I’m one of those people who believe that things are almost always simpler than we think. Too often we make things less clear as we try and describe things – we make them hard to understand with a fog of language that hides a lack of conceptual rigor and clarity. We – all – get caught in this as we try and engage the language rather than the underlying concepts.
I had lunch with a prospective client last week; she has a company that offers a SaaS component that integrates two components in enterprise HR systems.
So we sit down and I ask her to explain what she wants to do; she gives me an explanation.
She has been – abstractly – interested in ‘socializing’ her apps, and recently she’s been hearing from customers that she needs to “make them social.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
She’s not 100% sure.
Sadly, we’re not at a restaurant with a paper tablecloth, so I grab some paper from my briefcase and with her input, sketch out a fast process map of her software. A 35,000-foot map, to be sure. Then I create clouds of the people who are using it.
“Now,” I ask, “who talks to who today?”
And we map out connectors for existing conversations.
“And who do you think should talk to who but doesn’t?”
“And how do people talk to you with complaints or suggestions?”
Suddenly we’ve mapped out a high-level conversation-flow and defined three or four areas where implementing conversation would add value to her product.
We haven’t nearly delivered a solution, or even a solution map – but we’ve defined the solution space.
I ask her one more question…”How would we know if we were right?”
And we agree to think about a plan to quickly survey users and participants and validate what we’ve discussed here – the first step in my engagement if it goes that far.
So just for fun – take a problem that you’ve got and map the overall ‘connectors’ of conversation that you have (often not through official channels), and that you’d like. Do they line up? Does the idea of a conversational ‘connector’ even begin to make sense?
I have two contradictory frustrations here: We don’t yet have a common language for mapping and conceptualizing conversations in the ways that we map and conceptualize dataflow (yes I know about network maps). And second, in our efforts to map and ‘guide’ conversations in ways that offer business value, we risk losing the emergent structures that are at the heart of the value of conversation.
I need to think more on both of those…