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.

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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.

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 »

Secrets & Assumptions

September 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Secret BoxAs I was leaving school today I noticed simple looking box sitting innocently in the lobby. Too plain to be an advert of any sort but too smart to have been forgotten, I stopped and turned around for further inspection. There was a pad of paper attached to the top, a pen tethered to the back and a simple note asking passerby to share a secret. For their generosity they would be rewarded with a secret from the box’s creator, which was on the flip side of the note. I deposited two secrets, read theirs and was on my way. Kind of a nice end to the day, leaving a few secrets behind as I left for the day.

The incident got me thinking on my drive home about a box created last year by design team 5.0 in the Collaborative Action Studio. I believe they were having communication issues that were hampering their work. In effort to address this they created a similar box. If an issue was thought to be serious enough the member was obligated to discuss it. If the problem was likely an assumption  or minor it could be placed in the box, never to be read; a good symbol for acknowledging fears and then moving on, not letting them hold you back. It seemed to have worked for them as their productivity improved after implementing their version of the secret box.

Maybe we all need a box to deposit our fears and secrets into so that we can move forward, and past our assumptions that threaten to hold us back. Feel free to share your secrets in the comments section, anonymously of course.

Negotiation Exercise Reflection

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

In our collaborative studio course last week we went through a 1-on-1 negotiation exercise. The scenario pitted two mid-level managers at a newspaper in a negotiation to spend $1M. I thoroughly enjoyed the negotiation role playing and possibly got too involved in my character’s perspective to produce a result closer to what I think that I would have reached for in my life.

As Coleman, one of the first emotions I felt was a sense of competition with Martinez. Competition is certainly part of many workplaces and this scenario made sure to play that aspect up through the inclusion of potential job promotions and encouraging us to exceed stated goals. (Both of which are appropriate workplace phenomenon.) The secretive nature of the exercise also helped to create an us, advertising, versus them, editorial, mentality, and I fell for the common trap of thinking that we both could not win. « Read the rest of this entry »

(Collaborative Action) Reflection

September 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

As part of our second-year education in the MFA program here we serve as facilitators for the first-year students in their Collaborative Action Studio. These students are just now leaving the board in their head first dive into design thinking, design research, human-centered design and many other wonderful topics.

It’s given me and others in my class a chance to reflect on the first few weeks of our time here. I remember ending the first week with a bout of confusion but excitement as to where this was heading. I think my brain hurt from all that I had taken in and I was fatigued by all the work that I knew was ahead. Fun times, really.

In recent studio collaborative sessions the students have made their first trip through the Simplex process in order to solve a small, personal problem. To place myself in their shoes I dug up a written reflection from my first and second attempts at the process. Below are some notes from that reflection:

  • divergence became easier on the second attempt
  • challenge mapping and creating challenge statements became easier and more focused on the second try

What to take out of this? A) We will get better with creative problem solving processes as we get more experience with them. B) Have patience with those who are new to the process. It seems to be a simple, straightforward process, but it does consist of skills that must be learned and constantly refined. Even those leading facilitating the process can continue to improve their skills.

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