Over the past 2 weeks I have been involved in two design sessions. One was in The Hague, where the Governing Board of IFLA spent one and a half days developing the process for a workshop in Athens involving around 200 people in April which will involve all the Sections and Units of IFLA starting work on the global vision for libraries. The second is in Melbourne, where I am one of the sponsoring team providing input into a design workshop to develop a national Roundtable for Digital Inclusion.
I was thinking how differently we work now compared to even ten years ago. I couldn't begin to count the number of workshops, seminars and planning sessions I have attended over my career. Having been involved in planning and delivering quite a few of them, I am struck by the evolution of the process and how far we have moved from the top down approach to a collaborative design driven one.
I think the change started around the time of Web 2.0. One of the most exciting and rewarding events was when we organised the first unconference - it was such a leap of faith to leave a whole day in the hands of those who came and to trust the process - whoever comes are the right people, what ever happens is the right thing, and when its over its over. The energy, sense of purpose and fun were amazing, people were totally engaged and I think many of them will remember that day even now.
Around five years ago I visited a co working space in Amsterdam, which was the start of a movement that had also spread to Melbourne. These Hubs were so different from the way people were accustomed to working with their open spaces, kitchens, tables and chairs, no walls, encouraging people to connect with others and foster creativity. The consultants working on the Round table have a similar workspace which is redefining how we interact at work.
Being able to work with ambiguity is an important skill as the nature of working together changes. If we no longer have someone telling us what we are going to do and how we are going to do it, things can get uncertain. It can seem harder to work this way - more is demanded of us, more discussions, negotiations, listening and contributing. But the more we give the more we get and the better the outcome. We can't expect (or want) clarity from the start, or what is the point? It is empowering to start at the beginning and not just pretend we are consulting and engaging but truly creating something new.
I like this way of working very much.