Zen Mind, Newb Mind

Being the new-ish addition to the IdPS team is, well, an interesting place to be.  Besides the requisite induction activities (ask me at Catalyst how you pick up the dry cleaning for a team who lives all across the country), I’ve been working with my peers on vastly different pieces of research.  And being curious by nature, I’m loving the chance to not only dig into different topics, but also observe how different people go about the actual process of analyzing a topic or a market.  One technique that Burton Group uses is Contextual Research (CR).  Essentially, the CR process is meant to challenge an analyst’s knowledge of a subject and their associated preconceived notions as to what problems enterprises face and how they are facing them.  It turns seasoned veterans, experts in the field, into beginners again.  This is what practitioners of Zen Buddhism call “beginner’s mind.”

Here’s how it works in a nutshell.  Kevin (seasoned vet) and Ian (newbie) identify a bunch of organizations to talk to.  So far nothing out of the ordinary as compared to our other approaches to research.  That being said, the conversations we have with these organizations is very different from typical research techniques.  Instead of coming to the conversation with a fixed hypothesis that we want to prove out, we come to the conversation with nothing.  No leading questions.  No surveys.  No preconceptions.

In these conversations, we, the analysts, are newbs. We let the people that we are talking to teach us what is important to them about a subject, how they have approached a problem, what wisdom they’d like to share with others.  The analysts furiously take notes, listen, and try not to talk.  Having listened to as many people as we can, we bring the whole team together to find affinities among the statements, identify trends and common techniques, and evaluate the state of a market through the eyes of a customer.

Right now, Kevin and I are in the midst of a role management CR.  Although, we are far too early in the process to comment on what we’ve found, some of the anecdotes we have learned along the way are really fascinating.  Discussions about the needs of the business, efficiencies gained, and methodologies for conducting role analysis – all of these conversations have been grounded firmly in the realities of today’s economy as well as current state of identity management in the enterprise.  You’ll see some of the results of this beginner’s mind approach to analysis at Catalyst this summer.  In fact, the Catalyst workshop on Advanced Role Management is going to be a master-class of a sort, shaped by what Kevin and I learn during this CR process.

Stay tuned for more on our roles CR.  Towards the end of April, I’ll be updating you on how the process has faired.

(Cross-posted from Burton Group’s Identity Blog)