Lifelet: Whiteboarding

There is something about standing in front of a white board with a magic marker in hand that leads to my best thinking. Maybe it is the aromatics from the “dry erase” fumes. Maybe it is just the constant shifting of perspective as I write and then stand back and reflect and then draw some more. More likely it is combining the standing at the white board in conjunction with a great group of collaborating colleagues.

As we were conducting video ethnography research on nine start-up companies at 9Mile Labs accelerator, we realized that we weren’t capturing video of our own Flipped Startup planning sessions.

The following video captures a two hour planning session in two minutes. See a quick walk through “representation” of our discussion of a potential pivot in our strategy.

[NOTE: I love the two young brothers of Size2Shoes who provide the lyrics to “My To Do List” who I encountered at a David Whyte poetry reading workshop.]

While the finished “product” of the session is not obvious to the casual observer, it captures the analog detritus of our conversation. This one whiteboard image captured several decisions and generated our August action plan.

080913 Whiteboard

What I most appreciate about smart phone cameras is the ability to capture the artifacts of these planning discussions so that we have a digital trail of how we got to our current thinking.

Nick Milton in his post “3 states of knowledge, 9 transitions” adds the “to record” as a key component of knowledge management.

“I would like to extend this model (Nonaka and Takeuchi SECI model), because when we start to work with Knowledge Management in organisations, we find that knowledge lies in three natural states rather than two, and that we therefore need a 3×3 matrix rather than a 2×2.

The three states are as follows;

1. Unconscious “Knowledge in the head” – the things you don’t know you know.
2. Conscious “Knowledge in the head” – the things you know you know.
3. Recorded Knowledge (captured in documents, audio, video etc).

The most powerful knowledge – the deep knowledge  that experts possess – is in state 1. However if knowledge is to be transferred easily between people, it may need to change it’s state in order to allow transfer. The 3×3 matrix above represents the 9 possible transitions, and the dark blue squares are where Knowledge Management traditionally focuses (you can see that traditionally we only cover about half of the diagram). “

3 states of knowledge

For my graduate classes at UW, I represent these processes a little differently through an image from Elizabeth Orna’s Making Knowledge Visible: Communicating Knowledge Through Information Practices:

knowledge UW lecture

The recording states of Milton are part of the outside world in the above diagram. What is interesting is that over time the recordings (the video and the camera images) mean so many different things to different colleagues. As a generator of the information in the moment the whiteboard session directs my actions. A month later it is interesting to reflect on what we’ve learned and done since this session. Yet, to the casual reader coming across this white board image, it is mostly visual noise and barely data.

For me, my hours and days in front of a whiteboard and a flip chart are my most intense form of learning. Now when I remember to record these sessions, I can go through Milton’s 3 states of knowledge and nine transitions of knowledge at the same time. Yet, I quickly run afoul of the crush of the urgent so that I don’t get the time to do the appropriate reflection to fully integrate the knowledge over time.

Gregory Bateson wrote about this problem of capturing in his cybernetic book Mind and Nature:  A Necessary Unity:

“Of course, the whole of the mind could not be reported in a part of the mind.  This follows logically from the relationship between part and whole.  The television screen does not give you total coverage or report of the events which occur in the whole televisions process; and this not merely because the viewers would not be interested in such a report, but because to report on any extra part of the total process would require extra circuitry.  But to report on the events in this extra circuitry would require a still further addition of more circuitry, and so on.  Each additional step toward increased consciousness will take the system farther from total consciousness.  To add a report on events in a given part of the machine will actually decrease the percentage of total events reported.”  P.432

As I eagerly await Google Glass to record so easily even more of my daily interactions I am reminded of Bateson’s words and wonder if I will ever have time for the necessary reflection and lifelogging meaning making.

google glass

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, checkout Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

This entry was posted in Knowledge Management, Learning, Lifelet, Lifelogging, organizing, Working in teams. Bookmark the permalink.

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