Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Technography and dynamic templates

Author:Bernie DeKoven
Posted:3/23/1999; 9:48:21 AM
Topic:Technography and dynamic templates
Msg #:4405
Prev/Next:4404 / 4406

An agenda is a template for a meeting. If it is well structured, it provides participants with a clear sense of purpose and direction. Keeping the agenda items as the top level in an outline allows participants to expand (add subheadings to) any item, and then collapse the outline to an agenda-level view. This way, no matter how deep and detailed a discussion becomes, we can instantly refocus on the other purposes of the meeting, and make informed judgments as to how we will be spending our time together.

Because we are working in a dynamic medium, the agenda is itself a topic. We can, at any time, reorganize the agenda in response to our changing understanding of our priorities. We can add new items and new categories of items as the need arises. So the agenda is not a fixed or arbitrary tool for making us keep to a schedule, but a dynamic, changing, responsive structure for helping us assess and re-assess our priorities and respond intelligently to those items that actually require intelligent response.

There are other templates that we can also make use of to help us structure our collective thinking. One of the simplest is a table that lets us divide our thoughts into PRO and CON. Every time anyone thinks of a reason FOR we just list it in the PRO column. If someone has an immediate AGAINST response, we can add that. If not, we can continue listing more FORs. Because it's dynamic, we can easily add more structure to the table, moving PRO/CON items up or down to reflect the strength of our feelings. We can even add a third column for comments. I like to make the PRO/CON table the child of a major heading so I can collapse it when we need to refocus on other agenda items.

Those who do strategic planning are familiar with another kind of template, called the S.W.O.T. analysis. Here we use four headings: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. By re-examining our organization in terms of each of these dimensions, we are able to piece together a picture of the enterprise in context with the marketplace. It begins as a listing exercise. We start with Strengths (always begin with the positive) and collect them. The order doesn't matter. What matters is the thoroughness and honesty of our vision. And then maybe we go on to Opportunities, and then revisit Strengths, and then Threats. The template is there not to keep us to a predetermined sequence, but rather to help us build a picture. Again, because we are using a dynamic tool, we can do this in any order we want, expanding, collapsing, detailing as we go. We are also creating elements that can later restructure into mission statements, strategies and tactics -- simply by introducing new headings, and reorganizing the items accordingly.

Regardless of the templates we use, the medium provides us with a new way for using them. And this new way is so much more efficient and responsive, that it transforms the function of templates and the nature of how we work together.

I'd be very interested in learning what templates you use to help structure your thinking, and especially how your use of those templates on the computer affects their FUNctionality.

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