The Flower Exercise

February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

“A way to clarify what one wants to do.” – Dick Bolles

The Flower Exercise prescribed in Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute?” is designed to help those seeking career guidance with an inventorying system of their skills, traits, personality and other elements. A number of us in the studio have been working through the exercise and have found it valuable. The process helped me identify an area in which I have (some) expertise and a big interest in – sustainability. I’ve educated myself on sustainability issues, having attended conferences and seminars in addition to implementing several projects in my home. My interest lies in helping individuals, organizations and even communities benefit from designing and implementing sustainable practices, affecting large systems down to the components of a personal product or individual process. Working through the “flower” exercise allowed me to recognize this alignment of my personal values and interests and my skills that I might not have seen otherwise.

Click here to download my flower.

After working through the exercise and feeling enthused by the results, and hearing positive comments from others that had done it, I decided it would be a good move as a mentor to talk with Sam about the exercise. It was not assigned to her as part of a class but I knew that she had started the exercise to prepare herself for securing a summer internship. When we sat down to talk about it she had not yet finished but was interested in my results. I shared my insight from above and suggested it was a positive process that could help in fine-tuning a resume. Our talk then turned resumes’ and their contents as well as what type of job she was seeking. I had this same concern last year regarding how to craft my resume’ in light of my new educational experience and was able to share my most recent resume’ with Sam and direct her to a section of the “parachute” book that offered useful advice. I also shared my  previous summer’s experience of attending a design education fellowship, making local innovation connections, and reflecting on the first 2 semesters of the MFA program. Samantha hopes to secure an internship in design research or innovation outside of Indianapolis and I think that would be a great experience in a number of ways for her. She best get to work on her flower exercise.

Mentor/Protege Goals

January 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve been paired with Samantha Julka in the MFA mentor/protege experiment educational activity this semester. To acquire a direction for this I looked at a few advice columns for positive and beneficial mentorships. I collected a few ideas that felt important and relevant to the context of education and career that we are currently in. In addition to serving as a friend and homework consultant I want to use the time this semester to hit on the following topics:

  • learn about outside-of-school Sam
  • discuss vision and goals for school and career
  • identify 1-3 objectives for mentorship
  • discuss related outside content
  • strengths/weaknesses
  • identify school-related stresses and fears
  • near the end, reflect on lessons learned, directions taken, things left to accomplish

As I meet with Sam I will try to work the above themes into our conversations.

Leadership The Butler Way

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Since we began dating, one of the favorite things for my wife and I to do is attend basketball games at her alma mater, Butler University. It certainly helped our enjoyment of the games and team that during that time they’ve risen to nearly the top of the college basketball world with their near miss in the NCAA championship game in 2010. During their run it became popular for pundits to talk about “The Butler Way‘” as if it was their magical elixir. Intrigued, I investigated The Way and have come to respect the leadership values that it promotes.

Developed by the patriarch of Butler coaches, Tony Hinkle (Hinkle Fieldhouse), to offer guidance for his players and students, The Way demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self. It has developed today into a backbone of their basketball teams, the athletic department and other elements of the school. Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the Butler Way as it appears in their basketball locker room:

  1. Humility – know who we are, strengths and weaknesses
  2. Passion – do not be lukewarm, commit to excellence
  3. Unity – do not divide our house, team first
  4. Servanthood – make teammates better, lead by giving
  5. Thankfulness – learn from every circumstance

When I looked into the principles last Spring I immediately identified connections between values that I share as well as those  espoused by the MFA in Visual Communications program at IU’s Herron School of Art and Design. Let’s discuss the way that I envision the principles:

Humility – being honest about our abilities and situations better lets us leverage our talents and mediate and build on our weaknesses, be this individually or as an organization

Passion – having a desire to succeed regardless of the sacrifice necessary has pushed many from good to great

Unity – having teammates to share the load, hold us accountable, talk honestly with, commiserate and rebound with, and to celebrate successes with is vital to many projects, if not life

Servanthood – it is necessary for us all to be servants at times and leading by giving is incredibly valuable and rewarding both for a team and within an individual

Thankfulness – sometimes a loss or critique may hurt, but we should be thankful for the opportunity regardless as there is much to be learned from painful moments as well as those instances when we come out on top

Coaching Reflection

December 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

During the second half of this semester I acted as the project management coach for first year MFA students working through the Simplex creative problem solving process to address an issue concerning Herron. Team KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was given the difficult task of tackling an issue related to smoking in or around the building.

I met with team KISS about once a week to offer feedback, insight or simply to participate in their meetings. As the team was nearing its last week on the project we met to discuss project management. Using three questions — What’s helping our process?, What’s hindering our process?, What are we learning from the process? — I tried to get KISS members to reflect on managing their project up to that point and how they would handle the last steps.

