In this blog we share the insights we gained from the startup of The Art of Agile. We share the lessons we learned on how to use different starting points to start an initiative. We also share two workshop activities that can be seen as an Artist Impression at the start a new project.
You are a work of art!
It was the French philosopher Michel Foucault who raised the question: if a lamp can be a work of art, why can't human life be? With that question in mind, the first meeting of The Art of Agile was on 2 April. How do you introduce yourself as a work of art? What is the art in your work? How do we construct the first sketch of the elaboration of the exhibition with the working title "The Color of purpose and The Future of Work”?
This working title was inspired by the experiences of AgileOnTheFly, the experiment that ran last year with publication Being Human in Times of Agile and two events as a result. During 2018, a group of enthusiastic "Agile Flyers" gathered and analyzed stories using creative techniques about what it is like to be human in this time of Agile work. In the stories, I experienced an urgency to express our sense of purpose and concerns about the future of our work and employment. Questions such as "What am I doing this work for?", "For whom do I want to mean something?", "What work gives me energy and fits my talents?", "What will my work be like in the nearby future?", "What is the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on my work?", "What effect does my work have on climate objectives?", “How do I do my work sustainably?”, "What effect does immigration have on my employment?", and finally "Why do so many people get a burn-out or a bore-out at work?"
The startup on 2 April was intended to introduce the first followers to each other and to get them acquainted with the approach and the working title. And to ask ourselves at the end of the meeting whether we see sufficient potential in each other and in the theme to continue. A start-up is like a spark in the dark. And when we can't get this spark to a bright light, it is best to stop early.
The run-up to the startup was a bit of a struggle for me. I would have preferred to start completely blank. Starting blank is an utopia. Just like the participants, I have ambitions, questions, challenges, feelings, thoughts, expectations, fears and desires. I wanted to facilitate the program as lightly as possible and see what comes out of our mish-mash that we formed together. Enough direction to give an evening direction, not enough to know what comes out.
How to design the program for the start-up?
I had been thinking about Art of Agile for three months. I maintained a website, read books and articles, though about the roadmap for the coming year and wrote a blog. In my mind, I already imagined researching four pillars that connect art with Agile:
Observing: being Agile means being empirical and to observe well and to postpone judgment. Looking at art offers training in postponing judgment. What if I can start on 2 April by looking at the art that we are?
Reflection and sense making: what do I make of what I perceive? I am constantly understanding and constructing. This construction is a social learning process. How can I start on 2 April a social learning process to create a new piece of art together that shows the themes we can work on?
Next: what unfolds as a "logical" next step. How do we fit our intentions for the coming year into the idea of an Exhibition in December and the way towards it with Ateliers? Or do we enter into a closer relationship with each other on a road and destination?
Experience and experiment: focus our energy on the follow-up in the so-called Atelier Sessions. Can we start with our experiments? When I look back on the start-up meeting I enjoyed a unique experimental experience together
I also realized that a good Start-up meets three criteria:
It provides a good opportunity to get to know each other.
It gives a good opportunity to get acquainted with the program and the road ahead.
It bears all the characteristics of the future program in the way the startup is designed.
The last criterion has led me to at least observe the elements, reflect and have built-in the next in the startup. As if we start rolling the belly of a snowman, we let the first layer of experience stick to us in the start-up.
Ever since I have started to give workshops, I have been an admirer of the Kolb framework for experiential and self-organizing learning. It helped me in my struggle between preparing enough and not too much to affect the self-organizing learning process.
Kolb recognizes in his learning model 4 types of learning that are more suitable for types of people. The basic assumption is that
people have different preferences for learning;
learning types are more suitable for some situations than others.
Becoming a surgeon without ever having made an incision is not conceivable. Being able to control a plane when you have completed 1000 hours of Flight Simulator is quite likely. And it helps to learn how to make ethical consideration by zooming out and asking reflective questions.
Startup learning is the way in which a group initiates a learning process. The Kolb framework is very helpful to design this learning process.
A framework for startup Agile with Art
The positive experiences with the Kolb framework and my considerations about the way in which I could organize the start-up, led to a set-up of this evening on 2 April and led to a more comprehensive understanding of the natural course of starting up. As many times before, I wanted to organize the evening along the line of doing => thinking => dreaming => deciding.
The thought came to mind to introduce the four pillars to the participants. I imagined that they could become acquainted with observing, reflecting, the next action and experimenting in a first short cycle.
