3.07 – Conversational Time Travel

I’m listening live to yesterday’s Audioboo conversation of the run through Lighthouse of The Relativity Matrix.

It’s like being a time-traveller in a mundane version of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Participants; Scott Smith, Georgina Voss, Natalie Kane and Andrew Sleigh. Or Wolverine, Storm, Shadowcat & Iceman, if we’re running with the analogy…

I’m going to annotate as I go, see what I can pull out.

Note: At the moment I’m talking about the initial layout of the Matrix. Realising how Scottish and quickly I speak.

On to questions… do the People & Space Layers make sense?

Andrew raises a good point; Isn’t one of the premise of How Buildings Learn that we should be able to change the Space layers to fit the People layers. I answer incorrectly I think… it’s not about drift and flexibility towards making everything as fast as possible.

Note: I think a better way to answer that, thinking about it, is that it’s about the ‘grouting’ between the tiled layers. These can be fixed, rigid things that stay in place, but it’s better if they were malleable, contacting materials that let things quickly move up and down the system.

Scott suggests a need to think about escalating the Space layers with more symmetry to the People layers; Surroundings, Structures, Infrastructures, Services, Materials.

Note: A quick pause, and delve into Wikipedia… Infrastructure: “the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions” (Wikipedia). So as a bridge between the faster layers (Services, Materials) which are brough in to secure the future of the slower layers (Structures, Surroundings), that makes a lot of sense in construct. It also means losing the potential vagueness of Immovables/Movables on that side of the Matrix, which is good.

Within this part, it raises the question of this as a blank canvas – what’s the base point? How things used to work? How all companies work? Is this a map, or just a way to map? A human topography and a physical topography, as Scott says, parallel in the space. Tine is very slow in the North West, very fast in the South East, but what happens elsewhere?

Georgina & Natalie: where do knowledge and capabilities fit into this? This is faster than most things, does it just run through the people layers up and down? Or should it be specifically addressed?

Spaces for different size companies – how much varies with size and competition? Large, multi-spaced companies vs scrappy start-ups will be much more focussed in building a business at the fast part of the map, rather than the slow. Laptops for the latter will be much more stable than their structures and surrounding? The grooves and routines of a company, as they settle and stabilise into a space, are things which ossify as they become more established.

Note: Isn’t ossify a cracking word? Anyway, a random thought that occurs to me now – what if all the space layers have the potential to create drag, and slow down the people layers in many ways. Being tied to an office? Having to carry things around? You need the Space layers, yes, but how to you design them in a wind-tunnel?

Andrew: Actions have a knock-on effect up the chain, but materials don’t. People layers can influence upwards much more readily than Space layers perhaps?

Natalie: everyone always has this idea of ‘this is who we are as a company’, and translating that to the outside is Marketing (note: this is a very smart definition of marketing, keep cycling back to it). So how much does the Space matter when you talk about this.

Note: Here we get into the ‘legendary office spaces’ – everything from Fruit Towers to The Googleplex, Facebook Campus to Red Bull. Will pick this up with Simon Jordan from Jump Studios, who design spaces for Red Bull, Google and the like.

Me: Away from the yellow line down through the centre, from NW to SE, you start to get into more interesting approaches. I’ve just realised that perhaps the Culture Bridge point (how much external culture you let in to become part of your internal culture), represents a way to let things in at a slow level to let them affect other things.

Natalie: That’s where stigma comes in: what’s the right thing to use as part of your culture? You must use, or must not use, a particular thing, an Agile technique, etc.

Georgina: It’s about how a culture can or cannot manifest through it’s surroundings.

Scott: We tend to only operate in the conventional ways that we’re meant to, as that’s what we’re told to do in order to ‘fit in’. But the gaps in between the spaces are a more interesting place to play, because that’s where the hacks happen. Where leadership determines how to deal with surroundings and make it work.

Note: Scott’s referring to the gaps between layers, as opposed to the gaps on the grid. There’s definitely something in this discussion about not just improving the structures of the layers, but the flexibility between; is there where knowledge travels, to Georgina’s point? It brings me back to the Cesar Hidalgo idea; “Media is a Vehicle for Knowledge”. What’s the media that travels through organisations, both in the People and Space Layers?

Natalie: It’s more about the relationships between fast and slow, going down, then coming back up again through the layers.

Scott: People want to get on cruise control as an organisation. The ability to operate within a separate culture within an existing organisation, to create different views and ways to work… it’s basically controlling the throttle of how fast or slow you go.

Me: If you keep working just at the fast layers, it’s IDEA… IDEA… IDEA… like constantly work-shopping all the time, but never getting anything done.

Scott: Innovation hits the buffer of culture, which slows things down to refine them.

Note: there follows a ‘final question’ about whether you can apply this principle to a village, or other things… Georgina in particular raises a whole load of different things that mean it’s not easy to map from ‘organisation’ to ‘community/society’, so I’m parking that for now… but it prompts some other interesting conclusions:

Scott: The map can become a high-level reference point, to see how to hack away from the norm.

Natalie/Me: What happens when you do move things around (eg leadership to the centre of the building) – what are the knock-on effects of that?

Me: We could use it like a game grid – if you do something HERE (point on map), then what happens along the horizontals and verticals?

Natalie: It allows for a flexibility; it’d be interesting to look at this from a scenarios point of view. Rather than just ask ‘how do we do this here’, use it to say ‘if we DID do this here, what would be the repercussions, how does this change things…”

Scott: We begin to see how a card here impacts other cards over here…

Me: Perhaps it’s a repercussion map?

Note: Lots to chew over now… which I’ll do today, and write up tomorrow.



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4 responses to “3.07 – Conversational Time Travel”

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  4. on being tied to an office and ossifying. The nature of modern lets and facilities management means the office wall is the hardest thing to change. There may be rules preventing the attachment of anything let along the removal of it. That’s a change request and that costs….. The ossifying office has a ring to it