What do you do when freedom becomes a constraint? The fellows convened at the d.school for another Wednesday studio session this week. The scheduled speaker was unable to attend. This means, for the second week in a row, the cohort was faced with the challenge of making meaning of their time together. A mild form of chaos ensued.
They attempted to vote on how to use their time and what the next steps should be for subsequent meetings. One fellow left to pursue heads-down work, another fellow bowed out for another, previously-planned engagement. Two of the fellows left for a moment to acclimate their dogs to one another. The group, lacking top-down structure, quickly became amorphous. But those fellows prepared for and geared towards leveraging one another's time -- five in total -- stayed and began to design an engagement all their own.
Eventually, they settled on a common set of questions around a theme: How do you design effective design workshops for diverse groups?
I suggested that they try to establish an impromptu meeting with former d.school fellow and current lecturer David Janka, an experienced workshop facilitator who has led design teams all over the world. As David walked by Huddle Room 1 entirely by chance, I stopped him and asked if he had "five seconds" to meet with the fellows. Thankfully, he had more than five seconds. For the next forty-five minutes, David fielded questions from the fellows about how to hold design workshops, his experiences, his insights and tips for amassing and creating good resources.
One key piece of information he imparted was the importance of developing your own, unique content -- in other words, taking ownership of your design process and materials.
Questions were asked. Knowledge was shared. Notes were taken. A studio-time design emerged within freedom's unlikely constraint.
The group of extremely independent and restless experts sought structure. It's difficult, after all, to give up the age-old model of a wise elder -- someone to take to the front of a class. In the absence of that model, they tried a number of other methods (voting, deliberation, compromise and even avoidance) to establish structure for themselves. But it was the freedom to make their own experience that gave them room to operate serendipitously.
It should be noted that the end result was incredibly useful for the fellows, but not ideal. The design work continues ...