In a moment of possible abject folly a conversation that spiralled into something else earlier this week prompted me to set up a discussion group 'Dead Persons Talking' (on Linkedin) and a website www.deadpersontalking.com.
A year ago I set up a Book of Condolences website which drew over 100 responses.
What struck me, on a personal level, is my love for a long gone grandfather and the desire to continue conversations with my late father too.
What if they were still around and could join discussions?
I feel I knew both well, indeed I interviewed my late grandfather at length, transcribed this and put it in the blog www.getjackback.wordpress.com
The idea is to open the blog www.deadpersontalking.com to many authors who may wish to come in.
The membership of this group continues to grow at a rapid speed and we get a healthy stream of postings of discussions and news.
1. The discussions board is primarily intended to start discussions therefore please take some effort to phrase your idea, thought or observation in such a way that responses are encouraged.
2. Don’t make multiple posts of the same item.
3. Don’t blatantly promote your company, product, weblog or yourself.
4. Please do not promote other groups (unless of course they are one of ours!) or simply provide links to external reports (though of course we all have some of these to share from time to time). Rather, if there is something worthwhile to be found elsewhere, please post the premise so it can be discussed here.
5. Posts that are off-topic will be removed.
6. Multiple off topic/solicitation postings will result in removal from the group. Indeed, if any members flag a discussion three times it is automatically removed.
I champion this OU Student Blog platform thingey because it is aking to the Bulletin Boards of a decade ago. You post your stuff and others may spot it vicariously or tune in. I love the stuff I am introduced to that would never otherwise pass before my eyes. I want to sudy Art History, I can't get enough of the MAODE of coourse ... I even quite enjoy the enthusiasm some people have for poetry and maths.
As they're not offered in any detail I don't fret, but for the first time in 2 years, in fact in after about 735 days blogging on this OU platform (most days, sometimes more than once) I thought I start taking a look at what is going in.
I need to pull this apart a but further. I need to look at year on year, at course starts, particularly MAODE modules as well as seasonal and weekly shifts. Perhaps time of day.
Not that anyone needs to know 'when is the best time to blog on the OU Student platform'.
The answer is a little and often (and never miss more than 2 or 3 days in a row)
Today’s Creative Problem Solving workshop went well.
I planned, but didn’t over plan. I kept it simple, doing a combination of what I know, what I’ve done or had done to me, with an intuitive inclination to two straightforward exercises that I stumbled upon in the B822 Techniques Library: ‘Advantages, Limits and Unique Qualities’ is the first exercise in the book. This sounded like my people, something they’d be familiar with. That they could do. I had it down as an opening exercise, then rejigged it to the end of the cession to assess our plan of action. Then there was Help/Hinder, I’m glad to say a ‘pure OUBS’ exercise as if was devised by Jane Henry and John Martin in 1997 for the Creative Problem-solving Guide.
It helps that
a) I am a professional (though part time) swimming coach.
b) As a director, often working with members of the public of client members of staff, I can give clear direction and put people at their ease
It matters enormously when you stand up in front of 10, 20 sometimes 60 young athletes that you know, to the minute what you want to do (and know why it has to be done). It matters to your assistant coaches too. This isn’t so different. I will be on my feet for 90 minutes (a senior squad group runs 2 hours, the junior swimmers an hour). A handwritten plan might suffice, often put into a day per page diary. This gets written up on a large whiteboard poolside. With swimmers this is very much for them to see bit by bit what is expected of them, but it also provides for the stressed-out coach with a million things on their mind with an immediate aide memoire. Swimmers perform to the second. At the top level we expect them to swim within the tinniest of tolerances, hitting during training a specific, personal time of Personal Best (PB) + a number of seconds. The expert amongst them do it.
This was a different kind of class entirely. Adult swimmers, I could say. Not a group of unknowns though, with strangers I may have thrown them in a the deep end, but I knew with my colleagues that resting their legs in the water, a Jacuzzi perhaps or floating around in the shallow end would be enough. I was right, finger-painting, super-hero role play, or hypnosis would have been the equivalent of Mr Bean on the High Diving Board.
