There is a party game that is often used during ‘group’ job interviews; those gladiatorial mass recruitment affairs that pit applicants against one another as if TV show contestants, typically under the ruse of ‘looking for team players’.  The party/interview game involves handing round an object and inviting each participant to take turns at ‘seeing beyond’ its everyday use, to conjure up unusual alternative applications.  My guess is the game has become an interview tool on the premise that it can showcase not only just how outgoing they might be but also how flexible and creative they are, as participants break with convention and reinterpret a kitchen potato masher as a microphone, a T.V. aerial, or futuristic weapon, before handing it to the next person in line.  The challenge for those involved is, in part, linked to how mundane the chosen object is.  The more ordinary and commonplace, the more we feel its use and its associations are fixed, its purpose commonly recognised and understood, allowing little scope for deviation.  Yet when placed on the spot, candidates still manage to find novelty and variation.

What this exercise playfully shows us, is that our understanding of objects is not nearly as rigid as we may initially believe.  Even when we set out to examine the said item in its own right, regardless of its potential for other uses.  Even the humble potato masher ‘as is’ can have a plethora of other meanings.  We could examine its materials, construction or other design features, all of which (depending on how deeply we wish to engage with it) can open broad and revealing connotations.  These meanings can continue through to the history we have with the item; how or where we came by it or other versions of a similar nature we have encountered in the past.  We might also assemble meanings based on things we relate to the object through causation. For example the significance we give to mashed potato, perhaps a buttery comfort food of our childhood or not for those who recall cold grey school mash. We might not even see it as a potato masher, instead connecting it to another foodstuff due to our own cultural or regional origins.

ceci n’est pas une masher

So, with potato food masher firmly in hand, we can see that all objects carry manifold meanings that both differ from and overlap those that other people might make or find.  The world is full of objects both natural and human-made that all have, however humble the object might be, a fizzing aura of energised meanings.  Through this process, objects become both a tangible part of our memory and cognition, as well as taking on the expanded role of facilitating and anchoring relations between people.

And as we move into an increasingly ‘virtual ‘ working and engagement environment (like facebook), it goes without saying that objects are not just limited to the physical. Seeing how lines of code, just letters and numbers held on a magnetic substrate, can become a computer program, website or online service, can help us appreciate how other non corporeal entities can exist as unique objects in their own right. Whether it’s a particular production of a play, a business meeting or just an email, we live in an object-people matrix of meanings.

OOLeee is about acknowledging this every expanding constellation of human potential, in a way that opens up new and useful ways of improving collaboration between individuals and organisations.

So if we chose to look at it from a business position, OOLeee would ask what are the objects at play within your organisation, both physical or impalpable?  What do they mean to you and what do they mean to your colleagues?  What might they mean to your customers? How do you know what these objects mean to others?  And what other possibilities might these objects harbour?


Then why not…