The Passport Story
By Fit Associates
August 24, 2022
0:00 / 5:21
Marc00:01

I want to take a minute to tell the passport story. This title says probing for attractors because, for me it's a story of working for social or cultural shift. And instead of a prototype where you're testing a concept, we like to talk about probes where you're finding out whether you can attract a different kind of behavior.

I'm telling this story because Jules on Twitter said they were looking for examples of a kind of field guide or tour guide as a result from design ethnography, to help people gain empathy and a vision for enhancing the world. And I replied that, you know, often we see that these artifacts, once they leave the team, they kind of lose the emotional vigor, the life that they had when the team was living it. And so we tend to go to more of a warm data approach. Can we make artifacts that help stories live vividly in the people who receive it or help more people participate in creating their own stories?

So this comes from a project... Our friend John Strande was a part of a global corporation that we did some work with. And very briefly, the situation was that the IT department who makes software for all these other departments, decided they would benefit from better relationships with those other departments. They weren't having a lot of relatedness between them. And we worked with IT and sales just as a starter for this.

And one thing that came out of the workshop was that they realized there was a tremendous possibility for them to move from working independently and reactively what they call order-takers being provider of services to other departments, to being more proactive, to being more integrated with other departments, so that they were behaving more like a partner or even a leader.

So, lots of ideas came out of the workshop, and they were plotted along the degree to which they thought the idea might help them move up this arrow. And one of the ideas that John came up with was this idea of a passport. And he even made this little paper prototype, a paper mock-up of the concept in the workshop. To illustrate how this idea might encourage IT staff to make forays into the world of sales and develop a connection. This passport contains a series of increasingly difficult activities. Each one that immerses an IT staff member a little more into the world of sales.

And each page just tells you what you need to do and has a place to get a stamp in your passport that you have traveled in this way into this other department.

And then they printed some up and tried them out. So this is what it looked like. You put your name on the front. And the first activity, it's very simple. There's this kind of difficulty gradient, to use a gamers term, in here. Just subscribe to one of the same newsletters that people in sales read. Get a stamp in your passport.

And then start meeting people and learning some of their terminology and some of their language. What are guard rails? I'd like to learn the details. How do you launch a new product?

And then start getting more curious. Just spend time in conversation. Start listening for problems.

And I'm skipping a lot of pages but toward the back, the commitment level just keeps rising. So here, you're spending a day to distribution center. Working a shift at a plant.

And the final activity is to make a short documentary video about everything that you've learned. A documentary video made by IT about the world of the sales division. So by the time somebody has completed this, they really will be famous in both IT and sales.

That's the passport. Um, you might want to know what happened. What happened was that, they did set up for a little pilot. John may see it differently. In my understanding, there was not strong management sponsorship for this. So while the booklets got printed, the infrastructure, program and accountability and so on wasn't really in place. So it was not actually a full probe, a full experiment. And it wound up not having a life in the organization. I think the manager soon went on to another company and so on.

But I want to show it as an example of an artifact meant to help people create their own stories that are related to an insight that could easily have come from research.