Day 4 in the Big Brother house…

And there’s a lot of talk about novelty. How novel are the proposals? How novel are the approaches? And how novel is what we’ve all been doing here all week? Is this really any different from a conference or a chat in a University common room.  Before we started, five days seemed like an age. Nearing the end, it feels pretty tight. There’s no denying that, as a way of funding science, this is pricey. As well as the cost of keeping everyone here, there are the opportunity costs of taking some of the country’s best scientists away from their desks.   For me, there are many reasons to do things like this, and many reasons why they make financial sense. But the important, intangible value is in bringing people together, bumping them into each other, sparking thoughts and challenging assumptions. Everyone talks about interdisciplinarity, multi-disciplinarity or whatever. Few are trying to make it work in practice.  

Our facilitators, Martin Taylor and Gudrun Friedrich, who run a company called ClearSpot Consulting, reminded me about ‘Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.’ It’s something Bruce Tuckman talked about in the 60s and Wikipedia tells me that it informs Big Brother. At the end of a process, it’s difficult as a participant to look back and see the point of everything that happened. But I reckon that, as we come to performing stage, the storming part has been vital. My hope is that, in months to come, our scientists will look back and appreciate the new ideas and relationships that were seeded earlier in the week.

Jack 

 

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Day 4 in the Big Brother house…”


  1. 1 Lee Cronin January 11, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    The performace appears to be a vital part of the journey. We are getting somewhere, dramatic steps forward, real projects, enthusiasm and most importantly we are starting to trust each other. The concepts are mind blowing. So much so that I think my head has exploded….

  2. 2 Martin G. Smith January 11, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Jack has spoken eloquently, and allows me to reminisce about those days at the ‘Pile’ near Bristol in the ‘70s. ‘Forming – storming – norming – performing’, too is a term I recall [corrected link here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing%5D along with ‘Rapping it out’ and many many others. But the underlying message is that the system works, you have proven it again. Regardless how frustrating it may have seemed at the time, it works.

    As far as ‘There’s no denying that, as a way of funding science, this is pricey.’ More pricey, I suggest is not doing it. Having everyone doing the merry chase around those who make the decisions in search of a ‘Yes’.

    To Lee. I concur, performance is a vital part of the journey, how else does one define the real from the fantasy.

  3. 3 Chris Phoenix January 12, 2007 at 2:44 am

    I sensed some depression in this post, and was reminded of M. Scott Peck’s description of community-forming in The Different Drum, a book I highly recommend. Peck notes that before a group coalesces into a community, there is a stage of discomfort, depression, and “death.”

    It seems I’m not the first to notice this. The Wikipedia article on Group Dynamics draws the same comparison.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_dynamics

    (The link in the comment above had a ] added to it by the blog. Third time’s the charm:)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing

    Reading about the tangible costs of this exercise, I have to wonder whether an asymmetric distributed version might also be fruitful. Given a pool of scientists with known areas of expertise, it might work something like this…

    A facilitator calls an electronic meeting (conference call, web-based whiteboard) with two or three scientists from different fields. First, they spend a few minutes bringing each other up to speed on their fields. Then they develop an interdisciplinary suggestion–not yet a proposal. They recommend one or more scientists from the pool to evaluate and expand on the suggestion. Then, they hear a suggestion made in a previous mini-meeting: the trick is that one of them had been recommended to evaluate the suggestion, while the other is random. They discuss and develop that suggestion, then recommend who should evaluate it next.

    So each meeting takes only a few hours of scientists’ time, and (with a bit of practice) results in a new suggestion and a refined/evolved suggestion. Beginning each meeting by developing a new suggestion, before beginning the review, is important to get the scientists working together and thinking outside the box. As the ideas pile up, teams may make a joint choice of which of several ideas to review, or may make brief reviews of several–but must forward at least one improved idea. An idea may be rejected if no one wants to review it–otherwise, it keeps circulating and evolving until someone writes it up for funding. (If necessary, a separate review committee might decide to prune or promote ideas.)

