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  • Some years ago,

  • I stumbled across a simple design exercise

  • that helps people understand and solve complex problems,

  • and like many of these design exercises, it kind of seems trivial at first,

  • but under deep inspection,

  • it turns out that it reveals unexpected truths

  • about the way that we collaborate and make sense of things.

  • The exercise has three parts

  • and begins with something that we all know how to do,

  • which is how to make toast.

  • It begins with a clean sheet of paper, a felt marker,

  • and without using any words, you begin to draw how to make toast.

  • And most people draw something like this.

  • They draw a loaf of bread, which is sliced, then put into a toaster.

  • The toast is then deposited for some time.

  • It pops up, and then voila! After two minutes, toast and happiness.

  • Now, over the years, I've collected many hundreds of drawings of these toasts,

  • and some of them are very good,

  • because they really illustrate the toast-making process quite clearly.

  • And then there are some that are, well, not so good.

  • They really suck, actually, because you don't know what they're trying to say.

  • Under close inspection,

  • some reveal some aspects of toast-making while hiding others.

  • So there's some that are all about the toast,

  • and all about the transformation of toast.

  • And there's others that are all about the toaster,

  • and the engineers love to draw the mechanics of this.

  • (Laughter)

  • And then there are others that are about people.

  • It's about visualizing the experience that people have.

  • And then there are others that are about the supply chain of making toast

  • that goes all the way back to the store.

  • It goes through the supply chain networks of teleportation

  • and all the way back to the field and wheat,

  • and one all actually goes all the way back to the Big Bang.

  • So it's crazy stuff.

  • But I think it's obvious

  • that even though these drawings are really wildly different,

  • they share a common quality, and I'm wondering if you can see it.

  • Do you see it? What's common about these?

  • Most drawings have nodes and links.

  • So nodes represent the tangible objects like the toaster and people,

  • and links represent the connections between the nodes.

  • And it's the combination of links and nodes

  • that produces a full systems model,

  • and it makes our private mental models visible

  • about how we think something works.

  • So that's the value of these things.

  • What's interesting about these systems models

  • is how they reveal our various points of view.

  • So for example, Americans make toast with a toaster.

  • That seems obvious.

  • Whereas many Europeans make toast with a frying pan, of course,

  • and many students make toast with a fire.

  • I don't really understand this. A lot of MBA students do this.

  • So you can measure the complexity by counting the number of nodes,

  • and the average illustration has between four and eight nodes.

  • Less than that, the drawing seems trivial,

  • but it's quick to understand,

  • and more than 13, the drawing produces a feeling of map shock.

  • It's too complex.

  • So the sweet spot is between 5 and 13.

  • So if you want to communicate something visually,

  • have between five and 13 nodes in your diagram.

  • So though we may not be skilled at drawing,

  • the point is that we intuitively know how to break down complex things

  • into simple things and then bring them back together again.

  • So this brings us to our second part of the exercise,

  • which is how to make toast,

  • but now with sticky notes or with cards.

  • So what happens then?

  • Well, with cards, most people tend to draw clear, more detailed,

  • and more logical nodes.

  • You can see the step by step analysis that takes place,

  • and as they build up their model, they move their nodes around,

  • rearranging them like Lego blocks.

  • Now, though this might seem trivial, it's actually really important.

  • This rapid iteration of expressing and then reflecting and analyzing

  • is really the only way in which we get clarity.

  • It's the essence of the design process.

  • And systems theorists do tell us

  • that the ease with which we can change a representation

  • correlates to our willingness to improve the model.

  • So sticky note systems are not only more fluid,

  • they generally produce way more nodes than static drawings.

  • The drawings are much richer.

  • And this brings us to our third part of the exercise,

  • which is to draw how to make toast, but this time in a group.

  • So what happens then?

  • Well, here's what happens.

  • It starts out messy, and then it gets really messy,

  • and then it gets messier,

  • but as people refine the models,

  • the best nodes become more prominent,

  • and with each iteration, the model becomes clearer

  • because people build on top of each other's ideas.

  • What emerges is a unified systems model

  • that integrates the diversity of everyone's individual points of view,

  • so that's a really different outcome

  • from what usually happens in meetings, isn't it?

  • So these drawings can contain 20 or more nodes,

  • but participants don't feel map shock

  • because they participate in the building of their models themselves.

  • Now, what's also really interesting, that the groups spontaneously mix

  • and add additional layers of organization to it.

  • To deal with contradictions, for example,

  • they add branching patterns and parallel patterns.

  • Oh, and by the way, if they do it in complete silence,

  • they do it much better and much more quickly.

  • Really interesting -- talking gets in the way.

  • So here's some key lessons that can emerge from this.

  • First, drawing helps us understand the situations

  • as systems with nodes and their relationships.

  • Movable cards produce better systems models,

  • because we iterate much more fluidly.

  • And then the group notes produce the most comprehensive models

  • because we synthesize several points of view.

  • So that's interesting.

  • When people work together under the right circumstances,

  • group models are much better than individual models.

  • So this approach works really great for drawing how to make toast,

  • but what if you wanted to draw something more relevant or pressing,

  • like your organizational vision, or customer experience,

  • or long-term sustainability?

  • There's a visual revolution that's taking place

  • as more organizations are addressing their wicked problems

  • by collaboratively drawing them out.

  • And I'm convinced that those who see their world as movable nodes and links

  • really have an edge.

  • And the practice is really pretty simple.

  • You start with a question, you collect the nodes,

  • you refine the nodes, you do it over again,

  • you refine and refine and refine, and the patterns emerge,

  • and the group gets clarity and you answer the question.

  • So this simple act of visualizing and doing over and over again

  • produces some really remarkable outcomes.

  • What's really important to know

  • is that it's the conversations that are the important aspects,

  • not just the models themselves.

  • And these visual frames of reference

  • can grow to several hundreds or even thousands of nodes.

  • So, one example is from an organization called Rodale.

  • Big publishing company.

  • They lost a bunch of money one year,

  • and their executive team for three days visualized their entire practice.

  • And what's interesting is that after visualizing the entire business,

  • systems upon systems,

  • they reclaimed 50 million dollars of revenue,

  • and they also moved from a D rating to an A rating from their customers.

  • Why? Because there's alignment from the executive team.

  • So I'm now on a mission to help organizations

  • solve their wicked problems by using collaborative visualization,

  • and on a site that I've produced called drawtoast.com,

  • I've collected a bunch of best practices.

  • and so you can learn how to run a workshop here,

  • you can learn more about the visual language

  • and the structure of links and nodes that you can apply to general problem-solving,

  • and download examples of various templates

  • for unpacking the thorny problems that we all face in our organizations.

  • So the seemingly trivial design exercise of drawing toast

  • helps us get clear, engaged and aligned.

  • So next time you're confronted with an interesting challenge,

  • remember what design has to teach us.

  • Make your ideas visible, tangible, and consequential.

  • It's simple, it's fun, it's powerful,

  • and I believe it's an idea worth celebrating.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Some years ago,

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B1 US TED toast drawing draw toaster trivial

【TED】Tom Wujec: Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast (Tom Wujec: Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/03/02
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