Atlassian for Glassblowers: Process, Collaboration, and Innovation

In a former life, before joining the Praecipio Consulting team, I was a glassblower. Well, more like a perpetual student of glassblowing, but that’s beside the point. I was drawn to the art form for many reasons, one of which is the ability to take an ancient, time-tested process and continue to innovate with new creations. On top of the methodology behind glassblowing, it’s also one of the only visual arts that’s typically created by a team of collaborators, as pieces get large and need assistance at every step of the creation process. I realized that all the things I love about glassblowing are the things I love about Atlassian: processes,collaboration, and innovation.

Glassblowing always begins with an idea and that idea that must be communicated effectively to the team that will create the piece. In bringing the idea to life, there are clear processes about how to go about creating the piece. Requirements are gathered: What color frit (material for making glass) is needed? Do we need both a blowpipe and a punty rod? Which glory hole is big enough to accommodate the piece? Once these requirements are agreed upon by the team as determined by the lead gaffer (or project manager, in SDLC terms), she then assigns the work to individual team members. Glassblowing is a process of repeated steps, from gathering molten glass from the furnace to then shaping it at the bench with an assortment of tools; once the glass is too cold to work, it must either be re-heated in a glory hole or go back to the furnace for another gather to make the piece larger. Glassblowing is a highly iterative process and team members perform a dance of sequenced steps to ensure success. A person seeking to track the process, should they have access to JIRA and aren’t currently handling hot glass, could document such a process in a scrum board, tracking each commission’s progress.

Collaboration is key in glassblowing. Each team member performs a specialized step, from keeping the pipe turning so the piece stays even or charging the furnace if the molten glass gets low. Beyond specialization, but these teams are made up of individual artists with their own expertise, knowledge, and perspective. As the teams work, you hear a lot of talking; communication is integral. The most successful glassblowing studios in the world are comprised of talented team members who perform their artful duties in lock step with their counterparts, knowing their roles and how to assist others to keep the process moving to a beautiful end result.

A methodology that started in Ancient Rome, glassblowing is a time-tested system of steps and tools that every student of the art learns. One learns to shape the hot glass with water-soaked, large-bowled spoons; the hot glass against the wet wood creates steam in the pores of the cherry wood, and the steam shapes the glass. While every glassblower undertakes this step, the final results vary from hotshop to hotshop. Comparing styles of blown glass throughout the years, innovation is evidently alive and well in the art community. Artists like Dale Chihuly (who works with an all-star team, all of whom have their own individual fame in the art world) push the limits of glass art through bringing new ideas, techniques, and improved processes to the table. As artists work under Chihuly, they learn these processes, which they can add to their personal expertise and continue on in future projects. Time-tested processes that produce innovative results… that also describes Atlassian.