Tag: Integrative Thinking Research

28
Apr

E. Pastor Keynotes Design Intelligence

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.37.56 AM

“How Can Design Intelligence Open Our Mind & Help Us Explore What’s Next?”

Humantific CoFounder Elizabeth Pastor will be keynote speaker at Parsons Design Intelligence / Future of Work conference on Saturday April 30, 2016 in New York City.

“The Design Intelligence Conference will be held on April 30, 2016 at The New School and will feature a panel discussion, keynote, skill-based workshops, and networking opportunities for both New School students and the greater design community.

This year’s conference will be driven by questions related to The Future of Work. Through this immersive day-long experience we will explore this theme from various perspectives and sectors and through the course of the day have the opportunity to talk about design in the context of new design firms, new models and new work.”

 

11
Nov

Making Sense of Strategic Design 2015

Talking up SenseMaking

[Part 2 of 3]

Ana Barroso in Conversation with GK VanPatter

Ana Barroso: Welcome back to Part 2 of this conversation GK. Here in Latin America we are seeing rising interest in the subject of sensemaking, maybe because we have a lot of complicated things going on here!

One of the layers of findings you apply to the NextD Geographies framework has to do with the toolboxes that are increasingly more complex and cross disciplinary in Design 3 and 4. What skills does it take to conduct a visual sensemaking process? Do you believe a non-designer, without formal academic training, can make a good 3.0 or 4.0 design thinker or sensemaker? Can you describe the process of capacity building Humantific does in its innovation capacity programs?

Continue Reading..

18
Apr

Innovation Methods Mapping Preview

Two + years in the making, Humantific, in concert with OPEN Innovation Consortium is sharing the preview version of the new book:

Innovation Methods Mapping / DeMystifying 80 Years of Innovation Process Design.

If you would like to send us a comment, or be placed on the pre-order list for the print version of the book please feel free to leave a comment below and or email: methodsmapping (at) openinnovationconsortium (dot) org

OVERVIEW
This workbook presents a new kind of methods analysis framework applied to 50 innovation process models spanning a period of 80+ years. Embedded in the framework is a new form of innovation process literacy, designed to enhance understanding of historical and current process models, as well as inform future process design.

PROJECT PURPOSE
This study has been created and shared for educational purposes.

This book is designed to fill what the consortium perceives to be a void in the field of innovation process knowledge.

As an OPEN Innovation Consortium initiative, the goal of this book project is to help move the art, science and design of innovation process modeling forward into the 21st century.

ABOUT OPEN INNOVATION CONSORTIUM
See Open Innovation Consortium in the Initiatives section of this Humantific website.

To receive information on other Humantific projects, events and initiatives feel free to subscribe to Humantific Quarterly.

06
Apr

Making Sense of the “New GroupThink”

On Friday afternoon April 6, 2012, Humantific CoFounder, GK VanPatter posted the response below to the NextDesign Leadership Network discussion group on LinkedIn in reference to a question about Jonah Lehrer’s GroupThink article, that appeared in the January 2012 edition of the New Yorker.

Hi Robert: Regarding your question:

“What do folks think of this [Jonah Lehrer’s GroupThink article] ?”

From a consulting practice perspective, I would say that Lehrer’s GroupThink article and several others like it with forceful anti-teamwork themes have spawned a rather complicated marketplace mess. In seeing the aftermath I was reminded of the balloon boy story that appeared in the US media a few years ago that consumed huge amounts of energy and then upon closer examination led no-where.

With such a hunger out there for posting material that drives eyeballs to web sites it seems to matter more if the content is provocative and less if it makes any real sense. Determining whether something is valid or not can consume significant amounts of time, as the argument devices now in play include the citing of “research” papers x 10. Many readers would rather not take the time to sort through such complex mazes. It seems that anything with more than five “research” references is bound to be reposted endlessly without too many questions being asked. Perhaps a new term can be created for stuff that gets posted online, drives a lot of attention without much insightful analysis, and then leads to no-where-land or worse, backwards ten years.

The subject and working terrain of enabling integrative innovation in organizations is unquestionably a moving frontier, forever in motion. One can access that terrain from many different angles and time periods, from where it was ten or fifty years ago to where it’s many faces are today. Anyone can construct an argument with the leading edges, the middle or the tail end. It is relatively easy to construct arguments against where the frontier was decades ago and then spin that depiction as if that is where the frontier is today. Doing so is never particularly beneficial to anyone, except perhaps the creators of such time-warp arguments.

There seems to be two primary GroupThink articles floating around; one by Susan Cain published January 13, 2012 and the other that you referenced by Jonah Lehrer published January 30, 2012. It is no secret that they have already consumed a ton of time in the marketplace, spent by many trying to decipher if that fire is valid and what the heck it might mean.

