SPA Conference session: Dilbert Considered Harmful: Social Objects in Software Development

One-line description:Explore and understand how the things we surround ourselves with affect the way we work
Session format: Workshop (75 mins) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:We're all used to working in environments which reflect the personalities of individuals and teams. New thinking in marketing has coined the term "social objects" to identify the shared objects which we use to generate social ties, build conversations, and sustain identities. What's more, when these objects become part of our (physical, mental, social) environment they can play a deep role in shaping our behaviour: as part of the workshop we review some intriguing experiments in cognitive psychology that demonstrate just how powerful these effects can be.

This workshop will help participants understand what social objects are, how they arise in the work of teams, and how they can foster group identity for good and for bad.
Audience background:Of interest to anyone who works in a team, of any level of experience. Also of particular interest to those in a coaching role.
Benefits of participating:Understand how the objects we choose as individuals and teams contribute to and sustain our identities. Identify useful and unhelpful social objects, and explore ways of dealing with the environment to promote better collaboration and communication.
Materials provided:The session will need (A4) paper and coloured pens, plus the usual projector/flipchart.
Process:The session combines talk, whole-group work, and pair/small team exercises.
Detailed timetable:00:00 - 00:05 Introduction
00:05 - 00:20 Team simulation (workshop, groups of 3)
00:20 - 00:30 Social objects defined
00:30 - 00:40 Priming - insights from cognitive psychology
00:40 - 00:50 A gallery of social objects (group discussion)
00:50 - 01:05 Social object Sherlock - work in pairs to identify social objects in your teams (working in pairs, then group review)
01:05 - 01:15 Review and close
Outputs:Outputs from the Social Object Sherlock exercise will be collected and written up on the SPA wiki. Participants will be invited to provide photographs!
History:The session was run with success with 50 participants at the Munich Scrum Gathering, October 2009.
1. David Harvey
Teams and Technology Limited
2. Peter Marks