Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The KJ Method: Wish for no "~ish"es (Collaboration Patterns Project #3)

It's always been hard not to judge someone by their looks. It's what's in the inside, they always say. The students at the Iba lab Tuesday were facing a similar kind of conflict against post-its. 

After two weeks of brainstorming, the Collaboration Patterns Project was now heading into a new phase. Students came in on a damp spring afternoon to find the rainbow they generated the in the past two weeks taped together onto the huge desk. Looking at the post-it notes with their ideas on it, the members instantly were brought back a week in time to when they were sticking the notes onto the paper.

No chairs this time. The members positioned themselves around the table randomly for a place to start searching for connections between the notes with the KJ method. Members move here and there around the table to look through the notes. When they think they've found a connection, they would ask for opinions from the group. The appeal would then be agreed or rejected after a careful conversation. 

During the KJ method, sticky notes that are thought to have similar attributes are grouped together and placed close to one another. What must be kept in mind, is that the similarities must not be something superficial. 

A note about responding to emails quickly should not be grouped with a note that states the importance of exchanging email addresses so everyone can be reached when needed, just because they both are talking about email-ish topics. It is better paired with a note saying that feedbacks should be given constantly and immediately, since the point here is about giving response and not so much about the email.

Environment-ish, confidence-ish.. These "~ish" topics are the enemy here. We are tempted to group the notes by these broad topics, but this should be avoided as much as possible. The whole point of this process is to mine out the core aspects that are important for effective collaboration; these shallow connections are meaningless. Core traits and functions must be observed and talked through,before a single connection between two notes can be made. 

Soon members found it easier if they recalled on the conversations made during the brainstorm when the note was written, to understand what each note really meant. Even if two notes have the exact same words written on it, it may mean two completely different things depending on the person who wrote the note. The two people who wrote the notes can also reexplain and give specific examples to help the group decide if the notes can be paired.

Watching notes going here and there, the process seemed to have slow progress. Hours had passed before first of the clusters started to appear. 

The day's session lasted for over five hours. The lab wrapped up the day by penciling lines around the clusters that formed during the day. There were a couple of relatively large clusters, a few more pairs and triplets, but the rest were yet to be grouped. 

Incompleteness and unclear feelings persisted in the members' minds after the day's work. They would continue with the KJ method next week, hopefully to finish it.

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