“The 9 things I’ve discovered in the 18 months since setting up Handling Ideas” 20.2.14


1. Common knowledge.
Companies put a lot of value on when their teams share the same understanding of ideas, concepts and projects, and count the cost when they don’t.


2. Bigger picture.
When explaining something orally, you limit other people's ability to scrutinize to only around the part that’s being expressed. If you map everything up to that point, you significantly open up the work and enable others to refer back and forth.


3. Consistency of thought.
If you have to explain the answer to a question through the choice of an object, you're forced to express your rationale. This may reveal a different reasoning to others within the group, even when they appear to share the same answer. Fixing and justifying an answer to an object reduces the chances of anyone claiming that they didn’t say or mean something earlier.


4. Handling our ideas.
It’s easier to explore, interrogate, challenge, remove from or add to something that’s in front of you, than it is to somebody else’s comments. Pointing at an object on the table doesn’t threaten in the same way it would if we stuck our finger at a team member. By seeing, choosing, touching and moving objects, our responses become more physical and our ideas, concepts and projects more tangible.


5. The bits in-between.
When placing two or more objects on a table, their positioning raises a whole range of questions regarding their relationship to one another. It exposes issues around importance, dependency, hierarchy, motive, need and many more. Such questions don’t fall out so easily when working orally or in text.


6. Removing resistance.
Getting the models out of our heads and onto the tables opens us all up to external input. Resistance to others people's ideas doesn’t always come from a stubborn sense of ownership, rather a reluctance to remodel something that’s previously taken an age to construct inside our own brains. Reshaping the model once it's out of us, becomes less threatening as we can cope with any knock-on effects.


7. Non-hierarchical collaboration.
A model on a table allows the collaboration of asymmetric input - people with small amounts of input can collaborate with those with lots to say. Without a physical map, the one with most knowledge will expect others to listen and digest rather than add their small bit. However, a shared map allows others to marry up their limited knowledge to the bigger picture.


8. Looking forward.
The best conversations can be when we don’t look at one another, but instead straight ahead, for instance on a car journey or on a long walk. This detachment allows us to freewheel, perhaps from us not having to expend so much energy to decipher the body language of others in response to our comments. When you work with objects on a table, your brain is able to think more freely and therefore more creatively.


9. Shared reference.
You can never guarantee that after explaining a complex concept, the model that a team member creates in their head, will be the same as the one in yours. However through the process of mapping, the output becomes a physical capture and a common reference point which can be photographed, videoed and annotated for reference throughout the work, even months later.
Paul Tyler