I visited Athens for five days with friends to attend the opening week of Athens Biennale.
It was a beautiful experience and a fantastic time that I’m still
processing and won’t get into here (or else this post will stay in the
draft queue… hopefully, building the #weeknotes muscle means one day
that I’ll be able to think/write/publish in one arc. Wishful thinking?
Note to self to review in six months.)
one thing: walking into a panel discussion that was taking place in an
old hotel on the first night hit me with a big wave of nostalgia.
Between 2010–2012, I‘d been heavily involved in building out the digital
presence for two of Japan’s biggest contemporary art events, Setouchi Triennale and Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale.
Whether it be in rural Japan or the tumultuous capital of Greece — and
for better or for worse — contemporary art shares a look and feel that’s
I also had the good fortune to be in town for Poka-Yio‘s inaugural class at the Athens School of Fine Arts — the
birth of his studio that will nurture generations of ASFA artists to
come. Thanks for letting me take part, and put a few design thinking
concepts on the table!
Spurred by this informative article about different approaches to documenting your week — thank you Sam Villis! — I’ve
decided to give it a go here on Medium. A week seems like a reasonable
cadence to reflect and write about ideas, conversations and encounters
Alright yes, week 42 was three weeks ago… but it was a really good week so I’m unceremoniously batch-posting three weeknotes in a row to kick things off 😅
The ‘Phone a Friend’ option
had two occasions to reach out to friends for professional advice. It’s
not my natural instinct to pick up the phone like that, and I was
amazed at the boost it brought 🚀 — from the timely and relevant
information, of course, but also from the exchange of energy with people
that I don’t get to spend enough time with.
for a crash course in an unfamiliar domain to help sharpen my point of
view for a client assignment. I had a few hypotheses but didn’t have the
context to have confidence in them or the time to research a whole new
field, so it was great to get a sense check from someone who plays at
the top level of that domain.
for advice on how to position myself in an unsettling dynamic with a
new collaborator. Honestly, just asking for time from someone whose
instincts I trust calmed me down. Our conversation started with my
‘problem’ and quickly expanded to future-forward topics.
calls were so easy to organize — I just had to ask — and because they
were ‘business’ conversations, we hung up after 60 minutes. Why don’t I
do this more often? And you, reader, are very welcome to ask for calls,
The sprawling global networks of Communities of Practice
It was a particularly social week thanks to increased activity with a couple of CoPs, some recent, some not.
A call with Emma Boulton about teaming up to conduct the next batch of analysis as part of ResearchOps
community initiatives. Having conducted two studies on the operational
mechanisms of increasing the impact of UX research, the community has
already produced several useful models, made available in the Medium publication. There’s still a lot of interesting data left on the table that I’m excited to dig into. More on that soon!
Dinner with a few members from the OuiShare
community, from a daisy chain of I-want-you-to-meet-someone’s. These
opportunities are so much fun — very light on small talk, even though
you’re sitting in a restaurant with strangers. But they’re not really
strangers, are they?
Follow-up conversations with people I met in San Francisco last week at Google’s Design Sprint
conference. The atmosphere of the event and the high concentration of
like-minded practitioners gathered there made each in-person exchange a
rich one, which translates into a lot of post-conference activity.
There’s a lot to learn from in how these connections unfold.
Communicating design approaches
how design consulting services could be better provided is an ongoing
thing in my day to day, and it’s sure to be a frequent topic in future
weeknotes. Here are two particularly meaty questions that I chewed on
with colleagues this week:
might we (as a design studio) give confidence to a client who’s not
familiar with design processes? Is there a simulated way to familiarize
them on the journey?
might we assess the needs of a new client who frames their challenge
through the lens of customer experience, so that we can quickly
establish an approach? Are there safe ways to avoid the “wait, this
isn’t a service design (or whichever ‘type’ of design) problem”
realization a few weeks into the project?
Photo: Chasing the sunrise before a workshop. It was a pseudo-run, with quite a few pauses to take photos and checking the map to figure out how to get out of dead-ends.
Preempting getting sick
field research, workshop facilitation and conferences, I get to travel
for work often. I love it but it’s incredibly easy to get sick and
worse, for that sickness to drag on.
the past few years I’ve been trying to be more consistent about my
efforts to avoid catching anything, as well as chasing away any hint of
oncoming sickness. This week I was in four different cities and am
pretty happy with how I managed that self-care part. Proven tricks:
Pack running shoes and use Strava to find safe routes to explore the neighborhood. I don’t actually like running but I know that if I can manage at least one run during a trip, I’ll feel much better.
Insist on eating well and at the right time. No skipping breakfast, no midnight kebabs, no candy bars from the machine etc.
snacks and a thermos. A bag of trail mix saved me when traveling with
people who have lower metabolism than me. The thermos is for hot drinks.
Hot drinks have magical powers.
a soak in the bath whenever there’s a bath tub. This is like a hot
drink except it works outside-in. A long soak the night before a 6am
flight made my 3hrs sleep feel like 7.5hrs… 🙄
Starting to plan community events for the winter
I’ll be in
Tokyo and Singapore for five weeks around New Years for my usual mix of
holiday and work. There are a couple of events that I’d like to
organize, and it was time for the planning to start!
Johnny Linnert and I will run 1–2 events for our new researcher community in Tokyo — to be announced soon — and I’m dreaming of a public speaking workshop for the Ride The Lightning community that I’d also aim to run in Singapore if I can find a host organization.
chosen tools, introduced with the right level of processes, are
critical to maintaining a well-oiled team. It’s been awhile since there
was a new one important enough to add to our company toolkit but this
week I worked on:
Did a walk-through of a recent research project that used Dovetail, which I’m aiming to establish as our tool of choice for collaborative note-taking and analysis.
Organized our scattered paid and expired trial accounts for a proper team account on Mural, which is a really versatile tool that I think we can get more use out of.
Introduced a way to create blueprint posters with printed out stickies.