As Alan Wood, David Socha, and I were sharing another wonderful breakfast at Sunflour Bakery and Cafe, continuing our discussion on how to improve higher learning in higher education, Alan shared his desire to have a tool like Devonthink to help him with his research. I shared an overview of what I’d done in the past with Attenex Patterns as a much better alternative and then shared what I had in mind for a new tool code named “content in context.” Alan immediately got in my face and said “You’ve got to build that.”
Well, thanks Alan, I’ve been wanting to build it for three years but I just can’t pull together the energy. We chatted about the amount of personal energy required to start a company, raise funding, build a product, and then sell the product (hopefully to millions). After having started so many companies, I can’t fool myself any more about how much energy it takes.
As luck would have it, I traveled to Portland,OR, the next day to meet with Christine Martell to work with her on updating a business plan for her company VisualsSpeak. In addition, we hoped to work on a high level design for the software system she would really like to have.
As we finished up over a late lunch at an organic grocery store deli, Christine asked me what I was up to and what I wanted to do next. I should know better than to try and share what I want to do when I’d just had my world turned upside down by the depth of what Christine has researched and created with VisualsSpeak. I needed some sleep time to do the synthesis for how to integrate the vision I’d just glimpsed of what it would mean to combine the power of Christine’s visual thinking with my designs for “content with context.”
Yet, it was the right question to ask so I rambled for an hour sharing the different pieces I was immersed in and pulling together and the option space for ways to move forward. On my four hour drive back from Portland, OR, to Bainbridge Island, WA, I reflected on what the implications of Christine’s work were for my design. Then it hit me that the constant theme of the several meetings with Christine was that what VisualsSpeak is really good at is helping people get unstuck by changing their story.
The next morning I called Christine and asked if there was a way we could simulate the software design we’d come up with. She suggested that we do the four day process with the Exploring New Options pack of images. I would do the work each day and send her my results and then she would simulate how the computer would give me feedback as both a test of our ideas, a deeper way for me to understand her process, and with any luck help me get unstuck.
The core of the process is to first formulate the question that is at the heart of what I am stuck in. Then, you spread out the images from the Exploring New Options pack, select the 5-7 images that speak to me in the context of my question, then arrange the images in a way that makes sense. After arranging the images, then tell a story that connects the images in the context of the core question.
Once I had the image collage and the story, the next step is to submit the two to Christine the human computation pattern recognizer. Christine the computer will then respond with the questions that emerge from the deep patterns represented both by the images chosen and their arrangement.
The core question I started with was “what is the future I want to create for myself for this new venture and product?”
With the question in mind I spread out the deck of images. Way too many of the images were speaking to me. I selected the following eight images:
As I stared at the images, I began to move them around. I then realized that I needed to select one of the images to be in the center. I selected the potter with the clay pot. I then arranged the rest of the images to surround the potter.
The story I captured with the collage of images in the context of the question was:
“I am envisioning a new venture that requires many hands to create. From the individual work of making the clay pot to the inspirational work of partners (left most picture) providing inspiration (double entendre) for me to create a legacy that is the result of a long and twisting path. I want the thing that is made to be biodynamic in nature as a fine wine that is grown and results in the magic elixir. I want the legacy to be as natural and organic as a nautilus shell (the first logo for the ALL-IN-1 product that I created back in 1981). I would like that legacy product to be as long lasting as a fossilized shell – still as beautiful today after thousands of years. The balance though is to achieve the wonderfully dynamic properties of a fine wine – a product that continues to live as it ages, yet with something firm enough (clay pot and nautilus shell) to be long lasting. The product of this work has to be capable of evolving through all of the partners (influencers, purchasers, suppliers, customers, customer’s customers) in the process. In other words, the product delivered has to be a process.”
As I sent this off to Christine, I laughed at my inability to arrange the images in a spiral or more randomly. My natural style is to have everything nicely vertically and horizontally arranged.
In our first meeting, Christine shared her matrix of the different patterns that people arrange the images (see matrix in the center above). She has noticed that each of us has a style and it is very difficult to get people to shift their arrangement to another style. The closest personality indicator that she correlates with this finding is the Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator.
Christine responding as the computer noticed the following things in the image:
“Does it mean anything to you that the images on the left side are all paintings and flowing, and the images on the right are photographs with circular patterns and a spiral off the side? This division is in the center of the image, which if often the most important.
“Is there anything more to say about the images that are tucked partially underneath at the top right and bottom left?”
I am fascinated by the lines/paths she draws through the images. My software design brain cuts in first and starts to think about how we would do the image recognition to follow the lines and shapes through a collection of images. I feel some wavelet decomposition mathematics coming to bear.
Slowly I quiet the software brain down, and get back to the image questions. I am fascinated how “unconscious” I was at lining up the many different lines and circles. My biodynamic fine wine growing imagery is hitting me left and right as I think about the cycles of sunshine to plant to berries to containment vessels (clay pots) to sharing fine wine in celebration of the journey.
Right now these questions are too deep for me. I’ll let sleep time deal with them.
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