Tag Archives: design

Network Design

Jump in! Inviting Work Group Design

 

(Image of two women about to swim in frozen lake.)

Come on in!                               Image Credit Nikolay Dikiy – Купаца!, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15265087

 

This is part of an occasional series on network design

A network leader challenge is remembering the network isn’t most people’s first priority, and it shouldn’t be. That’s why designing work groups well is critical to meeting both members’ and the network’s needs.

Over the years, goal-setting and iterative design have helped me develop work groups that make it easy for people to jump in, where participants shape and own the work, and where each group is a jumping off point for a more interesting and useful next round.

Principles

Set goals for your groups, and design to them. Then, use iterative design to improve what you’ve designed. Don’t wait to act, but act in small low-risk ways. Design quick cycles of action, building in time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve it (or set it aside if it’s the wrong approach). Reflecting lets us embrace failure as a learning opportunity. This shift changes feelings of guilt and the tendency to blame into a tool to achieve the ultimate goal. It helps us be brave enough to take risks, to move ahead without certainty.

Example

Most recently, I designed small, short-cycle work groups using an iterative process. read more »

Network Weaving

Network Thinking Partner: In Interview by Beth Tener

This is cross-posted from Beth Tener’s blog.

Since 2014, Beth and I have had the pleasure of working together. She’s my coach/thinking partner supporting me in my role as a Network Weaver for a new national network, called Network for Water, Energy and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB.) Her consulting practice is New Directions Collaborative. She recently interviewed me as an opportunity to reflect on what I have learned and the value that the thinking partner role has for network leaders. Our work together is done through a video Skype every couple of weeks, plus she reviews documents, and connects me to resources, ideas, or people who could be helpful.

For background, what is the network you are working with and your role?

A lot of work is being done across the country to improve energy and water efficiency and health in existing apartment buildings. Partners involved saw the need for the energy and housing sectors to learn from one another and share learning across geographies to avoid working at cross purposes and to advocate at a larger scale. I was retained early on as a consultant facilitating development of a new national network focused on “collaboration between energy efficiency and affordable housing professionals in existing, multifamily housing occupied by low-income households…” That network has evolved into the Network for Energy, Water, and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB) and I now serve in the role of Network Weaver, with one other staff person who is a Network Administrator. read more »

Communication Network Weaving

Virtual Meeting Tips for Relationship Building

Google Forms as a call script

Google Forms as a call script

I’ve been experimenting with ways to have interactive, relationship-building meetings for attendees spread across the country.

One of my favorite so far combines a mix of video calls, Google Forms, phone calls and chat boxes.  read more »

Facilitation Network Weaving

How Spaces Matter

Working at CoCo, photo credit Negstad Consulting

Working at CoCo, photo credit Negstad Consulting

There are many reasons I recently partnered up with Lisa Negstad to get a full-time office space at CoCo Minneapolis.

High on that list is that the space gives me excuses to expand my professional network.  That’s possible because it feels good – both physically and socially.

The way the physical space feels makes me (and hundreds of other people) want to be here.  You can see the soaring ceilings, the beauty, the brightness from big windows, and the openness of the space.  The umbrellas show that they’ve thought hard about how to define space — to make it feel somewhere — while maintaining the openness.  The permanent spaces where I now sit have semi-transparent dividers that encourage you to not bother but also get to know your neighbors. Maybe they read Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building and Newman’s Defensible Space?

It’s harder to see the social space in the picture, but there are hints. The physical set-up encourages people to meet at the reception/waiting area/central coffee station. The clear delineation of quiet and social work spaces ensures that people who want to focus have a place to do that — and gives those who want to interact permission to strike up a conversation when facing strangers across your desk. There are some informal social events (Beer ‘n’ Chat Tuesday afternoons), and slightly more formal lunches or launch events to encourage mixing with just enough structure that it’s OK for the introverts.  There’s even an internal online social network for the screen-focused.

The lessons here translate to public spaces and to network weaving.

  • How do you make physical and social spaces places people want to be?
  • What strategies make them welcoming and comfortable to everyone, regardless of personality, interest, gender, race, etc.?
  • How do you allow enough excuses for serendipity and interactions to happen AND enough
    invisibility” for people to feel comfortable?

When it’s done right, wonderful things emerge from controlled chaos.