- Take one ripe nectarine
- Place on dash of car
- Park car in warm sunlight for three hours, with windows closed
- Eat sun warmed, ripe nectarine
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Last week Jeremy Lightsmith invited some people to play and evolve a Core Protocols card game.
This game was conceived in March, 2012 when Jeremy participated in the McCarthy Technologies BootCamp, a 3.5 day experiential workshop on creating great teams. A couple of days into the BootCamp, Jeremy came bouncing in first thing in the morning asking for help printing some cards he had made. They were for a game he had started putting together to help people learn the mechanics of the Core Protocols. The Core Protocols are the behavior patterns that Jim and Michele McCarthy have codified over 200+ BootCamps; a set of DNA for creating great teams.
Each card had the essence of one core protocol on it, like the Ask for Help card shown to the right. (Here is the full set.) Once the cards were printed and cut to shape, Jeremy laid out the cards on the floor and gathered with a couple of other people as they started iterating on and improving the game. There were micro-payments each time you correctly practiced a core protocol. As you gained more points, you could purchase more Core Protocols. A game master was in charge of distributing points and charging points if a core protocol was used incorrectly.
The energy was palpable. The players were enjoying themselves as they gamed the system to earn more points, and in the process using each of the Core Protocols many times. The pace seemed fast, with plentiful rewards. This looks like something very intriguing, something that could help people train their brains in the mechanics of the Core Protocols so that they could then use them more quickly and effectively for the more important work of the BootCamp: learning and experiencing how to work effectively in a team.
Since then, Jeremy has tried this Core Protocols Cards game a couple of times, including with a set of colleagues at his work. According to Jeremy, as soon as his colleagues got all of the cards and were in the final “product creation” phase they were “done” and ready to get back to work. The interesting thing is that since then they have been using several of the Core Protocols during their day to day work. So even that slight amount of training helped them identify and adopt some new practices. (Though having Jeremy on their team may have helped as well.)
Last week, 6 of us gathered at Jeremy’s house to continue perfecting this game: Jim and Michele McCarthy, Paul Ingalls, Drew Stone, and myself. Jeremy played the game master. The rest of us were players at the table. All of us had been to a BootCamp before, so we already knew the protocols. We quickly accumulated enough points to buy the cards in sequence, and soon were into the project creation phase. At this point, the players got so into creating the product that they essentially stopped playing the game.
Afterwards, we did a Perfection Game on this card game. As is often the case, using the Perfection Game helped us quickly transition from a wandering conversation into a clear set of suggested improvements. Here are the suggestions I remember:
In addition, we wondered if some other changes might be useful:
I am looking forward to seeing how this game evolves, and how its use does, or does not, help teams become more effective. If you experiment with this game and learn something useful, will you let me know?
On this, day 5 of my envisioning exercise, I was still comforted from my arrangement and reflections from day 4. I also was excited, and somewhat reluctant, to start the last day of this process.
Following VizBot’s advice, I read over the entries from my previous 4 days, including fixing some typos and adding a section about the influence of the conversations I have had about the tenure process with 2 faculty who had recently been promoted. I also looked over the images from the previous 4 days to see if any patterns appeared to me when they were placed next to each other:
I noticed several things, though I do not know if any of these are that profound:
I then took the 7 images, discarded the boat image that had been giving me problems each day, and arranged the remaining images:
This arrangement came quickly, with very little if any conscious thoughts involved. It took perhaps 30 seconds to do. I tried to think of ways that I might want to change it afterwards, but felt no need or desire to make any changes. It felt done.
Now my question is what is the story that I read from this arrangement?
I continue to like using the energy of the colorful pencils as inputs driving the process of getting tenure. Tenure has reemerged in its full glory at the top of the page, but it is only slightly connected to the core processes below it. The colored pencils provide diversity and energy to power the core process of exploration, ideation, experimentation and collaboration represented by the by swirling fish. The Reflective practices redirect some of the energy generated by the swirling fish toward the activities that I do. A small part of that redirected energy periodically flows into the tenure image to build the tenure file for its eventual use.
I then arranged all 5 images together:
Does this arrangement show something new?
So, what are the concrete actions I can take forward?
Now that I have gone through this five-day envisioning process, I wonder what the next step is. When do I return to re-envision my path to tenure? In a month? In 6 months? When I feel the need?
It is remarkable how much calmer I feel about this whole tenure process now.
Thank you, VizBot.
