The Longevity of Learnings
Weeknotes #21: Oct 13–16, 2020
Note: I skipped from weeknotes #19 — #21 because I was on vacation last week. So it’s the 20th note, but the 21st week since I joined the Government of Canada as a public servant.
This week I spent a lot of my time documenting things, and meeting with a new researcher on my team. Knowledge transfer is always difficult, and although I’ve spent some time trying to aggregate research notes and findings in Notion, we always hold more information in our own minds than we can hope to effectively transfer to someone else.
This is because we each bring our own biases and framing to situations, so even if we all have access to the same data, we may incorporate and interpret things differently.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about Lego, because another service designer at Transport Canada talked about Lego Serious Play last week. Even given the same pieces to start with, we may arrange them differently, either to achieve different goals, or because we have different ideas on how best to achieve those goals.
So, transition is hard. Do we try to be as neutral as possible and just point to raw data like transcripts or behavioural analytics, or do we offer more framing into the desired intent or impetus for the research? Do we share how we interpreted and applied the findings?
This is a challenge whenever you’re passing information from person to person, or team to team. How much do you hand over as ‘final’ and how much do you welcome a new re-interpretation of what you are transitioning?
I’ve worked on a lot of teams where there were hard hand-offs between people or teams. Some team did the market research, or some BA wrote the requirements, or some designer designed the solution, and we throw it over the fence and hope that the person who catches the work understands what we envisioned and will continue to see it through.
Uh.. have YOU ever seen it work out exactly as anticipated?
Offhand, I can’t think of a time things have ever worked out exactly as expected. For one of two reasons:
- People are creative and don’t want everything to be defined for them
- People can’t imagine all possible scenarios and some details are left undefined
If you don’t want the disappointment of handing off control (or getting such rigid requirements that you are allowed no creativity or problem-solving), you need to .. not hand off.
As simple as that — the hand-off process almost ensures a change in stage from a “before” to an “after”. If you’re worried about not losing intent or context as you hand something off, you need not to hand it off. You need to work together, so that the solution is co-created. It may not be the ultimate exact solution that either party may have come up with themselves, but at least through close collaboration you can be confident that it won’t be inconsistent with the beliefs of either party.
Of course, that’s not always possible. Not every team can have dedicated teammates for the long haul; people move on, or an individual can have a lot of commitments and not be as intimately involved in the work as may be preferred. This may result in a superficial understanding of a problem space, as gaps in understanding result in sub-optimal solution delivery.
We can’t just download the information we carry to others: it’s not like a data dump can provide someone else with all the insights, ideas, inklings and assumptions we’ve developed in our minds. But we can try to communicate things the best we can, so that we’re not always starting from scratch. The research I’ve conducted on a particular product or service may be only slightly related to the work another researcher may do, but if there is anything there that can help fill in gaps or stimulate a new line of inquiry, I want to ensure it doesn’t just live in my own head. I want that kindling to be as discoverable as possible, in the hope that ideas will be able to spark and burn brightly in the future.
This was my last week at Transport Canada, next week I start a new role at Canada Revenue Agency. I wish my colleagues at Transport Canada all the best — if there’s anything else I can download from this brain of mine outside of what can be found on Notion, Sharepoint or RDIMS, please reach out!