When I originally started working on the whiteboard, I arrived with preconceived notions and best-laid plans. The fellows would write frequently on the inner workings of the d.school and their processes. There would be numerous contributions from guest writers. There would be Q&As, custom videos, and every piece would receive a full edit, bringing it as close to flawless as possible.
I would take ownership, responsibility and wave the conductor's baton.
Then I started writing in the first person, using italics, presenting franken-videos at conference gatherings, and launching whiteboard warrior campaigns against my insecurities as a visual artist.
In the meantime, the fellows, to whom the whiteboard truly belongs, have populated a smaller portion of its all but infinite space. I originally assigned them to write twice a week. Most have only written for the blog once or twice since they arrived nearly five months ago.
It's understandable. Schedules have been hectic. They have lives and very real and important responsibilities on top of which have been piled classes and numerous other fellowship-related events. I am in awe of everything they have done on and around the whiteboard to date. They have thrilled and delighted me and many, many others with their discoveries and their willingness to share. Readers, in return, have been supportive and generous with their time.
The community growing around the whiteboard is truly special.
But, a few weeks ago, during a car-ride in the rain, one of the fellows told me that they were reluctant to write in this space because of, in part, how I began my introduction to it: "Do you see this big, blue button," the fellow remembered me saying, "that button belongs to me."
The button in question was the "publish" button in our content management system.
The statement was born of habit. That button had, for me, been a very scary thing for a long time and for good reason. But this space and the writers who are meant to occupy it are different, which requires a new approach and a new relationship with the blue button. It also requires negotiating a new relationship with you, the reader.
The whiteboard, at the end of the day, is a test. In the basic design thinking process, test is the fifth stage. It's the stage where you take your prototype, present it to your user and receive the gift of their feedback. Then, you go back and re-enter the design process at a stage appropriate to the evolved challenge.
So, over the winter break, I returned to the define stage and worked on changing the point of view around the whiteboard project. The tool I'm using is often referred to as a Point-of-View Madlib, and involves the construction of a sentence around the words "User(s)('s)" "Need(s)" and "Because". When completed, you end up with a sentence that goes something like this:
A group of restless experts who have come to the d.school to struggle with stubborn problems
...an opportunity and support to learn and grow their storytelling abilities
...a facility with storytelling about problem-solving and discovery is an invaluable tool in tackling challenges and an integral part of the design thinking process.
So, I created a new prototype: the "Storytelling Studio." This is a three-part program tailored to the fellows based on feedback I received from them before we parted ways for the holidays. The first part of "Storytelling Studio" involves one-on-one time with me to work on building skills and discovering new tools. The second part is scheduled time for me to visit the fellows in the field as they work on their project and provide feedback on how they are gathering artifacts for future storytelling. This will also serve as time for me to do my own artifact collection, which will fuel my storytelling throughout the quarter. The third part of the studio involves group work and brainstorming around story collection, allowing them to leverage each other's findings and build on previous discoveries.
In the meantime, I ask you to always remember, even as I am likely to be the first to forget, this is a test.
This is only a test.