18 September 2008

Define the damn thing… redux

Discussions boards and group lists are wonderful tools for a profession. These virtual mechanisms for community lash together individuals without the barriers of geography, time zones and vertical markets. They also chronicle to some extent the cycles of conversation.

As I write this the ebb of discussion regarding defining Information Architecture seems to be subsiding (or maybe taking a breather). In the Information Architecture Institute’s list serve. But, not without the expected backlash from those uber productive goal oriented folks in the community.

These discussions, and their continual reoccurrence, are an indication of a healthy, growing and changing profession. This is exactly what many profession are lacking for, and frankly, would give their eyeteeth to have (my grandfather’s expression).

Introspection, redefinition, evaluation, forecasting and trajectory setting are all part of being a vital organization in a changing world. The problem to many within the IA community is the heads down end product orientation. Our vocation is obsessed with physical deliverables. Those deliverables tell the skeptical that we actually did work, they indicate some value, and they also milepost the billing cycle. But there is so much more value here.

You see, I believe that the process has outcomes beyond a final agreed upon official rubber stamped definition that we can parade around to the business world we serve. It is about growth, understanding and community building. It is about bringing young practitioners into the fold and having them be part of the conversation. It is about subtle iterative adjustments to our collective self image and value. Much like that design project you worked on where everyone collaborated, learned, and performed well… only to have it scrapped at the last minute… its not all about the deliverable. See… the conversation… that’s the thing.