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.

Week 11, 2019 —Rolling waves of community activities

Photo: All of the things on top of the drinks refrigerator at Le Laptop, taken while waiting for my buddy Alex. We’re preparing for a client workshop that should be quite interesting. More about that next month.

Lots of activity with the ResearchOps community

I participated in my first Cheese Board call and got to exchange in real time with the lovely group of people who make up the ‘board of directors’ for the growing ResearchOps Slack group. Isn’t it astounding that most of us didn’t know each other a year ago? And now here we are, mindfully self-organizing to nurture the community and its intentions.

As for the Researcher Skills Framework project, things are heating up! Dave published a big article and ran a trial workshop in Denver. My Paris workshop with the Hexagon UX community is coming up next week, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve not seen a dozen researchers in the same room in this city yet!

Lots of activity with Design Research Tokyo, too

I continued to promote the Book Club that we launched last week. Indy Young pinged us on Twitter offering to join for a QA session!!! We have timezone issues to sort out somehow but oh, how exciting. The club’s objective of motivating each other to read more English books will be achieved tenfold.

Indi Young on Twitter

@nozawabit @dResearchTokyo If you are interested, I can jump on the conference line with your book club when you meet. I can do some q&a about Practical Empathy. 😊

We also announced Episode 4, for which I coordinated with Jan Chipchase to run what will be our first solo-speaker and English-only event. Very cool.

I’m quite curious to see what kinds of ideas and conversations will come out of it, as our Japanese-dominant audience hasn’t had the kind of exposure to Jan’s work as our peers around the world have had for years.

Time to start cycling again!

It’s been raining on and off this week but on Tuesday, while gazing out the living room window, I saw the residents of my apartment complex popping their heads out like prairie dogs and then streaming out get their groceries and baguettes. You know who’s going shopping because of the empty tote bags flapping in the wind. Our kitchen door has at least three bags hanging on the door.

Anyway, I realized it was going to be sunny for the next few hours (how did they all know!?) and rolled out my bike for the first cycling session of the year. 28km just for the heck of it, and I came back starving and jabbing at the Deliveroo app to get in some calories asap.

After a cheeseburger and a nap, I happily read way too many reviews and invested in a much better tire pump and a saddle bag.

This is going to be the year to explore more of France by bike!

I’m not entirely sure yet on how that’s going to happen yet. A lot of casual 3-4 days trips? My next milestone, now that the packing will be sorted once the new bag arrives, is to normalize the act of getting on the train with a bike and getting off in an unfamiliar town somewhere. It’s more daunting than it needs to be.

Reading and watching

  • I finished Priya Parker’s “The Art of Gathering” over the weekend and recommend it to anyone who runs a lot of meetings, workshops and events. I’m continuing to energetically insert the topic of inviting people into discussions into many (every?) conversations with friends, and have enjoyed chewing on its application in new ways.
  • Continuing that thread, I’ve stared Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, And Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)”. Since I’m focused on practicing the doing of CoP in a few different contexts, it seems like the perfect moment to get a bit of theory and perspective.
  • My highlight this week was participating in sociologist Sam Ladner’s webinar “Mixed Methods” hosted by EPIC, the ethnography-in-praxis community. It’s a beautiful thing when concepts are clearly laid out and and it all makes sense and you realize you only thought you knew. Thank you Sam and EPIC.

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 😺