Monday, July 25, 2011

How Did Robin Hood Handle This?!

So as some of you who have been keeping track of the various endeavors I talk about, Project Sherwood had its second run this weekend. In truth, I was a little concerned about this, because I knew that the second session would be more telling than the first. The first could be seen as a super-sized Weekend Testing session with maybe a more complex product than usual. The second session was picking up where we left off, including the fact that new people would be jumping into an already established field and expected to contribute quickly, without necessarily knowing 100% what was going on.

It was in this second area that I realized we had some work to do. We have the ability to communicate the product, we have the ability to show a mind map, we have a language to help us quickly determine what we are doing and what we are finding. What's missing? The method to tie it all together. In other words, we have the tools and we have the skills, what we seem to be missing is a "compelling narrative".

I think this is the point that most organizations come to at various times in their existence. It's one thing to tell a story, it's another to keep people hooked to the story and wanting to know more, and likewise want to keep participating with it. I think Sherwood has some great ideas, and it's got a lot of potential, but to make it to the next level and be effective, we cannot just be a knock-off of Weekend Testing. WT is built around the one-off, the single session that people gather, discuss an idea, concept or session in one go, and then go off and do other things. To that end, an experience report and chat transcript are plenty. Carrying that narrative over several sessions, especially when the communication level goes much deeper, that's more of a challenge, and stringing together several experience reports and going through multiple chat transcripts will likely not hold many people's attentions for very long. So we find ourselves having to go beyond the structure in place and develop new ways to communicate the narrative, so that those who are curious can follow along and be interested, and so that those who want to participate know what they are getting into and have a clear idea of how they can contribute.

Make no mistake, I am not criticizing Sherwood or lamenting these challenges, I in fact am smiling about them. It means that we have to stretch and consider new ideas, we have to open up the process and system to the entire band of Merry Practitioners, and we have already received lots of great suggestions and experiences to consider (Google docs, developing a wiki, using software to allow for multi-session mind-mapping, developing "Campaigns" for our testing efforts that can be published in advance, etc.). In short, there's no end to ideas and suggestions, it's how to weave them all together that will prove to be an interesting challenge. We are excited for the journey, and we hope you all will want to follow along, too :).
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