What I Learned @Overlap10

I just attended Overlap ’10, an annual peer-to-peer gathering of 50 like minded people, exploring the overlap of design and business, among other things [definitions vary of course, as does the program and format each year]. It was an inspiring event, chock full of terrific people, great conversations, and inspiring ideas. Here are 5 things I learned (more to come, I’m sure):

  1. People. People. People. The corollary to the 3 things that matter in real estate, these were the 3 things that made the event. Inspiring to learn about all others were doing and excited to continue the conversation.
  2. Think with your hands (and the rest of your body): Many of activities were structured to enable exploring ideas with the hands (Lego Serious play on urban design) and the rest of the body (bodystorming a one-act on childhood obesity). This was liberating and enables a kind of think-as-you-go mindset.
  3. Soak up the down time. While the structured activities were great, the down time between them at meals were some of the best. Among many great conversations, I was really inspired by what Chris Fabian is doing at Unicef’s innovation group like creating a classroom planning toolkit for the developing world.
  4. Be concrete. It seems like some of the most productive discussions were sparked by a sketch/diagram or concrete example that illustrated an ethical problem, a design flaw, or customer service problems / ideas (like how little it would take for Starbucks to ask you “Will you be using a reusable cup today?”)
  5. Know when to fork. You tend to want to collaborate with great people but it is possible to have too many great ideas. It was tough to recognize the moment when we needed to fork discussions, and so in a couple of them, we probably would have been better off respectfully going in different directions so the ideas could be adequately explored.

All in all, a great event. Some ideas for next year include: a little more time (though there will never be enough), micro-facilitation/ assigned roles within subgroups, and some way of managing how we go from the ideas that everyone brings individually to groups (e.g.: discussions / voting /  idea carousel or other ways to temper the ego/attachment/ownership). Looking forward to continuing the conversation.