I’m a big fan of the mantras of (variously) ‘show your work‘ or ‘working out loud‘. I think that the notion of showing what you’re doing helps other work with you to make it better, or learn from you if you do well. This contributes to the success of the ‘coherent organization‘, where information flows in ways that are aligned with the goals of the organization. But I want to extend it a bit.
Let me use an analogy: remember when your teacher asked you to ‘show your work’? It wasn’t just the product, but the intermediate steps, and I’m sure that’s what Jane Bozarth is implying. But it’s too easy for people to think it’s about making your work product available instead of one that’s marked up with the underlying thinking. In user interface work it was known as ‘design rationale’, where you kept a track of the assumptions and decisions along the way.
I’ve termed this ‘cognitive annotation’ at various points (what, me create new phrases?). And it’s really important for a number of reasons:
- people can learn from what you thought and did
- people can provide feedback if they notice any prior thoughts
- and new people can avoid having a team revisit decisions
I have a couple of guilty pleasures that make this point quite clearly. Lee Child is a writer who has a character called Jack Reacher (hence the movie, pretty entertaining despite the wrong physical type to play the lead role). This character is ex-military police and quite capable in challenging situations. What makes this series more than usually interesting is that the character regularly outlines the situation, the thinking behind it, and the resulting actions taken. In doing so, it’s often a format like “most people think X, but because of Y, Z is a better choice”.
Another place this shows up is the recently finished television series Burn Notice. In this case, a ‘burned’ spy is forced to freelance, and regularly gets in situations where again, the conventional wisdom is debunked. With a regular approach of a ‘sting’, along with a dry humor and some larger-than-life characters, it’s fun, and interesting because of the underlying thinking that explains the choices made.
Granted, neither of these are situations I have any interest in being in, but it’s a nice twist and makes the stories more interesting.
In the real world, it can be hard to share underlying thinking if it’s a Miranda organization, but the benefits suggest that the effort to achieve a culture where such openness is ‘safe’ is a worthwhile endeavor. At least, that’s my thinking.