Friday post: collaborative ball machine

I'm swapping my Thursday and Friday posts today. It turns out that writing a (relatively) brief post on teams learning together is more complex than I anticipated. I'll aim for Friday on that one.

Instead, my normal Friday post comes on Thursday. I found this fascinating example of an open, collaborative ball-and-light project in Hackspace magazine, and I thought I would share it.

A crazy collaborative machine designed in a German museum.

It combines team learning, collaboration with multiple generations (which was the theme of the last couple of Friday posts), and an open-source, open-ended design that evolved through several phases.

I am intrigued by the idea that there was no concrete goal or objective at the start; the end design couldn't have been foreseen in advance. It is highly consistent with a book I have been listening to, Uncharted, by Virginia Heffernan.

Uncharted posits that humans have longed for a more predictable world, one in which the future is accurately forecast, plans are designed in detail in advance, and money is made by those with smarter brains (or better computer algorithms.)

It turns out that many great projects, such as Antonio Gaudi's Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a drug treatment for AIDS, or the search for the Higgs boson could not be predicted or planned in advance. The outcomes were uncertain, plans changed radically, and in all these cases thousands of people were involved in different phases and in different ways. Quite a bit like this ball machine, in fact, though at a different scale.  

Plans and forecasting methods may work for a while, but inevitably the unexpected happens, or plans go awry, or events and changes proceed too quickly for people to react, or we fall into many traps set by the cognitive biases in our brains. Projects often end up with unexpected results, both good and bad – a fact that good leaders keep in mind when setting goals and evaluating results.

You'll find out about the design process by reading the first parts of the article below, and you'll read more about the interesting-but-technical detail in the second half. Please enjoy!  

Link for article: Niklas Roy - Smart Fairy Tale

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn is a teacher and student of leadership.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA