The Value of Scale

April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

I met with Sam recently after working for half an hour or so with her group on their studio project. It was apparent in their meeting that they were feeling like they were spinning their wheels without getting traction and getting anxious about the amount of time they had left in the semester to get through their process. I attempted to help them move forward and make them feel better about the amount of work they could do in the remaining time.

After sitting in with them Sam and I broke off and had our 1-on-1 meeting. It was apparent that she wanted to continue the group conversation in our discussion with the remaining time for the project being her main concern. After trying to boost her confidence by talking about the anxiety that all or most people and teams feel as large projects come to conclusion and explaining that the project is (shhhh…) more about the experience and journey than producing a groundbreaking solution to the challenge. Finally, I gave some advice, all based on the same concept: SCALE.

First, you have to scale the process to your time frame; it would be nice to spend weeks and weeks in each step, ensuring that due diligence was performed. On some projects you do not have that luxury though and you must move forward with imperfect information and/or intuitive decisions.

Next, scale your challenge to fit the available time. If you were given three weeks to address a problem involving pollution it would be unrealistic to start at the global, national, state or even city level. The neighborhood or a workplace could be a better fit. Similarly, tackling industrial pollution in a few weeks would be nearly impossible but addressing littering amongst a group of people feels much more possible. Choosing an appropriate scale for your problem can ensure that you can move through the process as required.

Lastly, we should scale the solution to fit the remaining time. If you have to choose a solution and have two weeks to attempt implementation, you should use time as a criteria when making your decision. With two weeks left it would be more reasonable to choose the strategy involving a small group rather than one involving many players or one requiring six steps as opposed to 66 steps.

Research Process

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been collecting research for my thesis project for 5 weeks now and have established a pretty good routine for tracking key facts that I find. I track down my materials via the Internet using simple Google searches and the more academic Google Scholar. My primary source has been the IUPUI catalog and book and article databases. After a general search for content I use Google Scholar to identify more items and track them down in the IU system. General searches in the IU catalogs have also yielded decent results.

If I have a physical version of the source is found I skim the table of contents to see what jumps out. Sometimes that leads me to sections inside and other times I just start reading. I do a lot of skimming until I find topics of interest. Once I find that I focus my reading and use sticky note tabs to mark important sections, noting on the tag why I have marked the page.

After getting a number of tabs established I then transfer the facts onto note cards, reading the sections again to determine relevancy and to review the fact. On the note cards I’ve noted the author, speaker, article and/or book.

If the source is digital, I use a similar process, only I sometimes take screen capture photos of content as well. I have these files all saved in one folder for easy access when needed.

I now have a few nice stacks of cards with key facts on them that are helping me keep my momentum going forward and helping me synthesize and understand the huge amount of information I’ve gathered.

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