It was exciting to continue from day 3 of my envisioning process. Once again, I took the same subset of images I had selected on the first day and rearrange them on the same background. I like using this blue background instead of the cutting board I had used on day 1, and wished I had used this blue background from the beginning.
Anyway, here is what I created and wrote for day 4:
Today I put the picture that I had identified as “tenure” in the middle of my arrangement, as suggested by VizBot:
I did not intentionally arrange the photos much, except to hide all but the central figure in the tenure image. Now that I look at it, the other images create a coffin shape that comfortably contains the “tenure” figure. It does not look like death. It looks quite comfortable. Relaxed. Almost like it felt nurtured and reassured by the proximity of the other images.
Given my difficulties with the image of the old boat, I turned that image upside down to see how it might work. When I placed it above the me in the center it felt like an umbrella, shading me from whatever might fall from the skies. I also hid the crouched figure in the bottom image, since it felt like it distracted from the composition. Finally, as I was placing the window washer, I thought about how window washing could be a meditative practice, similar to the hands in the upper left image.
I find this composition somewhat pleasing; however I am having a difficult time crafting a storyline out of it. Certainly, wind energy and cycles are involved. I see the fish are largely moving away from me into the unknown and un-illuminated space off to the lower right. I still like the multitude of colors of the pencils, which now seem big enough to be logs from which to build a house; a shelter. The points are pointing away from me, so no danger there.
I find this arrangement comforting.
What does that mean?
It also is interesting to me that last night I started compiling my tenure file. I do not need this file for another 3 years, however yesterday morning I went to a conversation at UW Bothell about the tenure process. Two of the recently promoted Associates Professors, Tony Smith and Wadiya Udell, shared their stories about the tenure process, and what worked well for them.
Afterwards, both of them shared part of their tenure files with me. Tony Smith sent me a link to his online Catalyst website with all of the non-sensitive tenure file documents. It was wonderful to see the concrete example of all of the types of information that needs to be documented. This was so motivating that I created and started to fill in my own Catalyst website. As I was doing that I discovered that the annual review I just submitted had underreported the number of students I had supervised for independent study projects. Having all of that information in this site means that I can easily update it after each quarter. This will help spread the effort out over the next 3 years, so that my last step will be easier to do. It also will help me make sure that I am collecting all of the necessary materials.
I think that hearing from these 2 Associate Professors, seeing what they have put together, and starting to put together my material all helped lead to this calmer story line about tenure.
As before, VizBot answered with some instructions and questions:
Look back over each day’s image arrangements. Read what you wrote. Perhaps highlight anything that stands out to you.
Then put those aside and do one more arrangement any way you wish. What’s the story that emerges now?
What has changed over the five days? What can you bring forward from the experience into your daily life?
I was eager to try my last arrangement, but forced myself to sleep on the questions before doing day 5‘s arrangement.
Here is day 3′s results after having slept on the VizBot feedback from day 2:
Yesterday was unexpectedly completely filled with other activities, so I did not get to my visioning exercise, even though I thought about it many times during the day.
Today, I was much more intentional when arranging these images. I moved the images around and made subtle adjustments to connect portions of images with portions of other images. The boat image is still problematic to me. I do not know what that boat represents, yet I still felt compelled to leave it there overlapping the swirling images.
The swirling system of fish feels like the most important image in the arrangement, the central place where the work is being done by a multitude of people buffeted by the convergence and divergence swirls. I changed the pencils to be rocket engines whose colored exhaust is propelling that system of fish, which in turn propels me up the slope as before. This time, the destination is the reflective hands representing peace, thankfulness, spirituality, and wisdom.
I intentionally placed the hands off the upper right corner of the mat in order to represent that there is much more value beyond what is in this arrangement of images. I wanted to be clear that the story I’m writing is limited and doesn’t encompass everything. And that it connects to something much bigger beyond.
I placed the window washing image below the crouching me in order to show that there still is solo work that I will do as part of this journey. This solo work is connected to the reflective hands. Doing this solo work also will produce value that will flow in and help complete my tenure.
The connection of the tenure image to the pencils represents that tenure is a tool that will help me get some things done once I get it. And perhaps even to the process of getting it. Regardless about whether I value the system of tenure itself.
When I was doing this arrangement, I initially had placed the tenure photo slightly further down so that it did not touch any other image. It felt like I was pushing it away. That did not feel right, so I moved it up slightly to overlap with the pencils and window washing images. Still, the tenure photo that had been part of the central storyline in the prior 2 arrangements is now loosely connected to the tools and to me.
