How can we keep learning from each other in a technology organization?

My mind was racing as I was in the middle of the churn. Features, features, features! Build more! Do more! Look down, focus on what you’re doing!

But what about the long term? Is what I am staring at right now the only thing I will get to learn? Sometimes focus is needed. But sometimes we need to lift our head and look around. What other things are there? Are those worth learning? A good place to start is who one can learn from. That requires knowing who’s around, who they are, and what they know and care about. In good organizations, individuals have a sense of just that. Let’s define that sense precisely.

The responsibilty of building trust and establishing shared intent largely falls on the leaders of the organization. Shared sense of quality is something i believe in building from the bottom up. Who are you? What do you care about? What do you find to be good? I love conversations where I gain a deeper understanding about what someone really finds to be good. Yesterday, I met someone who said that “The role of art is to criticise society”. At first, I was sceptical. Does aesthetics have to be useful? Can we hope to place the burden of utility on aesthetics? But aesthetics is not art. Good art can be beautiful. But not all beautiful things are art. I believe that utility is contextual. And art exists in a context. It exists in our society.

Through that interaction, we gained a shared sense of quality.

Let’s recap.

  1. We build shared sense of quality when either I understand what you think is good, or you understand what I think is good.
  2. Good organizations are characterized by shared sense of quality.
  3. The responsibilty of building shared sense of quality is on everyone, not just managers.

So how do we ship shared sense of quality? I’ve claimed that there’s always a deliverable; what’s the deliverable for shared sense of quality? One answer is reflective text. Try answering these questions:

  1. What are you up to right now?
  2. Do you find quality in it?
  3. Why? Why not?

Did you discover something? Reading the questions, I have to give it a shot right now.

I am—surprisingly—sitting here writing. I’m enjoying the experience. I’ve had a breakfast and coffee. City sounds are trickling in from the window. I’m working from a Mac, which has been a bit of a shift from my previous Linux usage. I like using the writing toolkit I’ve made for myself for writing on play.teod.eu, especially my system for linking.

What if we distributed those three questions to an organization, and received regular answers? What would that do to an organization over time? If people actually knew the interests and values of others?

That’s what I’m trying to do with Mikrobloggeriet. So far, the results have been amazing. Oddmund, Lars and Richard have written 32 microblog entries. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading those. Limiting scope has been a challenge, as it often is. My intent was originally to limit the writing exercise to 10 minutes, so that it can be interspersed into an otherwise busy day. I quickly blew that budget completely when I wrote my first entry, but later managed to ship a text in 15 minutes.

More broadly, I wish we could actually use the Internet for building shared sense of quality. All of us. Some of us already are. Visakan Veerasamy is a great example, most of his blog posts, and interactions over Twitter is about playing around with what’s good. I believe you should keep your aesthetic playful, and Visa is a good example in practice. Systems Thinking - Notes and Resources, by Robert Stuttaford is another good example. It’s an exploration.

When I started making play.teod.eu, one of my principles was to play with content and medium. I didn’t want it to be serious. Hence the domain name. That has worked for me. If I had tried writing a serious blog with serious entries of proper, serious information, I probably would have quit.

So, does playing around with your aesthetic sound fun? Want to explore what’s good? Come write with us :)