The book (I): The purpose

Shu – Ha – Ri. I recognise the beauty in this ancient Aikido way of approaching a learning journey based on stages of maturity or experience. I loved it since i was 12 and watched the good version of Karate Kid where an awesome teacher Mr. Miyagi was making an unexperienced Dani Larusso wax on and off his car with no further explanation…

Even though, i’ve always struggled with Shu. I know Shu is about trusting your teacher to achieve goals you even don´t realise yet (based on your own lack of experience) and, of course, this is a great and important bond between all good Jedi-Padowan couple. But Shu feels soo much old-school to me…

Learning, as everything in life, is not sequential but cyclical.

Iteration is a must so a better approach will always be the one based on Inspection and Adaption. Based on experimentation and huge enough number of failures before achieving any success.

To show you why i think this way i´d like to share my personal story trying to help Jana, my younger daughter. She is collaborating in a not-for-profit initiative. She is illustrating one book written by Marina Sigaeva. This is a very special book. A book for kids illustrated by a kid. Loved the idea from the very first moment i knew about this. And as a parent, was so proud of Jana willing to help Marina when she knew she was struggling in finding someone to help her and her initiative to move forward.

After meeting Marina, to understand the main idea and the key aspects of all characters in the book, Jana started to draw. She drafted the first scene in pencil. Inked it with lot of care. Erased the remaining penciled lines. And coloured the scenes mixing colours to create the appropriate textures. Everything was fine and she was ready to sent her first artwork to Marina. When Marina received it she gave feedback to Jana asking to change few things to make the drawing more close to her thoughts…. Excuse me? Changes? Drama ahead!

Of course i didn’t explained her the benefits of embracing changes even late in the development process. I kept this for a better moment…

– Oh Daddy, Marina doesn’t like my drawing and i’ve been working really hard on it, this is not fair! – Hmmm… what a nice opportunity to help there i thought. I asked Jana what was the real problem. – Daddy, now i have to repeat all my work from scratch. – Oh, that´s not good, right? So, imagine that that you are back in time to the moment you started drawing so now you have the opportunity to do it differently. what would you change to make things easier for you this time?

She stayed still for few seconds and she quickly said: If Marina was here with me she would be able to see my progress so she could guide me to draw the right scene.

Hmmm… client and team working together… it sounds really weird, isn´t it?

– It would be awesome Jana, but you know that Marina lives and works in the city and it wouldn’t be easy for her to come here to work together with you and you cannot go there because you have homework and other things to do. – Oh that´s true Daddy, then what can we do? – What can you do, Jana?

She tried again to find a good alternative. – Daddy, what if i send a picture of the drawing to her before colouring it? This way she can confirm if she likes it.

What? Such a crazy girl thinking that delivering small batches will help…

– It sounds good to me, Jana. What would happen if what Marina was expecting was not a different colour but any change related with what you have already inked? – She jump immediately – Of course, i need to send her the first draft in pencil. (Add here a face of proudest father ever) Bravoooo Jana!

Then i gave Jana my old cellphone that, connected to our wifi, gave her the autonomy to take pictures of her drafts and drawings and share them with Marina to ask for feedback. feedback that she was getting almost in real time! Now Jana is enjoying her creative process even more than before and she knows that every new step is the right one because she knows that her ‘client’ likes it too. Perfect Win-Win situation here!

Now, go back in time to the beginning of this story. Before even Jana started her first drawing and imagine myself telling Jana the iterative and incremental process she should follow. Because of course we all know this is a better way to working.

Do you truly think this learning approach would be better for Jana than the experimental one? i don’t think so but, as always, the decision is up to the Team. As i twitted few days ago: Training (and learning) is a PULL activity. Push NEVER works!

Enjoy your Shu!

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