John Ellison

Day 43: Popular Thing for Broken Thing Workshop

5 min read

At dConstruct, John Willshire spoke about Metadesign and introduced his workshop called "Popular Thing For Broken Thing".

Ben Sauer suggested that we try this workshop with Chloe, Monika and Chris (the Clearleft Interns). I was fascinated by John's talk on Metadesign as well as the workshop he presented. While other Lefties had participated in the workshop at UX London already, it was new to me.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon on the "Popular Thing For Broken Thing" workshop.

I couldn't find a description of the workshop anywhere, so I'll just describe an outline of the workshop as we performed it. If John Willshire provides me with his outline, I'll update it.

John's dConstruct 2015 Metadesign Talk

While I'm going to provide my own breakdown of the workshop, I'd also like to include John's talk at dConstruct so you can get a bit of context for the workshop through John's words rather than my own.

Popular Thing For Broken Thing Workshop Outline

Part I: Find A Startup

1. Write down two examples of broken things (product, service, public service, etc.)

2. Write down two examples of popular things (apps, startups, etc.)

ben writing down an idea

3. Present them to the group

4. Create two columns: popular things on the left, broken things on the right

5. Discuss the pairings of popular things for broken things with the group

discuss pairings in group

6. Re-order pairings to 8 startups from the popular / broken combinations

7. Choose a single startup as your own

slack for the refugee crisis

Part II: Iterate Your Startup Pitch

8. You have 60 seconds to pitch your startup to a partner

9. After both partners have pitched to one another, STIR up your startup (Steal an idea, Turn your concept (pivot), Improve upon it, Reorder your pitch)

10. Move onto your next partner and pratice your 60 second pitch again

11. Repeat until you've pitched to everyone in the room

Part III: Give Your Final Startup Pitch

12. Each person has 60 seconds to give their final pitch to the entire group

monika pitching her startup

Reflecting On The Workshop

I had loads of fun at this workshop. It seemed to be a really simple and easy way to generate startup ideas that had legitimate value. Some of the pairings between popular and broken things were a lot more difficult to work with than others but some of them seemed to be perfectly natural and sensible—"Why didn't I think of that?" type ideas...

It also appeared to be immensely valuable for the Clearleft Interns in helping them deal with the complexity of their breif.

Reflecting On Metadesign

I guess that's the value of Metadesign as John spoke about. His talk didn't explicitly say this, but I think this is what he was getting at:

Design isn't hard. People make it hard by making it overly complex. Why not use design to design the framework in which we solve problems? Why not design the environment to facilitate an incredibly simple experience of solving otherwise complex problems?

Metadesign is about designing the design process, or designing how we solve problems. Good design is elegant and simple. So good Metadesign would presumably create an elegantly simple way for us to design.


My Startup

As an outcome of the workshop, I had a startup that I legitimately want to pursue. Here's a version of my pitch that I arrived upon at the end of the workshop:

My startup is called 'Refuge'. It is a slack community for the refugee crisis. Right now, there are millions of refugees from all over the world trying to find new homes. There are citizens who are trying to welcome refugees into their spare bedrooms and there are governments and charities who are trying to solve this problem on a national and international scale.

Currently there is no central communication platform for all of these people to communicate.

I want to use Slack as a free and open central communication platform for the refugee crisis. I am going to create a simple landing page that describes the idea and calls people to action by submitting their names and email addresses.

I will create a Slack community with various topics and regions so that:

  • Refugees can share their stories and reconnect with family members
  • Citizens can open their rooms and homes to refugees and refugee families
  • Governments and charities can communicate with the international refugee crisis and use all of the information in the Slack community to make well-informed decisions

What Do You Think?

After the workshop I left determined to bring this 'startup' idea to life. It's not a startup in the traditional sense where a company is testing out a profit model, but it's a startup in the community sense where an individual has a problem and is trying to build a community around that problem so that we can work together to find a solution.

I'd love to get your thoughts about this concept. I've been talking to Jake Rogelberg, the founder of Designer Hangout about how he started the UX Community on Slack with over 5000 UXers from around the world.

Are you interested in helping refugees? Are you a government official who is compelled to help solve this crisis? Are you a refugee looking for a platform to communicate to the rest of the world?

Drop me a line or add your voice to the comments below.