8. Origin Story and Case Study – Part 3

Origin Story and Case Study – Part 3

Extending Our Context 

The richness of our story is something almost out of fiction. In addition to the obvious geographical challenge facing Bart and me, there were other interesting gaps: a 24-year difference in our age, plus differences in culture, language, educational level and lifestyle: I’m American and he’s Polish. He speaks English as a third language. I speak no other language. He’s earned a Ph.D in economics and teaches business to MBAs at a university: I have a B.A. from the previous century. From a life and workstyle standpoint, Bart runs an award-winning global software company that he co-founded eight years ago while also raising a family. I have neither of those major obligations. 

My original reason for my reaching out to Bart in the first place was my need for help as a beginning user of the software that his company, Explain Everything (EE), had developed, which I’d purchased an online subscription to use. As an experienced corporate facilitator, I deeply appreciated what that software could do, but I was finding the learning curve rather steep. So, I was reaching out to him for a little instructional guidance. Since Bart and I had once traded a couple brief emails 14 months prior to that, I was hoping he might remember my name and what I did. I was delighted to hear that he’d remembered me after14 months and was open to a having a conversation.

It turned out that the two of us, as we would come to learn in over our first couple conversations, shared more than we knew prior to that first conversation. We’d both been business consultants and had both done a lot of corporate work with Ernst & Young. Whereas I was still consulting independently, he had left the consulting world to co-found a now thriving software business, whose product appealed most to classroom teachers. While facilitating groups in creative and collaborative work was still part of his thinking, it wasn’t top of mind, as it was in my world.

We began to chat about the potential for and the challenges of using his “digital whiteboard software” to get people to think in new ways, outside the traditional, typical, predictable patterns of working. Then Bart asked me an interesting question “What do you think, David, about the potential of these tools to help not just the educational community but everyone in business?” I paused briefly, looking to shift our focus at least for a moment to something larger than software. 

This is when our unexpected nugget of common ground emerged concerning the idea of literacy. “You know Bart,” I responded, “doesn’t software like Explain Everything basically help people combine their Digital Literacy and their Visual Literacy into what amounts to hybrid form of literacy?  He answered, “Yes, of course it does, but what would you call that?” I quickly came back with: “Why wouldn’t we simply call it: Digital Visual Literacy?” as it seemed a fairly self-evident answer to me in that moment. 

That’s when things got rather “interesting.”