“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. ” –Thomas Jefferson
If you’d been invited to dine with Thomas Jefferson back in the day you would have been met with a casual atmosphere and a roundtable devoid of rank and hierarchy. Jefferson designed his dinners to elicit stimulating conversation between people of opposing views. He would feature unique conversation starters that cascaded into a conversation that allowed people to discover their similarities.
The tradition has evolved in what are now known as Jefferson Dinners. One Table. One Topic. 8 to 14 Guests. Good Food. Good Drinks. Good Conversation. The only rules: “You must have a single conversation. You talk to the whole table and the whole table listens. The whole time. That’s 8 to 14 brains on one topic. It’s powerful and unique.”
A few nights ago our Remote Year group hosted our own version of Jefferson Dinners. Three Tables. Three Separate Topics. 7 to 8 People at Each Table. The night’s topics: Money. Modern Romance. Technology in Society.
From the title of this blog post, you can guess that I was at the Technology in Society table with six of my fellow remotes. A perfect topic for me as a UI/UX designer passionate about understanding emerging technology. I even wrote a few papers about it during my master’s career. But even for someone fairly well versed in what’s up and coming, the unique experiences and viewpoints of the others in my group opened my eyes to ideas that never would have crossed my mind to stop and think about.
Before I get into my key takeaways from this conversation, let me give you a break down of the demographics of our group. Everyone in our group falls into the Millennial generation, but we ranged from the beginning to the end of the generation (literally, sometimes I qualify as Gen Z depending who you ask.) We’re a group of experience directors, program leads, marketing professionals, speech therapists, healthcare experts, and designers. A broad mix considering we’re all the same generation and on a Remote Year journey together.
My Five Key Takeaways:
- We need to get a variety of people involved in the conversation. Gen X. Baby Boomers. Various Social Classes. Our group had a wide range of opinions, but there’s still a lot of people left out. How are these groups of people, these individuals, going to be impacted by the changes on the horizon? What do they think about these changes? What are their concerns? What are they looking forward to? You can’t answer these questions without talking to those impacted.
- Even amongst the oldest and youngest millennials, there’s a big gap in the ability to understand and adapt to technology and technological advances. Not to mention the difference in working styles. People who use and need to understand new tech every day are more equipped to adapt and understand than those whose careers/lives don’t require as much interaction with technology.
- As a designer and developer, as creators of technology and experiences, we need to be aware of our own shortcomings. We need to be open to listening to the experiences of people who are different than ourselves. People who use and interact with technology in completely different ways. People who have varying opinions.
- Our conversation reinforced the idea that the users, the people who will be using the technology, should drive the design of the experiences and not the other way around. If people can’t understand the technology they won’t use it. Sometimes as designers, engineers, developers, etc. we can lose sight of this concept because our passion clouds the full picture.
- If we’re not careful technology could drive a greater divide between classes or age. People who do have access vs. people who don’t. People who have the knowledge/understanding to adapt vs. people who don’t.
Overall, these Jefferson Dinners were a great way to connect and learn more about one another as we travel together for four months.