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Archive for the ‘craft’ Category

director of fundamental questions

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Apparently in Germany there is a job title Direktor Grundsatzfragen that translates as “Director of
Fundamental Questions”. If challenged I imagine most organisations would claim to have someone who is considering the questions fundamental to their business – strategists , executives and the like. But for most of these roles the focus is different. After all strategists are primarily being paid to come up with good answers/strategies.

A job where you just focus on working out what the question should be? That’s a new one to try and get on the org chart.

Written by Karen

October 9th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Posted in inspiration,work

ideas coaches – spark questions

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Last week I took the first of the BBC’s new programme of creativity training courses, Ideas Coaches. The course was aimed at staff who wanted to help a team generate ideas, rather than necessarily be more creative themselves.

The part of the course that we found most powerful was the creation of ‘spark questions’ (apparently the BBC used to call these springboard questions, not sure why the change). We spent seemingly ages just crafting the questions we wanted to generate ideas for. Our initial questions were all dismissed as far too specific (meaning we’d already narrowed the range of possible solutions) and far too negative (meaning the group would be more depressed than inspired by the question). The latter point was interesting as I’ve often seen myself and some of my most talented colleagues descend into morose self-pitying rather than coming up with any ideas for solving our problems.

Most of the questions started with ‘how’ as this was deemed to suggest the solutions were actually out there. Some ended up pretty cryptic but you wouldn’t be using them entirely out of context:

“how can we stop the fighting and start the building”

“how can we take our place on the world stage”

“how can today’s best be sure to be tomorrow’s too”

We were skeptical of how well they could work when they have lost the original specificity (one is about kids TV programme, the last is about BBC website) but what they worked brilliantly for was producing completely off-field suggestions, things that the original problem-owner never even saw as being part of the picture. As course leader pointed out “what makes you assume that the future of the BBC website is to be a website at all?”

Written by Karen

October 2nd, 2007 at 12:53 am

Posted in inspiration,work

Oliver Postgate – A verb not a noun

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Yesterday’s Desert Island Discs featured Oliver Postgate, creator of Noggin the Nog, The Clangers and Bagpuss. I listened in as my husband & I have an assortment of Postgate paraphernalia that we’ve carried with us from childhood, and some that we’ve picked up since. Postgate seems to make those programmes that become part of growing up.

He said he didn’t really think about how his creations would be received by children and instead focused on great stories to appeal to any age. He suggested that children would be patronised by programmes made just for kids.

The part of the interview that distracted me from lunch was when Kirsty Young mentioned that Postgate considered himself to be “a verb not a noun”. His sense of his own identity seemed intrinsically linked to continuously doing things, whatever those things were.

Written by Karen

July 16th, 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in craft

why ia play?

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I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about information architecture and play. Not necessarily an obvious association. Information architects have a reputation for working in grey-scale. The community contains lots of ex-librarians. Content audits aren’t the most exhilarating of activities. Maybe one of these generalisations is where the thing about information architects and ‘seriousness’ came from. But play just keeps coming up as a theme in my professional life, and I’m pretty sure I’m an information architect.

The theme got my attention when we were looking for ways to stop web producers being bored to tears in content management tutorials. The resulting ‘metadata games’ got us to Vancouver, and into Jess McMullin’s presentation ‘Game Changing‘. Back in London at Digital Futures, Pat Kane presented the Play Ethic and a theme took hold.

At the IA Summit in Las Vegas last month the connection between IAs and playful behaviour started off looking weak. The intriguing tutorial ‘Learning Interaction Design from Las Vegas’ was cancelled due to ‘lack of interest’ and at the lunches all the IAs grumbled about being stuck in the gaming capital of the world. The theme was, however, saved by nForm’s masterful UX trading cards, the piece de resistance of both playful IA and of encouraging the shy to spontaneously and enthusiastically interact.

More on all this later…

Written by Karen

April 23rd, 2007 at 6:02 am

Posted in inspiration