It would be egalitarian, whatever their position (we had directors, managers and officers). In this respect, I would have to take it carefully, advancing them into exercises and responding as they do. In practice each planned exercise came off and with care I kept people engaged in what I wanted them to do, even where I sensed they were feeling a little uncomfortable.
Laughter in the warm-up exercise helped.
It felt appropriate as someone they know to be a swimming coach to do a short ‘poolside’ swimming related practical. My initial thought had been ‘hot potato’ a version of what we did at Residential School and I see trotted out all the time, the throw the ball, say your name add an adjective pass it on. Exactly what I do with young swimmers as they join a squad for the first time and will soon be competing together. In this case, with one exception everyone knew each other very well. To begin to form a bond between strangers yes.
To teach sculling I get swimmers to place their hands on their face, look at the shape of their hands, then describe ‘infinity’ elbows in hands in front of them. They did a bit of this and I added floating off the bottom of the pool, making whirlpools and polishing a bald man’s head.
We did Samurai Mother-in-law, Tiger in a Tutorial. I felt a quick team go of Paper, Scissors, Stone would be a valuable intermediary step. I can see now that I have this set of steps I want them to take with me, and that I have to be the judge of how to place the ‘stones’. Here I am still looking for an easy buy in.
Team Game : Paper Scissors Stone
Two goes at this and we were ready for the next one.
Team Game : Samurai Mother-in-law, Tiger
The first of these drew laughter, the second fits of giggles. I don’t know what the scores were and didn’t want to start thinking about doing it often enough to find a winning team so swiftly moved on.
(More to follow once I have extracted the confidential or the controversial)
I can't help thinking about this one and visualising how a colleague feels: being pulled limb from limb, like one of those stretchy toys.
I am looking forward to applying the ideas to all manner of practical problems, at work, in the home and at the swimmign club. At work it will be about social media. At home it will be about gettin repairs done and an extension built. At the swimming club the messiest problem I can think of is 'flippers' how we want to use them as they are excellent to develop the long leg kick and particularly good for Butterfly, but the kids never put them away, flippers go missing and they are always left in a mess.
Interested in swimming? Interested in being a swimming teacher or coach? What about water-polo? Once again I am blogging about my poolside/teaching experiences in my swim teach / swim coach blog.
(Named thus because I also used to instruct sailing and took to wearing sailing wellies poolside. They keep you feet dry, unlike trainers and are more comfortable than flip-flops. I was nicknamed 'the welly-boot man' by the young swimmers).
Fig 1. Creativity Problem Solving Precepts
Mindmap 7 From the OU MBA Module 'Creativity, Innovation & Change' (B822)
Discussed in Jonathan Vernon's Blog 'My Mind Bursts'
The term was coined in the late 1960s by someone born in 1919, (Ackoff) it isn't contemporary street speak, or even in Norman Mailer's words 'Beatnik'; rather, in this manifestation of the word it is the opposite of 'tame'.
(Ackoff might be 'messy problems' while I mean Rittell here)
Put it this way, a tame problem can be contained and tamed, like a lion in a cage.
- Chess is a tame problem. Science problems are tame too.
- But in the social sciences most issues are complex, hard to fix, shifting, and a lot of bother as they appear impossible to resolve and whatever you try impacts on the problem.
Like trying to catch water in a sieve?
- It is vital for me to understand that a problem is 'wicked' before I try to tackle the thing with a creative problem solving technique. Not meaning to be flippant, but I don't figure out a chess move by finger painting - though a mind-map or brainstorming might help?
- Or not?
- I am hopeless at chess because it doesn't respond to my intuitive approach to everything.
Is the problem 'messy'?
- Probably, if it requires finger painting, even Flipcharts and PostIt Notes.
Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber
Rittel and Webber's (1973) formulation of wicked problems specifies ten characteristics, perhaps best considered in the context of social policy planning.
According to Ritchey (2007) the ten characteristics are:
There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem).
Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.
The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).
The solution depends on how the problem is framed and vice-versa (i.e. the problem definition depends on the solution)
Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
The constraints that the problem is subject to and the resources needed to solve it change over time.
The problem is never solved definitively
ABOVE FROM WIKIPEDIA 9FEB12 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem
Messes and social messes
Russell L. Ackoff wrote about complex problems as messes: "Every problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems, a system of problems…. I choose to call such a system a mess." 
Extending Ackoff, Robert Horn says that "a Social Mess is a set of interrelated problems and other messes. Complexity—systems of systems—is among the factors that makes Social Messes so resistant to analysis and, more importantly, to resolution."
According to Horn, the defining characteristics of a social mess are:
Ackoff, Russell, "Systems, Messes, and Interactive Planning" Portions of Chapters I and 2 of Redesigning the Future. New York/London: Wiley, 1974.
No unique “correct” view of the problem;
Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions;
Most problems are connected to other problems;
Data are often uncertain or missing;
Multiple value conflicts;
Ideological and cultural constraints;
Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking;
Numerous possible intervention points;
Consequences difficult to imagine;
Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity;
Great resistance to change; and,
Problem solver(s) out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.
You may know the story of Romulus & Remus, brought up by a she-wolf on the hills above the River Tiber, they were the founders of Rome, though only one would give the city their name.
One day, looking down at the Tiber the brother's decided to found a great city. They agreed to build a wall encircling a piece of promising land and to do so separately, starting opposite each other, at a distance and meeting in the middle. Romulus builds his wall low and makes quick progress laying out a great arc that heads towards his brother Remus. Remus builds as high as a man, his wall is tall, but progress away from the River is slow. Eventually the two Walls meet. Remus cannot contain his mirth at his brother's low wall and mockingly starts to jump over it back and forth. Unable to contain his anger Romulus picks up a shovel and knocks his brother across the head as he makes another leap.
Social media is like founding Rome; you can steadily drip, drip content and news like Romulus or you can build high and make an impact like Remus.
Both approaches have their merits, on the one hand having and maintaining a presence while on the other doing something 'big'. If only one person is faced with the task of 'building Rome' what should they do?
Already I see the need for two people and two roles, the first, the 'low wall' is the website that is a consistent presence, not simply static web pages, but blog-like where visitors contribute content and share what is there. The 'high wall' are the events, or highlights, from commissioned videos or iTunes, to live forums and Webinars.
Neither should be seen as exclusive to the Internet, like the wall that surrounds Rome, web presence should be seen as part of the real world integrated with open days and events, mail outs by post or email, PR and traditional advertising too.
P.S. I was told this story as a boy, probably age 10 or 11, probably my first Latin lesson with Mr Byers. The story stuck, an example of the power of narrative, the Latin did not, though I had to study the subject for another four or five years. Translating 'oderint' as 'they smelt' was my highlight.
As a social media manager am I first flute, composer or conductor?
With direct experience working in an organisation of 4,000+ and in our faculty the only Social Media Manager and person with a social media and online communications remit I have good reason to reflect on the way the role of 'Social Media' is changing. The one man band metaphor falls down when you consider the number, size, scale and volume of the 'instruments' this bandoliers must play. Decades ago Roy Castle set a Guinness Book of Record by playing x different instrument in a set period of time. (Done live on Blue Peter in the late 1960s or early 1970s perhaps?). It can be like that.
Is the 'Jack of All Trades' the answer?
That depends on the kind of results you want. To stretch the metaphor we are yet to see the full philharmonic orchestra as an in-house social media team, though this might be what the large agencies offer. Those where social media is crucial, I've seen it at the FT, I would say they are moving towards the 'chamber orchestra' model: they have to, everything is going on line and opinion, not news, is the currency.