I intentionally offset the pencils from the swirling fish image to represent that not all of my skills are dedicated to getting tenure. Or perhaps that I don’t yet know how to use all my skills for that purpose. I do not want to dedicate my whole life to getting tenure, or to my job. Some of my skills are for other aspects of my life. As I look at this arrangement I notice that the pencils connected to the fish image match the colors of the fish. The greenish pencils do not go into the fish image. Do these green pencils represent the other things I do to sustain myself? For my own sanity I certainly need to make sure that this work does not consume my whole life. I need to have space for my family. I need to have space for my exercise. I need to have space for my reflection and to nurture my spirit.
Once again, I set my reflections to VizBot, who replied:
VizBot just makes suggestions. David makes meaning out of experience
What happens if you put the picture you identify as tenure in the center? Is there a another story you might tell?
I read this, and put it aside for the next day’ work. To see whether I found another story, take a look at day 4.
After having slept on the questions from VizBot regarding the arrangements on day 1, I began the process for day 2. Here is my write up from day 2:
Thank you for your responses. It is remarkable how your canned responses feel like they are meant for me. I also appreciate the inspirational video on creativity. I have some of that blackness in my mind.
Looking at your annotated image,
the row of pencils feels like a palisade that I may fall and impale myself upon if that single rope from which I hang breaks. Yet as you say, there is all that energy and cooperation in the swirls of the fish moving toward the aspirational tenure. If I were only to reach my window washing arm out a little further I could pull myself into that swirl. Tenure is traditionally such a competitive and lonely sport. That is a choice I am trying to reject. Yet, for some reason, I continue to feel the pressure to adhere my perception of the historical patterns. Why is that?
Now I will go downstairs and rearrange those images.
I did not head down stairs. Instead, I cleared a space on the desk to my right, turned over the visual ID sheet from the Reinventing University-Level Learning workshop on Monday, and in less than a minute had the same set of images rearranged as shown below:
I was amazed and energized by the new storyline that quickly and easily came out of those same cards.
Instead of placing tenure as the aspirational goal toward which I am working, I placed it as the historical antecedents from which the system that I am in has been designed. The reflective hands above are suggesting there is a new way that reflects how most of the useful work that we do today is done: instead of working alone I’m a part of a system of cooperating individuals doing the divergence and convergence thing to move forward together toward a shared vision. This team of people supports me in my work so that even if the single rope breaks, I will not fall. The window washer is hip deep in that system, indicating that I am part of that team. While I am doing some things as an individual, I am rooted in and supported by that team. It is interesting that I positioned myself above one of the vortices. Does this reflect the chaotic emergence of the current state of my research work, in which there is much more divergence than convergence as we generate new ideas and concepts, and start figuring out how to work together as a team?
In addition, the energy of the team creates such a powerful energizing wind that it is pushing me up a hill like a skier, and I am moving so fast that I am crouched like a fast skier going downhill. This hill up which I am skiing is formed from the diverse skills, experiences and perspectives that I have collected. It also includes those skills, experiences and perspectives from my team, as indicated by the violet and tan colors of the fish that are mirrored in the pencils.
For some reason, I placed the prow of the boat in front of me. It certainly implies directionality. As I look at this more, the boat also seems to be a container into which I fit. Perhaps this container is my tenure case, or, even better, perhaps it is the legacy of the things to which I have contributed and from which I will weave my tenure case.
Yesterday, I was discouraged after doing my images. This morning I am energized. This is such a much more enabling storyline for me.
I sent the above text and images to Christine, and awaited her reply, which said:
The Vizbot knows…..
Nice to see you were able to find a more inspiring story! It will be sitting waiting for you when you start to make plans for how to move into action. Before you jump there, would you be willing to see if there is another story in there?
Any way you could tell the story with the individual images standing for different parts of the story?
Once again, it was time to sleep on it before doing another arrangement for day 3.
I was intrigued when I read Skip Walter‘s blog entries on using VisualsSpeak’s Exploring New Options pack of images. He used the images to explore his question of “What is the future I want to create for myself for this new venture and product?” Here are his blog entries day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5.
This envisioning process seemed quick and effective. I wanted to experience it for myself.
So when Christine Martell came up to UW Bothell to facilitate the 2-day workshop on Reinventing University-Level Learning on March 19-20, I asked her to bring an Exploring New Options image pack for me.
The next week, after I had recovered from the end of Winter quarter and 2 workshops over spring break, I ran through my own five-day sequence.
