Stream of Consciousness and Change

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Change, educate
Tags: , , ,

crookedaI’m the kind of guy big data hates. I can’t blame them. I’ve been known to profess that if I need data to find my path I’ve already failed.

Don’t get me wrong. I find data important to help determine whether things are getting better. But you see, that’s later when you’ve actually plotted a course and actually know what data is important.

I won’t say that I go just on gut instincts, though I certainly often do, but instead of data I like to look at behaviors and system activities. Data at that point just muddies up the view for me in the beginning, clouds when you need clarity.

So instead of beginning with data I like to go stream of conscious in the beginning. It’s like brainstorming with a narrative. Your goal is to get new possibilities on the table.

You start with brainstorming because even a stream of conscious narrative needs a place to start. In most brainstorming sessions we start out by saying there are no bad ideas, which is good because we want to open up the floor. The challenge we have is that as we begin we also want to view them all as equal. But if you’re looking to open new ground they are not.

The analogy I use here is one I learned writing headlines for a newspaper. If you want a fresh headline, here’s what you do. Obviously you read the article. Next you write down the first headline that comes to mind. You throw it away. If you thought of that headline that quick so will have 90% of the population. Think of a second headline. You had to think a little harder but you’re going to throw that one away too. Maybe you’re down to 40% of the population thinking that one up. OK, now do a third. You had to dig got that one. Let’s keep it. While it may not be the most original, it’s probably pretty fresh.

Same thing with brainstorming for a stream of consciousness session. We don’t want the obvious so we go through the brainstorming exercise and in the end we lop off the top half, maybe more depending on how long the list is.

Now we can start playing with our stream of conscious narrative. Pick one of the brainstorming ideas. Give it to a person who didn’t throw it up there. The person’s job is to take the idea and run with how it would be implemented. A moderator’s job is to prompt with hows: how do you account for this, how do you account for that. At this point the group can jump back in recommending solutions.

No filtering. You take the first idea that jumps up. That’s it. Now what? Now what? Now what? And then you peter out. Who knows what the process or solution will look like? Doesn’t matter.

You can repeat the exercise with the same brainstorming idea and different person. See where it goes. Some place different.

The goal here is not to find “the” solution. The goal is to open up the mind. Let it simmer. Let people go and digest the possibilities. You might even ask groups to take these impromptu processes and fill out the details and come back with a beefed up proposal. Good exercise without pressure.

Team members start to think. Doors are opened. The idea that the path is never straight starts to sink in, which is good. The belief that crooked path is OK is even better.


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