The most significant human achievements between Aristotle’s time and our own — our greatest art, the most enduring ideas of philosophy, the spark for every technological breakthrough — originated in leisure, in moments of unburdened contemplation, of absolute presence with the universe within one’s own mind and absolute attentiveness to life without, be it Galileo inventing modern timekeeping after watching a pendulum swing in a cathedral or Oliver Sacks illuminating music’s incredible effects on the mind while hiking in a Norwegian fjord.
When I was at Andersen Consulting, Accenture’s precursor, the “forced ranking” review cycle was the norm. Managers were given a curve, and had to map their team to that curve — you could only have x% “super high performers” and y% typical performers and, by fiat, z% of the team had to fit into the “lower performance” part of the curve. It’s notable to see how now, not-that-much-later, they’ve turned 180 degrees.
While I had known about Haring’s work through its ubiquity in pop culture in the 80’s, I wasn’t aware of the insane volume and breadth of work he created in just a few short years. I also wasn’t aware of the full extent of media in which he worked. Graffiti? Check. Oil on canvas? Check. Sculpture? Check. Paint on tarps (tarps?). Check. Prolific doesn’t begin to describe it. Sharpie on metal? Sure. Paint an entire car? Let’s do that as well. Crushingly, Haring was active for less a decade in the public eye; he died in 1990 at age 31 of complications from AIDS.
In describing most of the work we saw, “subltely” was not a word that would typically be used to describe it — day glow colors, shocking imagery, garish forms. There was even a 14′ phallus. (Yup.)
That said, there was one piece I could spend hours or days thinking about. The Last Rainforest, which was painted in 1989 only a few months before Haring’s death, is breathtaking.
I highly recommend clicking through on the image above, and then zooming in on the detail. It’s as complex a story as Rodin’s depiction of Dante’s Inferno in the The Gates of Hell. It’s absolutely mind-bending in its complexity and in the number of stories that are included.
There are a few tools I use on an almost weekly basis. Some of these help me get more stuff done, some of them help me do things better. One of these tools is Plus/Delta.
Plus/Delta is dead-simple. Two columns, one labeled “Plus” and one labeled “Delta.” You can do it on a whiteboard, on a collaborative Google Doc (here’s one), on paper, on Post-Its or on index cards. Have a facilitator scribe, or have the participants write their Plusses and Deltas on notecards or on Post-Its. Have the participants in the session articulate what worked well (“Plus”) and what they would change for next time (“Delta”). Capture everything, summarize the key points, learn from it and iterate. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.
It pretty much works with any size group; I’ve used it in groups up to about twenty or so. If the group is really large, break it into smaller subgroups and have each group do its own Plus/Delta. Then have each group pick a representative to share their results to everyone in the larger group in turn.
Plus/Delta works best when you make it a default part of a process. It’s just “the thing you do after you did something else.” For example:
Did you just do a two-day workshop? Have the participants engage in Plus/Delta near the end of the second day in order to understand how to do a better workshop next time.
Did you invest time to go to a conference? Plus/Delta.
Did your team pitch a project to a client? What do you do when you get back to the office? Plus/Delta.
How did that last development sprint go? Plus/Delta.
Is that an antelope driving a car? Plus/Delta. (Nope. Chuck Testa.)