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.

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.