Parallel process collaboration

Whilst chaordinating (a word I keep slipping into sentences, and nobody even flinches, I hope they’re not hearing coordinating, or they’re missing the point) a truly epic event (which I really should write something about) with Gabriel Shalom (I should note we have 22 other collaborators, but this particular discussion was between the two of us).  We were trying to map the relationships between different individual, machines and activities in order to better understand the connections and opportunities between participants and how to arrange the space.

We had what could’ve been a very lengthy discussion about what process to use. Instead it went something like this.

Gabriel – I’m interested to use compendium (Gabriel please let me know what it was called), because it allows me to make the meta connections and links. To view layers of information and to view multiple levels of association. There is also an advantage long term in ease of sharing/connection.

Me – I want to use post-its and paper because I can shuffle the information around in the physical plane, plus I find that since tools define the outcome in their use I find the real world a more creative space in which to think.

At this point we could see the merit in each others argument, but each of us felt stronger that their way was better. So we tried a different solution.

Realising that we could be discussing the merits of different process for hours, instead we agreed to develop in parallel (this is something that I’m also using for a range of other projects, having decided that too much conversation sucks balls when trying to get stuff done, and that sometimes it’s quicker to do everything at once than it is to talk about who’s right).

So I noted down the information on different coloured post-its, reading them out to Gabriel as I did so, he then created links and meta connections on his computer. I shuffled post-its, he shuffled pixels.

By then observing each others process we were able to see patterns emerge. By not working on the computer with Gabriel we optimised development time, and arrived at a result which was both easily transferable and digitally communicable, but at the same time wouldn’t have emerged if the computer had dictated the pattern of layout.

Even if the processes had not been complimentary, we still would’ve arrived at an outcome, and far more quickly than if we had only chosen one methodology (because we cut out all the discussion).

We had a phrase at Palomar 5 marked by a grave – concensus killed my idea”, parallel process collaboration arose from this thinking on how to proceed without concensus. The answer is just to proceed, with people addressing the issues in the manner they think is most effective, communicating what they have learned and are doing as they go. No blocking, no right way, only your way in parallel with everybody else’s. Normally everybody is moving in the same direction, some people will arrive more quickly, others amble, some will discover dead ends, others hidden gems. It needed be a march, or a three legged race, it’s possible to work together yet separately – this is the path to autonomy.

What’s important is the goal, or the region of exploration, if you have opposing outcomes then parallel process won’t work. However in a collaborative context it is an awesome weapon against consensus. Big hat tip to Christopher Doering who was a big part in these discussions whilst at P5 and I believe responsible for the grave marker.

Note to Gabriel: Several options by way of reply – propose edits in comments, write your own blog response and I’ll link. Would be great to have your input and thoughts on the process.


4 thoughts on “Parallel process collaboration”

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