Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ABC - Architecture By Conversation

James McGovern has written a wonderfully thoughtful article entitled Closing Thoughts on the Tulsa Tech Fest.

Among other things, he mentions conversations uncorrupted by canines and equines. He reminds us that discussions of technology should not be distant memories. He reminds us of our original inspiration.

As I read his article, I pondered the topic of conversations.

My first thought was the now commonly uttered phrase

Markets are conversations
To be sure, some might be tempted to convert this into some argument for business 2.0 - a whirlwind of technology for enabling the workers to collaborate share. That's fine, but it's not quite what I had in mind.

As I continued to ponder the topic, I came up with a list which reflects part of the problem.
  • Projects are not conversations
  • Meetings are not conversations
  • Presentations are not conversations
  • Email storms are not conversations
Hmm... Too bad we're talking about the lynchpins of modern business.

Ok, so what do other Enterprise Architects do to directly foster and participate in conversations? I am honestly interested in knowing. I'm not just talking about the CxOs and Veeps - I'm talking about the techie types still in touch with the passions of our youth...


Tom Haskins said...

Perhaps the problem is not getting into conversations. I think the notion of "markets are conversations" was great for getting past the push marketing of mass merchandise to passive consumers. The idea of conversations created the space for crowdsourcing and content generating customers. But, to my way of thinking, conversations only occur within tightly defined parameters. Thus your list of what are not conversations.

Maybe we need a different problem statement, like "markets are design processes". That would generate different interactions, exchanges and synergies. The idea of design processes includes much that is not considered when exploring the idea of conversations: iterative explorations of the solution space, balancing of convergent and divergent processes, formal selection of design criteria, deliberate redefinition of the design problem, seeking single solutions to address multiple problems, etc. Rather than attempting to correct the lack of conversation, those of us with design sensibilities could enhance the awareness of informal design processes.

Aloof Schipperke said...

Interesting point. I like the idea of reformulating the problem statement, shifting to a perspective more likely to create conversations as a by-product.

The phrase "markets are design processes" certainly captures much of the dynamic, but I'm somewhat reluctant to invoke the P* word. It tends to carry a subtext capable of masking the overarching idea.

Perhaps a simple "Markets are Design" would suffice.

Tom Haskins said...

Fascinating insight. What subtext typically gets in the way when the P word is invoked? I'm used to process putting positions in perspective and restoring the movement that got stuck.

Aloof Schipperke said...

In some circles, such as IT, process carries an implicit assumption of formality.

As an awareness of design unfolds, the concept of informal process naturally follows suit. Framing it as a design process seems prone to misinterpretation from the onset.

Tom Haskins said...

If process connotes procedure, out of necessity of large scale design implementations, it makes sense to avoid the P word as you suggest. Perhaps a better phrase is:
"markets are emerging designs"

Aloof Schipperke said...

Intriguing alternative.

I tested the concept with a few associates today. Several raised an attentive eye brow upon hearing "emerging designs". You might be onto something.

Amusing synchronicity: I just heard Paul Graham utter the phrase, "let the market design the product", referring to the act of letting user needs drive design changes.

Tom Haskins said...

Thanks for the "market test feedback"! I'll keep exploring "emerging design" soon.