Where does this leave education? We shall see.
How much can you learn simply by join a group, say in Linkedin? You listen, you learn, you take guidance. You may offer some initial thoughts. Slowly and vicariously, depending on your motivation and skill set, you become more engaged, from the periphery you gravitate towards and are drawn to the centre of things. It may take two or three years (or months) and you find yourself considered to be a voice, an opinion maker, a leader. Are you?
What makes the Digital Scholar?
I'll find out as I aim to complete an MA in Open and Distance Education and am increasingly inclined to press on with an OU MBA too, as I currently take one of the modules. Mostly online, it could all be online. I share it all, empty my head into a blog each night and thus share my progress (or lack of progress) with a broad and eclectic mix of fellow students (undergraduates and graduates) ... and the occasional academic.
We live in interesting times.
I offer these cryptic notes from the post B882 Creativity, Innovations and Change OU Business School, 'Residential School' as an aide memoir and catalyst.
This sounds like an excuse for poor note taking, yet everyone will have their own view or sense of what occurred during the tutorial and more importantly what they took from it or felt about it.
Rather than being prescriptive then perhaps the following will jog your memory and help you think it through. In any case, I could justify it as a technique, 'stream of conscious' or free form writing: getting it on paper. (though these days everything is jotted down on an iPad).
Were this a Wiki it could be added to collectively.
(As a Belbin Team 'Plant' type I love the idea that a 'Finisher' in a group will come into a wiki and 'get the job done' while I dream, tinker and catalyse invention).
Be careful with the term 'framework' which here means metaphors as exploration for problem solving. Whereas methodologies are 'methods for problem solving' such as Buffalo Three Stage Model, Disney (complete method, not technique).
DISNEY (See Techniques Library)
This used three modes of thinking:
- The dreamer
- The realistic
- The critic.
All three strategies are useful and complementary for a project.
(My successes have utilised three people in these three modes, I am generally the dreamer. Reflecting on this I do see how I can been try to be overly pragmatic and might stall a project and ultimately the projects worst critic ... and so I pull the plug. The trick has to be to find a way back and forth through all three traits, or as I have done in the past, be the dreamer, with a realist and critic part of the team).
Berne (1970) called these:
You can role play alone, but best to have others take part so that the 'idea' is given legs.
The technique calls for a FOURTH player:
- Neutral, Chair or facilitator.
You step from Neutral to Dream, Neutral to Realist, Neutral to Critic in turn.
Guerilla activities : Covert creative problem solving.
Can anyone add more to this?
My concern would be that if already outside your comfort zone it would be too easy to duck the issue; instead of using 'guerilla activities' strategically as the best choice of approach, that they would be used to avoid having to confront fears you may have over facilitating such an exercise with colleagues.
Might the answer be to dilute a mix of people with some outsiders, as catalysts or to tip the balance in favour of the exercise?
Even to diffuse any real or perceived problems?
These are in the Techniques Library or Book 2: 82, 86.
Tiger : Samurai : Mother-in-law
This activity, done in teams facing each other is the same as 'paper, scissors, stone' but with bigger, bolder actions. You 'Tut-tut’ and wag your finger as the mother in law. You 'growl' and get your claws out as a Tiger While you shout 'ha!' and take up the stance of a Samurai warrior brandishing his sword for Samurai.
This is an Ice-breaker which gets people on their feet, smiling, shaking of inhibitions and getting their energy levels up. It's one way to help get people into the right frame of mind for things like finger painting etc:
We shared some of the techniques used at Residential School: Hairy Balls
Actually pom-poms, though any item could be used to throw and catch from a beach ball to screwed-up newspaper.
I first came across this at Youth Theatre in my teens, then used it as a warm-up with video production teams and later with 'Mini Squad' our future elite swimmers, in the water to help them get each other's names in their heads, followed with 'hot potato' in which they are pushed further to retain the basic information while they get suitably warmed up.
