On Wednesday I mentioned that I carry a digital voice recorder with me at all times. I like to record meetings. I like to record them in person, and I like to use conference call services that make it easy for you to record conference calls (eg. *9, PIN, done).
Though you and I both are trained since early schooling to take notes in “real time”, I can’t but observe that any part of my brain that is focused on writing notes is part of my brain that’s not entirely plugged into the discussion at hand. If I’m writing what was said 2 seconds ago, I’m not spending that brainpower picking up on the nuances of phrasing, of pauses and their meanings, of who’s wanting to follow up or respond, of shifts on body language around the room, of glances between individuals, etc.
On the other hand, if there is a person whose role is scribe, or better yet, VISUAL scribe, who can take the ideas as they float into the “pool of meaning” and give them visual manifestation – as objects on a white board, or on a mindmap, or in Axon representation, or other idea-representation canvas – then it is valuable for the entire team (whoever’s in the discussion) to see the same representation, and give feedback on whether that visual capture of what was said IS what was said. This role of visual scribe isn’t yet a skill that’s often and regularly leveraged in common meetings (even here in Silicon Valley)
So I like to record these meetings (at least the audio) so that I can focus as much as possible on picking up those nonverbal cues so that I can better understand the positions and their shifts around the room as the discussion unfolds. I also like to record these so that I can extract from them specific items that I didn’t pick up the first time around.
That’s the obvious reason for recording these session.
There is at least one more reason I consider recordings important:
Collaboration practices need to evolve. I like collecting these instances of collaboration in order to study them and to see whether the method practiced was effective, comfortable, imposed, emergent, pleasant, top-down, timely, wasteful, confrontational, quick, complete, incomplete, or a number of other dimensions on which I like to study collaborative practices.
As a proponent of evolving collaborative practices, I hold that both human and tool systems must evolve in order to optimize our collective objectives – those reasons for collaborating in the first place. One practice, of which Doug Engelbart is a strong and early proponent, is that a team keeps a permanent and accessible log or journal of all events, including communications. One might see this is one application of the scientific method – always knowing what you did, so that you can trace back what might have led to an observation or result that one later finds one doesn’t immediately understand. This recorded journal – if available – stands as a “ground truth” against which one can base subsequent inquiry, analytical study, or even other methods to study the interaction. This ground truth can then be used to create derivative works, of which action items and notes are only a small and obvious set.