Bear Necessities

When the UK AI Network met in Islington March 28, one of the topics we discussed was “What is important?” with respect to the network itself. Before rushing into creating lots of activities and fancy web features, we really want everyone to think about what they want from the network. I think this is a good strategy, not only for communities of practice, but in general.

For me, one vital aspect of life is the opportunity to go for long nature walks. This is something I do rather often and one of my latest adventures took me to the Chipinque Park in Monterrey. This park has everything for everyone and is really well-kept. I thought myself rather fit and started to walk up the steep mountain, but I hadn’t thought about the altitude and soon found myself quite out of breath. Fortunately I had brought some water and was also able to replenish my stock at the top restaurant, to make my hike into the somewhat more unknown possible.

The views were stunning, and I also saw an industrious squirrel, reminding me of my recent walk through the Regents Park in London. The black spot in the photo is actually an eagle, giving an elegant illustration of they joy of soaring. A happy day indeed, although I didn’t see any of the bears claimed to live in the area. I wonder what would happen if we used a park as a metaphor for a community? Anyhow, enjoy the pictures.

Do you have any favourite nature trails? Please, share stories about them!


Design Conversations

When Richard Boland held his closing speech at the Positive Design Conference he really put pressure on us, making us reflecting on to what extent us coming to Monterrey for this event really could make up for the money it had cost, the time we had to spend away from our families and for the tons of carbon dioxide we had generated by flying there. I definitely think that we achieved a good result, even from a sustainability perspective, with lots of new ideas for research and education. However, the most important result from my perspective was the interdisciplinary conversations and the academic bonding they resulted in. As you can see from the pictures, we certainly had a lot of fun!

So how do you design a conference that will lead to such conversations? I think it was a very good idea to have a mix of inspiring presentations and group work. The social events were also great, with lots of opportunities to talk and dance and explore the local culture. Another design element was the mix of people from design, management and technology from different countries but with a clear collaborative attitude. I also very much liked us creating a collective poem at the end, reading out loud the sentence we had written expressing a summary of our experience of the conference. My contribution was: “From name to face to soul mate”.

I really think the conference was a great example of positive design, with respect to both process and outcome. I’m looking forward to the next conference in Korea 2010, especially after Professor Dong-Sung Cho’s presentation of the BEST Sustainability Report. Thank you so much, both organisers and participants for a wonderful conference! I miss you all already. You have inspired me to continue to make a difference!


Urban Exploration

According to Wikipedia, “urban exploration is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of human civilization”. One of the most acknowledged urban explorers in Sweden is Jan Jörnmark, who in addition to being a researcher and university teacher also likes to explore with his camera. In fiction, I think that Margaret Atwood did a great job with describing how nature regains control in Oryx and Crake.

"He doesn't know which is worse, a past he can't regain or a present that will destroy him if he looks at it too clearly. Then there's the future. Sheer vertigo." Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
I recently did some exploration in an urban environment, but it was quite the opposite of the “traditional” sense since I went to a newly developed area in Monterrey among the mountains in Mexico. The Paseo Santa Lucia is part of a greater park that was developed in time for the Monterrey Forum in 2007. Since this forum focused on cultural diversity, knowledge, peace and sustainability I thought it was a good way to get in the right mood for the Positive Design Conference and as you can see from the pictures, I had a really good time.


The Hidden Factory

When I described The Flying Starship workshop to my friend Ali Tabrizi at Katapult, he said that to him it seemed like an excellent way of exposing “the hidden factory” within an organisation. After running the workshop yesterday with members of the Appreciative Inquiry network in Göteborg, I see what he meant.

We used a combination of the The Flying Starship simulation and an Appreciative Inquiry workshop developed by Innovation Partners International (thank you Bernard Mohr for all your help and inspiration!). By acting as a factory, we all got an experience of what chaos an over-zealous Tayloristic organisational design can result in. Although everybody were very focused on their specific task, most of the efforts went to feed the hidden factory and not to the (very few) products reaching the eagerly awaiting customer.

The second part of the workshop made us experience the power of a strength-based approach to development, with appreciating interviews and creative group work resulting in surprisingly many novel ideas for improvement in very short time, based on the aspects many of the workers considered worth preserving.

If you plan on doing a major change project in your organisation or are planning a leadership course, I strongly recommend including a Flying Starship workshop! You can see for your self how fun it was by looking at these pictures.

Have you been to such a workshop? Or used similar simulations? Please tell us about your experience in a comment!