The question I asked myself: how can I introduce the four pillars of the start-up, when it is expected to pay attention to getting to know each other and getting to know the working title? Answering that question has led to two specific activities. I will explain these two methods later on when we also report on the evening. First, we explain how the model that unfolds has something like that out of it.
Start-up Acting is the type of initiating that is related to direct decision making and action taking. Start-up acting leads directly to an experience and to feedback. In the Cynefin framework, this startup acting fits the domain chaos, the domain without predictability where you are immediately forced to decide. Crisis management is a form of it and also deliberately seeking out a period of creativity and unpredictability and all sorts of improvisation. The order of actions according to the cynefin framework are act => sense => respond. You do something, it has an immediate effect, you sense the effect, you react to it again, and repeat. Learning by doing.
This start-up style fits doers. This form requires a certain orientation and robustness to be decisive and not wavering.
Activities that are particularly suitable in this style of start-up have the following characteristics: gaming, experimenting, testing directly, using experience from direct practice, carrying out a concrete assignment. Applied art (design) is an example of an art expression in this style.
Example Artist Impression
In preparation for the 2 April meeting, the participants were asked to carry out a homework assignment. It was requested to give a pitch in which the participants introduced themselves in relation to the working title as a work of art.
Prepare for the other participants a 2-4 minute pitch about who you are related to the working title "the color of Purpose and The Future of Work". Without text or spoken language and with an object (whatever the artwork is viewed, as long as you are not yourself); Prepare for the others the pitch that let them observe and give meaning.
A useful next step after Startup Acting is Startup Sensing: what do we observe? We see this form of starting up reflected in Design Thinking, when the focus is on the perception of the world of the target group for which an issue is being addressed. Observing requires empathy and having a sense for the situation.
This form of initiation is good for sensitive people with a high capacity to adapt and to connect with people in a situation. Learn by feeling.
Activities that are particularly suitable in this style of starting up have the following characteristics: excursion, practical group work, practicum, field work, role play, organization setup, social presenting theater. For example, as art, music and film can easily evoke emotions.
Example Artist Impression
During the meeting the prepared artist impressions are pitched for the other participants. The agreement was that during the pitch there will not be spoken and no language (or written text) will be used. The observers are thus invited to feel what is meant. And to describe that feeling in the title that they would give to the artwork that they saw.
While Startup Sensing is about feeling and more introverted inwardly focused on what arises, with Startup Dreaming it is more actively and expressively discovering what is occurring. Imagining a situation and coming up with ideas that go beyond the obvious possibilities. Thinking outside the lines and beaten track is the hallmark of Startup Dreaming.
This form of starting fits well with creative minds and with great imagination; they are people who feel free to express what they think, even if it is not appropriate. Learning through creative thinking.
A play, an impossible issue, a practicum, an exciting case, a hackathon, role play, organization setup, social presenting theater, are examples of activities that fits this type of initiation. Surrealism fits in with this as an art form, for example.
Example Artist Impression
After we observed each other as a work of art during the start-up on 2 April and the reflection took place by assigning language to what we saw, we constructed a joint work of art in an arrangement. In an enclosed space of 8 x 6 meters, the objects were placed in relation to each other and the participants stepped into the work by taking a position there. You can download the detailed explanation of this work form here.
The previous startup styles were all about doing, feeling and thinking. Startup Longing involves wanting, the desire for the future. It is about the power of imagination, about a sense of urgency that is felt from passion. It is not a game! This is important and outspoken. Expression here is aimed at offering a meaningful future.
Statements such as "we need a vision" or "we lack vision" are unknown to the people who advocate this style. They are the vision and at the same time always searching and longing for new. Restless. Learning by wanting.
Activities such as visualization, discussion and debate, philosophizing, mind map, theoretical exploration, scenario planning fit this startup style. Abstract art fits in with this.Artist Impression
During the startup meeting we have made an Artist Impression of the coming year ArtOfagile as a result of two activities. First we presented ourselves in relation to the working title. The instruction for this activity can be found in the handout “Introduce yourself as a piece of art”. Then we constructed out perspective on the coming year with the activity “Artist Impression: Emerging Perspective”. The handouts you can find here.
We had a great evening! It is magical to experience what happens when you have to express yourself without words. We experienced the startup styles Startup Sensing and Startup Dreaming and we ended with words that came up from “Artist Impression: Emerging Perspective”.
The startup is not finished yet. You can still join in! We love to learn from artists who are curious about the initiative! During the next meeting on May 28 we dive into Start-up Longing and Start-up Acting. Let's see what insights and workshop activities we gain and share again!