A little while ago I wrote an article sharing all the amazing information radiators that you can find in a 1st grade classroom. It’s been a while since that eye opening experience and I found myself at “curriculum night” at her middle school. As I wandered from class to class, listening to teachers drone on about their teaching philosophy, I found myself once again staring at the walls, and yet again they seemed to be telling me a story.
In my first article I was astonished by the richness and variety of information radiators that you find in the typical elementary school classroom. Nary a square inch of wall space is wasted. Middle school, as it turns out, is somewhat different. In middle school there was still information on the walls, but it was more subdued and there was less of it. You can actually find bare stretches of wall space. Not many, but definitely more than what you see in elementary school.
As I sat there in those dreadful little plastic chairs, I wondered, “Do we put less information up on the walls as we get older?” What will I find in the classrooms when my daughter is in high school? In college? I remember the classrooms in my college well, and there were often entire rooms with nothing at all on the walls. Why is that?
So here I am today, living like a nomad in that information radiator desert we call a corporation. Simply asking people to put a task board up on the wall is a revolutionary idea. What happened to us? Do we stop learning? Do we not require as much information?
I don’t think so. Working in technology, all we do is learning: about our customers, about technology, about the business domain. If anything, we are required to learn at what feels like an ever faster rate with each passing year. For instance, I know C/C++, which qualifies me as a Jurassic techno-dinosaur. I know Java too, which probably brings me up to the Cretaceous period (Woolly Mammoth?). These days there are functional languages that just completely leave me in the dust. The lizard brain just can’t keep up. We live in a world now where our ability to learn is being constantly tested. With each new silicon valley startup, the pressure increases.
So, why on earth do we leave all those wonderful, rich, learning environments behind? Do our inner worlds become so abundant and complex that we no longer benefit from the additional input from the external world? I doubt it. I feel like I need to start a campaign to bring back the information radiator. Agile task boards are a good start, but there is so much more we could be doing.