    With 21 scientists in the pool, each spending 40 hours, each scientist could have 20 meetings with 20 different scientists. Spread over time, the burden would not be so heavy as a week away from work. This would generate 200 new interdisciplinary ideas; the most interesting and worthwhile ideas could be very finely honed and polished, with dozens of hours spent on them.

    To balance the review load, the facilitator might choose to advise the scientists as to which other scientists have less review load and are thus more likely to review a given idea. Scientists who were not on any review list would still be engaged in reviews, because they would usually be paired with scientists who were. “Orphan” ideas could be supplied to meetings in which neither scientist had any reviews assigned.

    A version of this might even be done without facilitators, simply as an experiment between a few scientists who wanted to stir their brains. They would have to have the self-discipline to search for interdisciplinary and creative ideas at each stage, rather than simply promoting their pre-existing ideas. But it just might work.

    Chris

  4. 4 Chris Phoenix January 12, 2007 at 2:47 am

    The link in the comment above had a ] added to it by the blog. Third time’s the charm:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing

  5. 5 Chris Phoenix January 12, 2007 at 2:50 am

    I sensed some depression in this post, and was reminded of M. Scott Peck’s description of community-forming in The Different Drum, a book I highly recommend for its insights on humanity. Peck notes that before a group coalesces into a community, there is a stage of discomfort, depression, and “death.”

    It seems I’m not the first to notice this. The Wikipedia article on Group Dynamics draws the same comparison.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_dynamics

    Reading about the tangible costs of this exercise, I have to wonder whether an asymmetric distributed version might also be fruitful. Given a pool of scientists with known areas of expertise, it might work something like this…

    A facilitator calls an electronic meeting (conference call, web-based whiteboard) with two or three scientists from different fields. First, they spend a few minutes bringing each other up to speed on their fields. Then they develop an interdisciplinary suggestion–not yet a proposal. They recommend one or more scientists from the pool to evaluate and expand on the suggestion. Then, they hear a suggestion made in a previous mini-meeting: the trick is that one of them had been recommended to evaluate the suggestion, while the other is random. They discuss and develop that suggestion, then recommend who should evaluate it next.

    So each meeting takes only a few hours of scientists’ time, and (with a bit of practice) results in a new suggestion and a refined/evolved suggestion. Beginning each meeting by developing a new suggestion, before beginning the review, is important to get the scientists working together and thinking outside the box. As the ideas pile up, teams may make a joint choice of which of several ideas to review, or may make brief reviews of several–but must forward at least one improved idea. An idea may be rejected if no one wants to review it–otherwise, it keeps circulating and evolving until someone writes it up for funding. (If necessary, a separate review committee might decide to prune or promote ideas.)

    With 21 scientists in the pool, each spending 40 hours, each scientist could have 20 meetings with 20 different scientists. Spread over time, the burden would not be so heavy as a week away from work. This would generate 200 new interdisciplinary ideas; the most interesting and worthwhile ideas could be very finely honed and polished, with dozens of hours spent on them.

    To balance the review load, the facilitator might choose to advise the scientists as to which other scientists have less review load and are thus more likely to review a given idea. Scientists who were not on any review list would still be engaged in reviews, because they would usually be paired with scientists who were. “Orphan” ideas could be supplied to meetings in which neither scientist had any reviews assigned.

    A version of this might even be done without facilitators, simply as an experiment between a few scientists who wanted to stir their brains. They would have to have the self-discipline to search for interdisciplinary and creative ideas at each stage, rather than simply promoting their pre-existing ideas. But it just might work.

    Chris

    (Ps. Moderators, please delete the in-queue comment. It’s just a combination of these that I’ve posted–but two URLs in one post seems to be verboten.)

  6. 6 Martin G. Smith January 12, 2007 at 2:55 am

    Thank you Chris. I blame my Analog hands

  7. 7 Alexwebmaster March 3, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Hello webmaster
    I would like to share with you a link to your site
    write me here preonrelt@mail.ru


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: