Tool no 3. - Participant as Observer
This tool enables a team to know itself better - by incrementally turning itself inside out
- How can creative individuals or teams avoid getting bogged down by initial ideas, or by their own habits and assumptions?
- In the former, a change in the language of collaboration (e.g. the metaphors used) may suffice.
- Enabling an 'organism' to experience the world from the 'outside-in', as well as from the 'inside-out' is one solution.
- Regular 'cycling' of all team members (insiders) to act as observers (temporary outsiders) addresses the latter problem.
- The idea of 'thinking outside the box' reflects the fact that we normally live in conceptual boxes (e.g. language / habit)
- An organism's consciousness is limited by its partiality. Hence, ultimately, it can only fully 'know' its own experience.
- Teams, groups and organizations can be considered to be 'organisms' - therefore they suffer from the same problem.
- Attributes can be stored and exchanged with others, although they do not always inform wiser actions and outcomes
- Becoming an observer - ‘an active listener’ challenges our way of listening.
- This means understanding the differences between:
- Actions and reflections on actions
- (Positive) actions and (critical) commentaries
- (Critical) comments that can be construed as directed against oneself and those that seem directed to one's deed/s
- Action/Criticism as an 'insider' and action/criticism as an 'outsider'.
- When one is working, the active, "I" state can be understood as a Verb
- When one is critically observing, the "me" state can be understood as a Noun
- Where verbs seldom endure (performatively) in a constant state, nouns are often understood by attributes that cannot change much
- Sometimes the 'inside' (subjectively) is being 'in-the-flow' of doing something without too much reflection.
- Sometimes the 'inside' (subjectively) is in watching yourself do something, either in retrospect or via the perceptions of others
- This type of session is useful for realizing and understanding how a group dynamic works and helps expand our own role and perspective within a group.
- It can be useful to implement during a process, either in a divergent discussion (e.g. a brainstorming) and/or a convergent discussion (e.g. preparing to formulate a proposal/ project).
- It should encourage the use of adjectives that describe an action in the interpreted-in-action, rather than applied-to-action.
- it is a way to avoid the separation of communication tools for propositions and comments as this discourages actions + invites passive observation/criticism.
- It should aim to create communication systems that discourage critical (outsider) commentary and encourage (insider) 'suggested action'
- Thereby it may encourage insiders to listen to commentary by recent outsiders that can be painlessly interpreted into 'constructive actions'
- This tool was first tested in the Information-Sharing workshop on 18-05-2007. (see Information-Sharing-Synergy Workshop outcomes" class="wiki wikinew text-danger tips">outcomes ).
- A group of 4 people tested how their inter-relations were by having 3 people be active 'speakers' whilst the fourth person became an ‘observer’.
- To start one participant was the observer. After 20 mins. the participants rotated, so that each person had been both active participant as observer.
- In this experiment, each participant had been assigned to four teams, each designed to represent a style of thinking and working (see cognitive-style teams).
- This happened in an interval of 20mins (on all 80 mins) e.g.:
- New-Knower was the first to be an observer in each group, and PusherDoer, Envisioner and Languager interrelating. (20 minutes)
- Languager observed the interrelation between: New-Knower, PusherDoer and Envisioner. (20 minutes)
- Envisioner observed the interrelation between: PusherDoer, Languagerand New-Knower. (20 minutes)
- PusherDoer observed the interrelation between: Languager, New-Knower and Envisioner. 15+5 minutes feedback from observer at the end)
- By becoming an 'active listener’ (i.e. observer) our ways of listening were challenged.
- The experience of listening without speaking made the observer realise how we often react by instantly formulating a direct response in our head to what is being said.
- However, by abiding to not speak the observers realised how it took time to be able to “just listen” and not need to contribute instantly.
- As the ‘observer role’ rotated, it gave each participant a chance to become an outsider and realise both their own role within the group as well as allowing for other dynamics to emerge.
- Each time an observer returned to the discussion they could contribute to the discussion by giving feedback from their observations.
- This helped the group gain new momentum in the discussions.
- Observers had a template to follow while they observed the interrelation that takes place.(to be included)
- When you take a photograph you usually imagine the outcome, while making subjective, timely judgments (in the flow)
- You then wait for the image to become visible, via the processing stage, and this usually entails some unexpected elements
- The unexpected elements become the context within which you are able to reflect (from the 'outside') - upon your original intentions or expectations
- You then are able to apply what you have learned, in resuming the making (from the 'inside') of further photographs
- In 'Sciences of the Artificial' Herbert Simon discusses the idea of an organization's 'inside' and 'outside'.
- Ross Ashby's 'law of requisite variety' (Ashby, 1956) states that 'only internal variety can successfully control its own variety'
- This implies that externally imposed 'improvements' may fail, if they are out of touch with the the system's internal complexities.
- Donald Schön's term reflection-in-action implies that an 'inside' narrative may differ from an 'outside' narrative.
- This raises questions about how actions are guided - i.e. whether they are informed more by an 'internal', or by an 'external' process of reasoning.
- Libet (1992) showed disparities between real-time events and the processing time (cognitive and motor faculties) required to 'deal with' them.
(it takes < 0.1 sec. to reach the brain, and a further < 0.3 sec. for the brain to process into an intelligent response.
The delay is a perennial and ubiquitous feature of the way we function...
This includes "backward referral in time" that enables us to compensate for the cognitive time lag.
- This is what guides actions, from post-hoc, or pre-determining reflection that judges previous actions, or that shapes subsequent actions.
- Hence situated learning is of a different order or understanding from unsituated learning
- As Wittgenstein noted: "What can be shown cannot be said"
- In 2005 we experimented with this tool on the MA Design Futures programme.
- On 18-5-2007 we found it useful to ask one of the (4 cognitive style) groups to become a silent observer of the other three
- John W noted that Mathilda's presentation on 24th January 2008 included an account of her performance at Arcola Workshop 1.
- This exemplified some aspects of the transition between active participating and retrospective self-reflection.
- In her account, Mathilda gave a (negative) inwardly-directed self-observation of her own performance.
- This account was contradicted by the rest of the group's (more positive) observation of her performance.
- This tool focuses on the internal change within Mathilda's view of herself in two distinct states
- Gilbert Ryle (1949) distinguished between "knowing how and knowing that".
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied happiness from 1963 onwards.
- His popular book called Flow (1990) claims that certain feelings are virtually universal experiences
- ‘deep concentration’
- ‘emotional buoyancy’
- a ‘heightened sense of mastery’
- a ‘lack of self-consciousness’
- a feeling of ‘self-transcendence'.
- Presumably, these states are the place from which we find serendipity - if so, how can we learn more about this?