The most relevance for this is with a group where people don't know each other already.
The next step at Resi School.
Qualify the person's name and remember both this and the person's name. Concentration game around the room
Q.Q. How to do the virtual version?
(Coming from the Masters in Open and Distance Education I should have an answer for this)
And another one:
Privately we thought if we were an animal, what kind of animal would we be?
We then put the word on a PostIt. One at a time we came forward and described ourselves while others based on this tried to guess what kind of animal we are.
This too went on a PostIt and from this we'd gain some understanding of who we are perceived to be.
Finally we put the two animals together.
How did this go? I should know.
I elected to be a Red Squirrel but only because I happened to be thinking about a certain Management Training Centre in the Lake District (actually the Eden Valley) where my late father lived where we had Red Squirrels. I should have related it to my current role or how I saw myself. Actually I had had 'dolphin' in my mind, which was as much about freedom and personality as my professional and personal interest in swimming.
It worked better with someone else who had described themselves as a leopard 'ready to pounce' as we had come up with a leopard or some such. The next step was to introduce two such 'animals' in 'character' to each other, for example what happens when a 'giraffe' type meets the 'panther' or of course the classic of a mouse meeting an elephant.
At Resi School we did 'Super Heroes' and it worked by people finding complementary powers.
This is good at the solution finding stage by asking people who, why and what.
Ask 'what solutions would your superhero bring to the table?' What have we got to lose? (if you are getting nowhere).
If you've got to tackle lots of incremental changes that are not delivering how do you reframe it and do something more visionary?
|From E-Learning V|
Our tutor gave a personal example of imagining Charing Cross Metropolitan Police Station as an aircraft carrier.
Sequence of diamonds to have the problem, diverge, then draw it together.
Based on 'systems thinking' Jane Henry and John Martin (2010)
Trying therefore to understand it holistically.
Something 'messy' is when you put stuff together e.g. Hospital, flyover and play park. P.43/44.
(I keep thinking of Engestrom's 'activity systems' and how these were used to think through messy problems in, for example, a live TV production company, or the relationship between a hospital and clinics).
Wicked or Messy problems. What are they?
Wicked: Rittel (1972)
Messes: Akoff (1979)
These have few boundaries
There are Complex systems or sub-problems Mason and Mitroff, 1981 pp.11-13 (p43, B2) All about 'unpacking challenged' 3.10 (pp 42/43)
TMA02 Ask yourself? Why am I dealing with this problem? Use a technique for messy or wicked problems. 3:10 unpacking problems
Some are techniques, others are complete methods. Eg. Buffalo.
It is an Iterative process
Use 'divergent thinking' first
Remember the 13 precepts as "rules for the environment'
Add Precepts List
Evaluate what did - compare precepts.
If precepts breached, why? What do next time?
Horse shoe and the car story
A company makes great horseshoes then along comes the car; its response is to make the very best horse-shoes. But sales are falling ... So you make increasingly better horseshoes.
You are trapped into doing the same thing.
When around you the world is changing, you need to do something different.
Kodak makes a similar story.
I bought a Kodak digital camera and easy share docking station around 2002.
Both lasted no longer than a novelty Christmas present, the definition on the camera too poor, depends ace on the docking station and frequent, expensive paper fails with the printer.
Other industries that are too stuck in a rut to change?
On reflection I can see that corporate video production companies could fail in the same way if they thought in terms only of video production, instead of seeing themselves as a communications business. I think of how 'Two Four' has, for example, morphed itself into broadcast TV while 'The Bank' went from a record label and music videos, to corporate video, events, commercials and 'experiential' projects.
1) Get as much as you can, so keep diverging.
I recall our Resi School tutor forever pushing, and stepping in wherever (at this stage) someone started to use business terminology (i.e. both converging and becoming glued to a mindset not of your own).
E.g. Don't close down ideas when brainstorming.
