Carbon Five Visual Metaphors, Interactive Skill and Interest Map

Courtney Hemphill ·

We recently recognized the abundance of blank wall space here at Carbon Five and in an effort to both stretch our creative muscles and give a little love to our daily visual experience at work, we came up with some ideas for ways to overtake one particular wall and engage in a rotating series of experiments depicting Carbon Five using visual metaphors.

Our first idea came from a desire to facilitate internal sharing of skills and interests within Carbon Five and find some cool ways to map that out in a visual manner. So, just prior to our holiday party and just after our design bootcamp, we grabbed everyone in an exercise to capture a snapshot of our company knowledge and interests.

Theory
Our thesis was that sharing skills and interests amongst each other would build better communication and help identify future paths for us to explore. We were hopeful this would produce a visual map of where the company is now, where it can go, where the gaps are and how we can collaborate to fill some of those gaps. This is how we went about it; if you are interested in trying it out as well let us know how it goes.

Process
1.) Identify the main core competencies and skills relevant to your work and interests and print each of these onto paper circles. You can then distribute these on a large blank wall in any kind of loose configuration or a predetermined one based on some set of gradients or axis. Our distribution of these was vertically rather random but moved from left to right in a loose gradient of client facing/creative to technical/back end skills.

2.) Gather together as many different colored slips of paper (we used paint chips liberated from a big box home improvement store) in two hues per distinct color. Write on the lighter hue (I) for interest and (S) for skill on the darker color.

2.) Isolate some time in a casual environment (beer thirty?) and hand out to each participant a set of colored cards (we used 10), half of which are the lighter hue and represent interest and the other half  are the darker skill set.

3.) Have each member write their name on their color chips and place a skill chip next to a competency that they feel themselves to be an expert in. We generally gave the guideline of a skill as being a domain in which you would be comfortable having others ask you a question in and you wouldn’t have to look up the answer. After placing their skill chips they can then add an interest chip next to any domain that they want to pursue proactively.

4.) If you are missing any capabilities from the original set, give users additional circles to write down their own custom skills and add those in to their appropriate place.

Outcome and Analysis
It seemed that most everyone was able to identify their core expertise with just the 5 chips. There ended up being quite a few detailed competencies that people wanted to add in, “Jumping” being a notable one and for those of smaller stature, an impossible interest to mark.

Visually the colors were quite aesthetic but the diversity made it difficult to draw out any kind of aggregate patterns of skill versus interest. You could easily discern clusters of trends towards certain capacities and gaps in both our interest and skill in others.

There was definitely a perceptible interest in subjects outside of our current skill set which alone makes the exercise very worthwhile and informative. One discovery we made on the fly was when some people put both an interest and a skill chip on a single domain; we called those “passions”.

The data itself has shown some intriguing possibilities for different visualization treatments which we are now developing into a pretty cool interactive infographic. We’ll post a follow-up soon with the fruits of our labor.

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