Our Independent Study had a great class last Tuesday when Meredith Warner came to share her work and insights. Meredith is in organizational development, with a background in art and community organizing. Her current work is focused on The Think Tank that has yet to be named as well as various freelance projects.
Since the topic of our Independent Study is “Design Tools in Practice,” she talked about a variety of projects where she employed sense-making tools with her clients and fellow employees. I really appreciated her great clarity and insightful analysis of the experiences. She talked about tools as ways to get groups on the same page. She explained that most of the time, individual members have their own story they bring to the table. To get the group on the same page, it is best to have something physical to speak about. An example Meredith shared was of a wall-size timeline they used to plan an 18-month campaign. They purposely put very few denotations of time to allow for a more organic representation of time. They also prepared the activity by printing out simple color-coded cards with events from the organization leader’s calendars. Then the project team got to work with post-its (in silence) filling in what steps they needed to take between the present and the end of the campaign.
Meredith shared how her team then created taxonomy to analyze the data and visualize it in a way that helped plan the key moments for the campaign. The most interesting take away for me was how they purposefully allowed the activity to be shaped by the client team and allow for surprise and serendipity. By doing this, it resulted in a creative and unique representation of the data, which took the form of a juxtaposition of natural and institutional seasonal rhythms.
The presentation inspired me to consider my own practice of sense making, and I appreciate her sharing her work and wisdom with us!