Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PBN. Quest. Fog. Movie.

This morning I was in a meeting at my school attended by some representatives from Daylight Design who are working with us to employ design thinking concepts within the framework of the school's master planning process. I've attended a number of design thinking workshops and comfortable with the concepts and language and processes associated with design thinking. But today Sven, the team leader for the group working with us, sketched out a diagram on the white board that I had not seen before and found interesting. This afternoon I took out my notebook and transferred the diagram as he had drawn in onto a Keynote slide. (Thanks for the suggestion, Tedd.) I'm going to try to walk my way back through it and explain it, both to clarify it in my own mind and in order to share it here. (I've actually flipped the diagram Sven drew both vertically and horizontally because it felt more intuitive to me this way.) The diagram looks like this:

The vertical axis represents the degree of clarity you have in any particular situation about your goals, your objectives, what you hope to accomplish when you're done. At the bottom of the line you basically unclear about what you want to get done, what the output will be. At the top of the line you're quite certain about outcomes.

The horizontal access represents the how, the degree of clarity you have about the processes you are going to use to arrive at your goal. On the far left, there's a lack of clarity or certainty about methods, on the far right, you know exactly what you intend to do.

The two lines create four quadrants. The upper right quadrant represents the state of mind in which you know exactly what you want to get done and exactly how you intend to do it. If you know you need to order office supplies and you know where you're going to order them and there's a process in place to do that, it's a done deal. It's a cinch. It's what Sven labeled as PBN, or paint by the numbers. Not much ambiguity there.

The upper left quadrant represents the state of mind in which you know exactly what you want but have no idea how to get there. You're going to have to search for a way to find it or make it happen. It's a quest.

In the lower left quadrant you don't know where you want to accomplish and you don't know how you're going to even get started. This is the foggy zone. You feel a need, but you can't articulate it. This is the zone of greatest ambiguity, but it is also the zone of greatest fluidity. All your options are still open. It's a good place for generative thinking and brainstorming.

In the lower right quadrant, you know what your process is but you don't know yet what the outcome will be. It's more of an exploration, like making a movie. You have a cast of characters and an evolving narrative and you create the story as you go along.

The point of the diagram, as I understood it, is that it's helpful to be clear about where you are at the start of a process, so that you can make informed decisions about how to proceed and focus your energies on what is most likely to be helpful in moving you forward.

Having gone this far, I decided to google the quadrant terms and came across another diagram covering the same turf in a slightly different way:

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