IA Summit 2009 report: day 3

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Two parties and four hours after day 2 of the IA Summit 2009 closed. Day 3 opened with a low-key UX Book Salon organized by Lou Rosenfeld of Rosenfeld Media.

The UX Book Salons are an opportunity for people to get together to talk about the content, presentation, style and form of UX books (that we love or hate). For the publisher, these impromptu gatherings provide a valuable source of customer insight. And for me, I just like talking about books occasionally.

Yoni tickling the ivory

Yoni tickling the ivory. Photo courtesy of Jonell Gades

After a fairly soft start to the day, the next session was a fair smack in the brain muscles.

Matt Milan & Michael Dila: Innovation Parkour

In this presentation Matt & Michael presented their ideas on innovation – how to obtain a level of mastery such that we are unconsciously competent during the design process. They began by asking the question: Why do we do our best thinking when listening to angry music? It’s when we let everything go.

Parkour is a confrontation of the physical, built environment. It’s about the flow; and it’s fun. In parkour the practitioner doesn’t follow the paths laid down by the architect or city planner; rather they confront the structures and makes their own way.

When things become uncertain – in an emergency; in times of massive change – we need to observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) in a conscious, yet unconscious way.

The presenters discussed four stages of mastery:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: we don’t know; and we aren’t aware.
  2. Conscious incompetence: we don’t know, but now we know we don’t know.
  3. Conscious competence: we know, but it requires conscious thought
  4. Unconscious competence: we know, but we no longer require conscious thought before acting appropriately

How do we train to be free?

In a sport like tennis, the player practices drills for hours and hours, day after day. They do this so that, during a game, they no longer need to think about how to play a shot: they can instead concentrate on the strategy needed to beat their opponent.

Some practices are well defined, but bottomless (we never become ‘perfect’). Examples include tai chi, yoga, or design.

“The best design thinking is design doing.”

Kyle Soucy & Nassir Barday: Professional IA/UX Organizations: How to start up and run a successful local group

Given my involvement in the UX Book Club I thought I had to go along and hear what Kyle (UPA) and Nassir (IxDA) had to say about local groups. And I’m glad I did, although I didn’t leave happy.

Kyle and Nassir presented a very good overview of how one might go about setting up and running a local group based (loosely) around UX. They covered organizations such as UPA, IxDA, IAI, CHI and others, and looked at the presence of local groups around the world. They also discussed the pros and cons of forming local groups under the umbrella of one of these existing institutions.

In starting up a group the presenters advocated for just doing it. Pick a date and a venue and get the word out there. Team up with an existing organization only if and when it makes sense to do so. Make the meetings regular and consistent so that people can plan ahead to attend. And be communicative: let people know in advance what’s coming up.

The reason I walked out angry was simply that in the course of an hour-long presentation on IA/UX groups, with particular focus on starting up local groups, there was not a single mention of UX Book Club. I’m sure no one else in the room noticed; or cared; but in the space of four months UXBC has grown to over 1,000 people in 40+ locations, so I’d have thought a mention was warranted at least. Meh.

[I skipped lunch and the next session while I calmed down. That left the Closing Plenary...]

Jesse James Garrett: Closing Plenary

JJG’s closing address to the IA Summit caused quite a stir. For those people attending who’ve never identified themselves as Information Architects it seemed like a lot of fuss over nothing. From the stalwart IA crowd the reaction was mixed.

The crowd follows JJG as he wanders the room

The crowd follows JJG as he wanders the room. Photo courtesy of Andrea Resmini

Jesse lamented the slow pace of innovation within the IA community; the lack of new ideas; the lack of a language of critique; and the lack of clear examples of ground-breaking information architecture. Where is the IA avant garde?

The full transcript of Jesse’s speech is available for reading here: http://jjg.net/ia/memphis/ and it’s well worth a read.

There was a great deal of applause, cheers, and then it was clearly over. As 5-minute madness got under way people started making their quiet goodbyes as the first departures headed for early flights home.

The conference was a great experience, although I won’t be back next year. But that’s a story for another day.

Title photo courtesy Todd Zaki Warfel

Steve Baty

Steve Baty, principal at Meld Studios, has over 14 years experience as a design and strategy practitioner. Steve is well-known in the area of experience strategy and design, contributing to public discourse on these topics through articles and conferences. Steve serves as Vice President of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA); is a regular contributor to UXMatters.com; serves as an editor and contributor to Johnny Holland (johnnyholland.org), and is the founder of UX Book Club – a world-wide initiative bringing together user experience practitioners in over 80 locations to read, connect and discuss books on user experience design. Steve is co-Chair of UX Australia – Australia’s leading conference for User Experience practitioners; and Chair of Interaction 12 – the annual conference of the IxDA for 2012.

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