Learning: Prototyping

I’m thinking about how I do what I do and was going to launch into what I’m already learning from this project, but then realised that there’s something that should come first, because it’s the reason I’m doing it this way in the first place.

I try to work on a cycle of “Have an idea – try it out – see what happens – see what ideas it evokes – try one of them out”… etc  If I’m lucky, along the way I will get to make something useful that people want to take part in, or pay for. 

What I used to do, when I worked in a big organisation was have an idea and then say to people around me “Have a think about this and tell me if it will work” and if enough people thought it would work we’d do it.  Of course there were lots of other people having ideas and asking me whether I thought they would work too.  The result of that was that we did relatively little except think and have meetings about whether things might work.

There are two main reasons why I can’t work like that any more.  One is that I don’t sit in a big organisation with lots of people paid to do thinking.  The other is that I just don’t believe that thinking that much before you do something will tell you as much as just doing something.

That’s why I treat everything as a prototype for something else. 

We’re often told that we have to have a vision and to hold onto the delivery of that vision no matter what.  I see it a little differently. 

The trap I try to avoid is thinking that the something else you’re working towards is more important than the thing you’re doing right now.

Tuttle started as a prototype for a social coworking space.  It turned out that it worked very well as a meetup in it’s own right and branched out into our consulting work, my own social art practice and arguably paved the way for C4CC.

So when I started thinking about this year’s American trip and got the idea from Al to also have journals travelling the country alongside me, I had a choice between thinking really hard about how to do that and just trying it out here beforehand to see what I learned.  And now I feel like I’m learning lots, more quickly than expected, that I’d otherwise have had to wait for until I was on the road myself.

What’s the alternative?  I could have written the instructions and then run a workshop (subject to people turning up) to simulate the exercise and run through what people thought might come up.  But how long would it take to set that up? And would the thinking really improve the experience?  Or is the point of the exercise the things that we learn along the way?

Originally posted on Journal Racing