Here is my write up for day 1:
March 26, 2012
The question I chose to explore is “What is the path to my tenure?” I chose these 7 photos:
The one that is most confusing to me is the one on the bottom where I am holding my ears, and crouching against the winds of turmoil against my back. I am not sure why that resonated with me. It may be because I feel like the pressures to get tenure, this unnatural demand in some ways, is pushing me in directions that I may not want to go. I want to ignore it, and yet it is somewhere I have to go. And to get there, it feels to me like I am going to have to use the solo skills of that window washer hanging by a rope, working by themselves, doing things, using all of the different tools in my tool chest shown in the pencils to the right in order to create that thing which will take me toward the tenure, which is that figure in the top middle with the shadow outline. That figure where I am not yet represented in that class of people.
The lower left image with the boat shows the materials that exist that I will need to repurpose and reuse. The history that I will use to create my case for tenure and that I will build upon. It is all the stuff that is out there already and in some sense that is this act of scholarship: to take this material that people have created and either value or don’t value and how to rebuild it through that creative process in the middle where there are all these cycles and all these things are going around and there is a continual generation of new ideas and new artifacts that could be represented by the fish they go out into the tenure world above and into the other real world. There is a convergence and divergence there. The generative. The creating products from that space.
Another interesting thing to me about the tenure photo is that it does not show much. It is simply 3 figures in a very bland landscape with a bland sky. In some ways it represents that tenure does not matter. It is something I have to do. I have to fill in that little shadow so that the existing system will allow me to stay in this picture. And yet, beyond that it is of very little value. It is just a necessity. An artificial necessity in this day and age.
The image in the upper left with the praying hands is the reflective aspect of tenure. Tenure in some sense represents a self-journey. A telling of the story of how I came from and used the tools in my bucket as I washed the windows to repurpose the material in the boat into this fish to fill that tenure portfolio. So maybe those figures are simply tenure portfolios. Avatars that represent a very thin and slim representation of who we are. Sort of like a resume that is actually not that interesting. That doesn’t tell you that much about the person.
The hands are about that reflective aspect of thinking about what this means. And the synthesis. The looking for the greater patterns. It is also about self-care. That as I go on this journey I need to take care of myself. That is something that taken from Jim and Michele McCarthy’s BootCamp process. That is an important part for me. I can overwork too easily. Getting exercise and getting time to reflect is important to me.
I had remembered how important Christine said that it was to use a frame when doing the arrangements, so I used a cutting board.
After writing this up, I went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea. My mood was down. I felt discouraged. I do not know whether this was the focus on a goal that I value little, yet feel like I need to strive for, or that I needed more exercise. In any case, I found it interesting that I chose this topic, and that I told a tale mainly of angst.
Alternative questions that I had thought of addressing included “What does the future of University-level learning look like?” Though, as I wrote those words, I recalled how Christine suggested a more open question: “What does the future of learning look like?” That is a much more interesting question to me, yet I felt like I was supposed to deal with the more pragmatic and less motivating question. Perhaps this is what I get from talking with a good friend first about the choice of questions. She likes the focus on tenure. Partly because it is the reward system I probably will have to live in and fulfill. Partly because I can easily get distracted to the more interesting aspirational questions.
Yet, I almost felt like I was selling myself short here, and I did not like that feeling. Why focus on envisioning the metrics of the current organization, when most people I speak with believe that the current system has distinct problems? How will this help make the world better? The pragmatic folk would say that in order for me to act to make the world better, I first need to get tenure so that I have safety.
Having written this up, I e-mailed Christine Martell and asked if she would be willing to play the role of the VizBot for me. She agreed. Here is her reply:
From the VizBot:
This particular process of rearranging the same images everyday is meant for stuck places. Very much like the one you chose about tenure. With big life questions that feel stuck, the process is intended to get you moving in your thinking about it. It’s not about The Answer, although you may be lucky and find one.
Angst is normal and expected, otherwise it wouldn’t feel stuck.
First thing I noticed visually was the repetition of shapes
There are swirls and sharp pointed things. Does that reflect anything about your feelings about tenure or academia?
The center of the image is the spiral where the fish and window washer meet. The fish is about a way of doing things that includes divergence and convergence. The window washer about doing things by yourself. Might there be another way? The fish has a lot of interest and energy in it, but it’s surrounded, even boxed in by images that represent limitations/ways of thinking about it that are uncomfortable.
Is there another story you can tell about these images? Other ways to explore the relationships between the parts? Other ways of looking at them?
Keeping to the process, I put aside the set of images I had chosen which I would then the range each day in this process, and slept on these questions before creating my arrangement for the day 2.