THAT was a ROLLERCOASTER

co-creation graphic facilitation Jun 16, 2010

that was quite the ride on today's graphic facilitation project for a large industrial company.

Want to take the ride with me? 

First, I got to site early, as I always do, to put up my paper and get ready. Windowless room. Oof. Okay. My client, a woman, is welcoming. That helps. 

As the team of engineers come in, each one carries a chunky black laptop. It was all men. Every man opened up his laptop and fired it up. 

They all chatted with each other and I could feel the strong rapport. 

Once we sat and got started, it hit me. My client and I were the only two women in the room, she sat on one end of the U-shaped table, sitting slightly apart from the group.

Between me and them?

A battlement of open laptops. 

Super strange energy. Not hostile, but definitely not the vibe of a team ready to have a group conversation. 

And the gender thing is no biggie. I enjoy working with engineers. 

Like the jolt of a rollercoaster starting the ride, we jerked forward.

Sure enough, the first half of the day was not a group conversation. It was three teams sharing their progress reports on fifteen projects. Fifteen projects, one-by-one sharing detailed lists of details. 

Yes, I said detailed lists of details. 

This was that ka-chunk, ka-chunk grind up the hill on the coaster. 

Project 1: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk.
Project 2: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk.
Project 3: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk.
Project 4: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk.
Project 5: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk.
Project 6: Ka-chunk, ka-chunk...

You get the idea. Those three hours felt like 3 days. I filled 100 square feet of charts. 

I was a bottleneck. I don't think I added any value to work already done by Powerpoint slides. My fingers flew. I did the thing. 

Happily, the ride shifted at the lunchtime peak. 

Next, I was tasked to do what I excelled at. Now that all the nuts and bolts were shared, the team shifted to design of a project pipeline that helped them get the bigger picture view of where each project was and how they aligned

In other words, a model that would have saved all of us the slog of the first half of the day. 

Now I was in co-creation mode, asking questions and sketching out a shape the team could fit every project into. A dashboard, the project at-a-glance. 

Happily, that work let me use my systems brain, not just flying fingers. That's when the engineers really warmed up to me sensing that we all shared a similar spatial, abstract, problem-solving way of thinking. 

THAT half of the day was a blast! I got work in the ways I work best. 

 


2020 Update: This was absolutely I learning experience. I was so tapped out by being in fast-paced rote mode that I had to really rally for the second half of the day.

Given the same meeting objectives and design today, I would have set entirely different expectations. I would have sat at the table, watching the reports, not mapping them.

Spending the morning sitting, listening, watching, and sketing, would have allowed me the opportunity to listen for the patterns, connections and shapes within and across projects. 

I would have come to the project pipeline designing afternoon a much better partner. 

We got the job done, but I am certain we could have refined the pipeline more with this different approach.