Shared understanding - Keeping your assumptions in check

🤔️ Build better shared understanding by leading from a macro to micro level

The last 5 weeks at Clearleft has presented the opportunity to work with people from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, each with a wealth of experience to boot. Hopping from one project to another has exposed me to their preferred methods and personal twists on problem-solving techniques, some of these familiar to me, others not.

Zooming into the micro-level of detail, I have always been met with an enquiry of understanding – “Have you heard about [x]?” or “Have you used the [y] method before?” – and then an offer of explanation if required.

This process of enquiry and explanation isn’t exclusive to newer additions to the office either, it forms the basis for much of the organisation discourse; internal and client playbacks, less formal team meetings, standups, one to one catch ups, general water cooler chit-chats.

The value of this learning was truly brought home during the UX Laundromat – a weekly 1hr get-together for the UX team – where I was invited to give a playback of an internal project called Tiny Lessons I had been working on with Nicky. I began with the assumption that my audience knew the overall objectives of the project so I accelerated at 60mph to the nitty gritty details. Through the quizzical looks James Box flagged me down and suggested that I shared an overview of the project for the benefit of everyone in the room. I’d wrongly assumed that everyone was onboard with the Tiny Lessons project and that a re-play wasn’t required.

James later reiterated the value of beginner’s mind and the importance of onboarding your audience from a macro level before zooming into the micro details.

Mulling over the previous week of Tiny Lessons themed discussions and meetings, I realised I had not taken the opportunity to ask Nicky if she knew about [x] or had followed the [y] process before. This is something I wanted to address. Doing so is respectful to your team and forms a better discussion for everyone involved.