Rick E. Robinson, 39, cofounder and principal, E-Lab LLC
What's your problem?
"The reality of our business is that teams are expected to do great project work - and to do it fast. But this focus on intensity has its costs. How can teams share what they're working on with other people in the firm?"
Tell me about it
"It's not enough to share project results - you have to give others in the organization access to work as it unfolds. The research we do to help clients rethink the nature of customer experience is massive in quantity and comes in multiple formats. To learn about that work, you have to make pilgrimages to several project rooms.
"Even harder than pushing work into the public domain is pushing the project team away from the work. The best research in the world is meaningless if we don't create a crystal-clear story that helps our clients use what we know."
What's your solution?
"We created a space that serves both as an important place in the office and as an important point in our process. We call it the Bocca Room, after a mask that hangs in a church in Rome. The mask is called La Bocca della Verita - 'the mouth of truth.' The Bocca Room is where the organization gets access to ongoing work - and where project teams face their moment of truth.
"It's a skinny room with a floor-to-ceiling tackable surface on one side and whiteboards on the other. Project teams put up an emerging story in the form of documents, slide shows, flow charts, and maps. The walls accumulate layers of information as people wander through and paste comments on giant Post-it notes, and as teams tack new versions on top of old ones.
"Putting things on the wall for everyone to see brings you back to the big picture very quickly. On a recent project for a food client, we were all standing in front of the wall, moving chunks of documents around, until we all yelled, 'That's it!' The result was a big turnaround in the way our client thinks about product development."
For more information about E-lab, visit the web www.elab.com or email Rick Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.