2) You want one idea to lead to another.
As soon as you close down you stop the flow of ideas.
E.g Brain writing. 30secs to put ideas/answers on a pad, then quickly pass it around. Interject a game ....
3) Then back to the brainstorm.
4) Do something different.
5) Then back to the brainstorm ...
Converge, Diverge, Statement of the problem.
N.B. One people fully understand what the problem is the following stages follow through quickly.
How you'd do it next time (better when it goes wrong)
Genuinely real problems (nothing trivial)
N.B. Do it in a real context to convince the tutor that you did it.
Ideally, a group of highly supportive group people at work.
Or virtual. Multiple intelligences. Personalities.
Ambiguous problems Activity 6.6 (p107, B2)
Technique Choosing Activity 7.3 (p125, B2)
Facilitation Issues Activity 7.9 (p136, B2)
Manage the context Hamburger or sh1t sandwich : pointing out what went well and reinforcing this to conclude.
How are you going to overcome the constraints of your organisation?
What is the PROBLEM?
The problem is defining the problem.
Problem solving does not mean finding a solution necessarily but finding the most suitable way of dealing with the issues.
Exceedingly well educated, but preconditioned on how to solve a problem.
What people are wearing! Dress down Friday.
Different location (and time)
No hierarchy, include outsiders.
Morning, Afternoon or Evening.
Toolkit (bag of toys)
Youth Leader (theatre) Swim Coach (pool)
NO IT games! (paid for and restrictive) Role reversal ... In my shoes (personas)
Facing the truth. Lose the passion.
Gap analysis: where we are ...
Where we would like to be.
Steps BACK from the end putting in place the steps. Make in convergent, divergent.
Have a pack of colour discs. (To do Timeline)
Lay them out to diverge, then converge.
Physically walk it through.
(Human sculpture) ... Even as a person not the organisation.
Why is the group composed the way it is?
Pace Planning Dress down, especially military.
Don't think the technique will work
View the technique library as a recipe book.
Have back up techniques in your back pocket
See DVD for Facilitation.
Bring your pet to school day (Steve Jobs)
QQ what are you doing differently compared to 2011?
Insightful commentary on the decisions '5W and H' to structure TMA. If you cannot define the problem early on start by looking at the symptoms.
- What to do with the dominant participant?
- Judgemental people need the rational
- Take them back to the process
- Keep it positive
- Don't let them close it down
KAI if 10/ 20 apart can cause problems.
Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley
Berne, E. (1970) Games People Play, Harmondsworth, Penguin Book.
Dilts, R.L. (1994/95) Strategies of Genius, Vol 13, Capitola, Meta Publications
Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively
Mason, R.O. and Mitroff, II. (1981) Challenging Strategic Planning Assumptions, Chichester: Wiley
Rittel, H (1972) 'On the planning crisis: systems analysis of the "First and second generations"', Bediriftskonomen, No8. pp. 390-6
Screenwriter Abi Morgan talks about how she became a screenwriter and Birdsong, via Jack Rosenthal and Mike Leigh in this BAFTA interview.
The things some job ads dare to wish for.
Griggs (1985) idea generation as someone else.
Easier to be silly in character (see Superheroes)
1) start with conventional brainstorming to sift ideas.
2) individual or joint role play to develop it further.
Our subgroup we busy having a go with finger paints while our fellow participants went off with balloons and masks. One of this number then spent much of the afternoon, even after the session, with two balloons stuffed up the front of his jumper. (We're an all male group).
The night before someone had played another participant's wife in a 'Human Sculpture'. You get used to the idea of this, yet another person had been 'The Army, or MOD' while yet another had been an 'ego' as distinct from the person.
This is the point of role play. Feels very Ibsenesque. Or Brecht. Theatre of the absurd.
Griggs, R.E. (1985) 'A Storm of Ideas', reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)
Based on: VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed., Van Nostrand. Technique 4.48, p. 163
This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.