as facilitators need to do to strengthen the sense of being present. I find that the energy needed to hold space for people to come together is intensified by the lack of physical interaction. It’s a fine dance between control and letting go. There are half a dozen articles we’ve loosely mapped out to document what we learned… let’s see how far we get 😛

Many of those new skills were applied immediately to the ResearchOps Town Hall that Dave Hora, Judith Mühlenhoff and I organized on Wednesday. This is a public online event that the ResearchOps community runs each month, rotating hosts and topics, and it was time to start talking publicly about the Researcher Skills Workshop!

The call for folks to organize workshops in their own cities is now live, which you can read about in this article below. We’ve been quite open and inclusive about the process in the last 4mo, working out loud in public Slack channels and running a few trial workshops, but having 50 people listening in and interacting real-time brought the conversations to a different level.

It’s happening!


My work with Design Research Tokyo continues at an uneven and frenetic clip, as I alternate between feeding the fire and fanning the flames.

Here’s the one that we announced mid-week, which garnered 143 sign-ups for 120 seats in a couple of days.

Design Research Tokyo: Season 1 Episode 5 (2019/04/17 18:30〜)

(English follows 日本語) ## イベントについて Season One Episode 5 では、3つの異なる視点からプロダクト開発におけるユーザリサーチの在り方について探求します. * Dara Gruber :グーグルジャパンのフルタイム・UXリサーチャー.プロダクトチームにユーザの視点を持ち込むための定性調査の進め方と、いかにしてステークホルダーやPM・エンジニアのチームを巻き込んでいけば良いかについて、自身の経験をもとに話します. * 坂田 一倫:Pivotal Labs Tokyo のプロダクトマネージャー.リーンスタートアップと XP 開発を…

We have three upcoming events, which sounds crazy, but feasible because the programming for two of them are done by other people. I really like being in a showrunner role, charting the course for the “season”, without having to be MC.

I’m also trying to be more conscious about inviting people in to get involved in the organizing side of things, too. Whenever someone is feeling overwhelmed, instead of working harder, I turn it around and say “Let’s see if someone can help”. Or if someone comes along with suggestions, I try to draw it out and then hand back the ownership of the idea.

No workshops or big meetings next week, and I’m looking forward to some solo working time. A chunk of it will be dedicated to preparing my talk for this Google Design Sprint event.

Google Design Sprint Conference | Le Laptop : Space. People. Methods.

In collaboration with Le Laptop, Google Design is joining the local Design Sprint community in Paris to announce the official launch of the Global Design Sprint Chapters program. As one of the premier chapters in this new program Lelaptop will be hosting a Design Sprint Day to bring together Innovation and Design Sprint thought leaders to share their knowledge and experience.



Week 12, 2019–Different colors of participation

Photo: Springtime in Jardin Nelson Mandela, with Saint Eustache Church in the background

Hosted the Researcher Skills Workshop, Paris beta edition

This is one of the trial workshops that a group of us from the ResearchOps community are running, as we put the final touches of the workshop package which will be made available for researcher communities around the world.

On Wednesday after work, eight researchers gathered to reflect on our researcher path, assess hard and soft(er) skills & discuss future avenues. It was super interesting to hear everyone’s stories, both similar and different. The takeaways for each person was quite varied, too, expressing the contexts of each person and organization. I found it really motivating to learn what kind of challenges everyone wanted to take on next.

It was a great workshop 🙂

I’m also really pleased that I was able to make this happen in Paris. Last year for the “What is ResearchOps?” workshops, I didn’t feel like I was the right person to instigate a practitioner event. But one year later, there still isn’t a research community that I know of, and as one of the leaders of this project, I felt more confident asking people if they’d be interested in trying this out. It wouldn’t have been possible without the enthusiastic support from organizers of the Hexagon UX Paris community. I’m joining their upcoming mentoring program and Ilook forward to future collaborations.

The futures of food?

I spent Thursday morning with a friend at a wonderful workshop called “Design Fiction Okoni – Cuisinons la société de 2035“, organized by the innovation studio Okoni. Sixty curious people gathered to prototype macro and micro perspectives of what food production, consumption and distribution might look like in 2035 – all kinds of urban systems but also things like new recipes and stories we tell our children.

I was blown away by the attention to detail of the workshop, which on top of design fiction brought in elements of theater, graphic design, and of course cooking, all with high production quality. A wonderful experience of participatory design. I especially loved that we were handed plain aprons to wear, making us equal and ready to get our hands dirty from the moment we walked through the door.

ReOps Donuts

After some scheming and tinkering with my fellow Cheese Board member Rebecca, we launched a trial of a Slackbot called Donut that will randomly pair up community members for them to coordinate 30min meet-and-greet calls. The idea is to run a one-month trial before we roll it out a program.

The response has been quick and positive, and it makes me giddy to imagine that a semi-automated structure could power serendipitous 1-1 connections, which are low-commitment but high-promise.

A friend told me that he doesn’t have time to meet random people. Yeah, I don’t either. What I want is for the ways in which design and research practitioners exchange and build relationships with peers to be more diversified, so that our sense-making and learning is more robust.

Reading and watching

  • I finished Albert-László Barabási’s “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success” where he applies network science theory to a variety of fields to unearth the hidden dynamics and ‘rules’ that will shape success. This being an academic body of work, there are succinct definitions that makes such a phenomenon analyzable: Performance – what you do – is a variable in which an individual has some control whereas success is a collective measure that captures how people respond to one’s performance. It’s a compelling read but what I’d recommend is this 40 minute interview on The Human Current podcast. I think I’ll listen to it again.
  • Started reading “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making” by Sam Kaner as input for a client assignment. Kaner uses a visual language for sketching participation strategies, which I discovered thanks to this article by Marc Rettig. Will be writing more about this in April.
  • Didn’t make progress on Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, And Identity” because I got a new pair of wireless earphones… The Audible version of Barabási’s book was easier to get through!

Next week’s schedule includes three workshops and a webinar and if I’m honest, it’s a bit exhausting just thinking about it. Deeply thankful for the kindness, curiosity and smarts that my collaborators bring to our activities together. It’s all good.