In the last meeting we had a good conversation and the team was able to articulate their learning the project management realm during the course of the project. As the project began they were eager to define a schedule with tight deadlines so that they could be done with the project on time. Working through the project they came to the realization that rather than following a strict timeline, the path they followed was more of a natural, organic route. They stated that there was a need for “soft” deadlines so that they could complete their work in the end and that it could be a hinderance and not in the project’s best interest to make a decision or move forward simply because their schedule dictated that they do so. (Certainly it is vital that the project met it’s final deadline.) The team felt that they spent an appropriate amount of time in each step, not too long or too short, and that being flexible and intuitive on decision making was necessary. I found it interesting that they also identified the possibility of having an official project manager for their next project.

I believe that I worked with the team well over the project term because I was able to build trust and a positive rapport with them. I often asked them how they were doing, inserted myself into the process and took time to encourage and offer positive comments whenever I saw an opportunity. This confidence with each other helped when it was time to talk about serious issues and to give honest comments; I was critical of aspects of their project at times but because we had a respect for one another I was able to share and they were receptive to my thoughts. I tried to keep my comments specific and to the point, in effort to not overwhelm or confuse them with unfocused or too much information. When it came time for our final meeting on project management I used the three process questions, with a focus on their schedule and project management, to frame our conversation and it worked very well and they were able to articulate their thoughts and learning as described above. These questions are invaluable and could be used at any point during a project to gain an understanding of team strengths, weaknesses, and learning. The tips for providing positive feedback are also highly valuable for communicating with others, and have application across many relationships.

Finally, I learned that I really enjoyed acting as an advisor to a project team. It was usually a highlight of my day in the studio when I sat with them to learn about their project and to talk about elements of it. Sometimes I could offer insight and other times I was able to learn something new from them.

Thesis Proposal Posterized

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

image from posterTo cap off our thesis proposals we hosted a poster day so that we could share our work to date, get feedback and talk about our plans for the project. As always seems to be the case, making visuals and additional content helps with the main task at hand — in this case writing a thesis proposal. To create an engaging poster that tells the story I had to know my project and develop a story to tell. I decided that my objective was to create a poster that anyone who attended could understand and engage with me in my project after viewing it for 2-3 minutes. The story that I wanted to tell was that pairing visualizations with written text will improve cognition by a larger audience; that citizens often don’t but do need to participate in complex issues within their local government; and that my hypothesis and future research would attempt to see if the addition of visualizations to government communication on complex issues could increase citizen participation on those issues.

Yesterday came poster day and we were delighted to host a crowd that I would estimate at about 40 attendees, consisting of friends and family, Herron students and faculty and other interested parties. I was able to talk with about 10 of them at length about my project and received some great feedback. Some had insightful comments regarding my future research and how visualizations help them learn in their lives. A number also commented that they liked my poster and that they thought it was the easiest to engage (communications objective achieved). Many people were excited about the potential of getting more people involved in government, which is my main goal.

I believe all of us graduate students left the day feeling relieved that we were done for the semester, but most importantly excited about moving into the next phase of their thesis project after talking to and connecting with others on our work. I’m also proud of the way that the class came together to stage such an event. The food, the promotion, the exhibition space and the posters were all impressive and as our teacher said, set a high bar for classes to come. I’ll post a few pics of the day when I get a chance.

Consultant/Facilitation Practice

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Acting as a consultant to a classmate, I helped her devise a solution to small problem in her life through facilitation of a team of 4 peers through the Simplex creative problem solving process.

I had a pre-consulting session with my client and then prepared over the next 3 days for the event. At the group session I had 2 hours to complete 6 or 7 of the 8 steps in the process, which would provide the client with a new strategy for tackling her problem. I think both the individual and group sessions went very well and the solution provided to her problem was very fitting. 😉

Our challenge statement for the client arrived at “How might we help her enjoy shopping?” We determined that she did not enjoy shopping for a variety of reasons, but largely due to allergies. The lack of enjoyment resulted in her having a wardrobe unapproved by her boyfriend and family members. « Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership Visual

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Visual closeup

In my Design Leadership seminar we recently read two articles and visualized our integrated understanding of them. The first article discussed the leadership style of seven different types of leaders. Three of these under perfom, two styles are average to good performers, and the final two types are the cream of the crop, transformational leaders. The second article, written by Design Thinking advocate Roger Martin, focused on the ability to think integratively. Rather than simplifying problems into either-or scenarios using conventional thinking, the integrative thinker is able to create a new third-way to approach the problem.

Click here for my visual. (Warning: LARGE file)

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