Topsight—the overall understanding of the big picture—is hard to achieve in organizations. There’s too much going on, too many moving pieces. But without topsight, we have a hard time figuring out how information circulates, where it gets stuck, and how we can get it unstuck.
Topsight is hard to get—but you can get it. I know: I’ve been achieving topsight into various organizations for the last 15 years. Along the way, I’ve developed an approach in which I gather clues, confirm details, model social interactions, and use all of these to systematically achieve topsight. Read this book and you’ll learn how to
- design a field study at your organization
- convince your organization and individuals to take part in the field study
- conduct the field study, collecting solid data
- navigate the data you collect
- analyze the data using several different models that can provide insights into systemic issues that haven’t yet been understood within the organization
- write a solid recommendation report that presents your findings and recommends ways to solve those systemic issues
Advance praise for Topsight
Topsight is a proven, structured way to uncover and analyze the information flow in a process, department or organization. In contrast to many user-centered methods, it goes beyond the user and the screen to expose the work itself, identifying the parts that are broken and the connections between the users, their tools and their tasks. Topsight is ideal for large-scale, strategic design work and this book is required reading for anyone wanting to build a successful social platform, intranet or collaboration tools.
—Fredrik Matheson, Manager, Social Computing & Collaboration Group, Bekk Consulting AS
You may think you don’t need to know much about doing fieldwork to manage change in your organization, but Clay Spinuzzi shows you why it just might be in your interest to learn about it! If you use the methods in this book, you’ll learn where your communication strategy is working, where it could improve, and where you need additional information to make effective changes. In Topsight, Clay Spinuzzi presents a series of inquiry moves that anyone interested in organizational change can use. The methods are powerful, and they have been honed in over a decade of research experience and many peer-reviewed publications. But Spinuzzi presents them here for the first time as a straightforward and clear process for learning where your organization—and your people—can communicate more effectively. I believe those who think about communication practices in groups and organizations—as researchers or managers or practitioners—will find valuable insights and helpful tools in Topsight.
—William Hart-Davidson, Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Writing and Director of the Rhetoric & Writing Graduate Program, Michigan State University
Topsight Slide Decks
Teaching (or learning) from Topsight? Here are slide decks that cover basic concepts of the book, along with exercises and some additional material. I’ll periodically update and add to these slide decks.
In addition to instructions, Topsight offers examples and related materials. I’ll periodically add useful downloads and other extras here.
- Activity system components worksheet
- Activity system contradictions worksheet
- Activity system links worksheet
- Handoff chain (example)
- Resource map (example)
- All book figures in PDF format
- Using Topsight to teach a field methods class
Discussions and press
- “Getting to Topsight in your Organization.” Life and Letters, April 1, 2013
- Inkwell author discussion on Topsight. The WELL, March 19, 2013
- “Top of the list: Sort out your working life.” Financial Times, March 20, 2013
- “Communicating at work.” Fox 7 News, February 5, 2013
How others are using Topsight
- Topsight: A guide to studying, diagnosing and fixing information flow in organizations
- Analyzing computer-mediated communication in professional environments: An activity theory approach
- Designing text ecologies: Methodological considerations for researching and intervening in knowledge work environments