WebVisions Barcelona: talk notes

I was honoured to be part of this year's WebVisions Barcelona line-up. Interesting content, a super-friendly audience and vibe, and the WebVisions team are lovely hosts.  

The slides (pdf) are up on Slideshare:

As creative people, we experiment in our work. We try out different ways of solving a problem, different layouts, we play around a bit. However, when it comes to collaboration and team work, we can get stuck in our ways and in the roles we assume. My goal for the talk, and reason for choosing this topic, was to encourage attendees to experiment more with how they work with others.

I talked about what has helped me collaborate better - both practical 'hacks' and theory -, grouped into three areas:

  • Space & Context
  • Skills & Toolkit
  • Purpose & Values

Space & Context

Consider what type of interaction you would like to achieve, and adapt the space you're in accordingly.

  • Encouraging active body postures, such as perching, are great for keeping people engaged.
  • Creating a 'campfire vibe' with low, informal seating facilitates interpersonal sharing.  
  • If your objective is to get people interested and involved in the work you do, consider where you put information radiators, and where you put yourself.  
  • Changing the context - moving e.g. from your desk to the sofa - can help you get mentally unstuck. I love walking meetings: moving your body helps your mind to move, and the sense of camaraderie can help with difficult conversations and conflicts.  

Skills & Toolkit

Collaborating with people who are different from ourselves, who bring a different background, approach or tools to the table, can result in better decisions and ideas. I introduced the concept of cognitive diversity, which is about our cognitive abilities and preferences.

Working in a way that makes us cognitively uncomfortable can result in frustration. Reflecting on my choice of tools and processes, and what they say about my cognitive preferences, has helped me understand why I struggle in certain situations.

A facilitation toolbox can help you benefit from different approaches and preferences in your team. Mix verbal with visual techniques. Hack how you pair programme or pair design. Try different ways of running your stand-ups and retrospectives. Change who facilitates.  

Purpose & Values

We often talk about vision. I'm interested in why we choose to believe in a certain vision, leader or company: in  values. When working with others, I try to understand their core motivations, their understanding of quality and craft, and what they enjoy. Having an honest, personal conversation about my values, my reasons to be creative, has helped me work better with others, and do better work.

Resources from my talk

Here's a list of books, talks and articles that fed directly into my talk:

Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford University. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (2012).

Scott Page. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, And Societies (2007).

Values and Frames: The Common Cause Handbook (2011).

Jean Tabaka. Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders (2006).

Margaret Heffernan. Dare to Disagree. TED talk.

Michael Michalko. How Geniuses Think. The Creativity Post, April 28, 2012.

The pair design hack I talked about is based on Samuel Bowles' talk on the topic. http://www.scribd.com/doc/55672319/Extreme-Design

I mentioned the Rich Picture and the Business Model Canvas when talking about my own toolbox. I've written a brief description for each one here.