If it is helpful to anyone in this discussion group, I can tell you that we have not seen anything in those two articles or the bandwagon stream following them that would inspire us to change the directions of what we do in the realm of enabling cross-disciplinary cocreation and building integrative thinking capacity.

Some of the later articles appearing in “Fast Company” like the recent one, showing boxing gloves, suggesting that innovation is “now” all about arguing have been just plain entertaining. Argument has been the default dynamic in western culture for hundreds of years so not much of a change prescription there. If you are seeking to increase the cat-fight dynamics in your organization you will certainly know where to find help for that, thanks to “Fast Company”..:-)

Of the two central GroupThink articles I would say by far the most relevant is the writing that Susan Cain has been doing on the subject of how to better utilize the brainpower of introverts from the perspective of introverts. Susan seems to be from a lawyering background so not sure how much time she has spent in generative multidisciplinary environments. Her book entitled Quiet, which I just finished reading, is much more useful than the article, as it explains her point of view in more detail.

In general I would say there is a rather frustrated, unsung perspective calling out there, especially in Quiet, that deserves to be voiced and better understood in organizational contexts.

Unfortunately Cain’s article and book are clouded by numerous over-the-top hyperbolic suggestions such as: “Remember the dangers of the New GroupThink.” and “If it’s creativity you’re after ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas”.

In Cain’s article and book there are numerous mind-bending leaps of logic, from notions of being unhappy as a child at summer camp to condemnation of teamwork, problem solving, and collaboration, based on selective interpretation of some odd-ball brainstorming research all bundled together and labeled that nasty GroupThink thing. Much of that logic stream is just plain nonsense, but certainly everyone is entitled to their point of view and approach to marketing.

Susan seems to be arriving on the enabling innovation scene from “the Hudson River Valley” with a single two-dimensional lens that encompasses introvert/extrovert. It seems likely that she is not aware that those already in the integrative thinking enabling business have many additional tools, encompassing numerous additional dimensions of consideration in the construction of diversity. Some of us decided years ago not to explicitly focus on the personality dimensions of Myers Briggs, for a multitude of reasons that I will not go into here in this abbreviated post.

What’s a little comical is that both Lehrer and Cain seem to think that what others are doing in the realm of innovation enabling in 2012 amounts to handing out the 1948 instructions to brainstorming…:-) That’s all there is to it so we can all go home! Such assumptions are not great signals regarding the depth of their own knowledge.

Is anyone you know out in the marketplace advocating the elimination of alone work? No one that we know of is. This is one of numerous tempest-in-a-tea pot, paper tiger constructions that appear in both GroupThink articles. Ho hum.

Clearly these two articles are blunt force instruments, not in any way shy about what they are aggressively throwing on the table, or what might get blown up in the process. A basic that Cain does not seem to get is that most working adults already know how to work by themselves, what most seek help with right now, what most missed in most forms of even advanced education, is how to work with other tribes in the context of wicked problems. Whether everyone likes it or not, much that goes on in the context of wicked challenges needs to be socially constructed.

It’s not just about idea generation. Its more about how stuff gets done. How stuff gets done is often about participation, co-framing, buy-in and various social constructions. Quite apart from the personal attributes of introverts, these are realities in the arena of wicked problems today.

While Susan is busy making a case for a fraction of the Myers Briggs model, she is also busily and I would say needlessly, some might say carelessly, blowing up applied creativity teamwork, the present state of which she seems to know very little about. That lack of knowing undermines her relatively simple message that introverts are all around us (I am one myself) and deserve to be better understood.

Susan’s writing tends to work best as anthropological expression of tribal introvert preferences and less well when it comes to offering up advice for enabling creativity and tackling complexity in organizational contexts. On that front I would say she is herself just entering the front door of the learning curve.

For the folks in this business there is nothing new in what Susan Cain eventually gets around to suggesting; consideration of physical environments, realization that some prefer alone work, individual candy bars, etc., but to her target audience Cain’s thesis is probably sounding rather useful. Apart from the hyperbolics the introvert point of view is, in organizations, often present but not listened to or just plain missing.

On the Integrative Thinking SoWhat Index I would say the picture of these two articles looks something like this with 10 being highest best score and 0 being lowest score.

GroupThink by Jonah Lehrer
Entertaining: 5
Depth: 2
Industry Relevance: 2
New Perspective: 2
Unsung Perspective: 0
Research Relevance: 0

GroupThink by Susan Cain
Entertaining: 6
Depth: 2
Industry Relevance: 6
New Perspective: 3
Unsung Perspective: 9
Research Relevance: 2

These two articles contain many differences, but manage to make the same errors at a foundational research level in attempting to offer up what they energetically frame as new perspectives on problems and solution paths. We have been surprised that our colleagues from the design research community have raised so few questions in this regard.

Let’s try a simple bicycle analogy:

Let’s acknowledge that when one is learning how to ride a bicycle it can be awkward and sometimes might even seem hopeless in level 1.

From a research perspective one could conceivably:

  1. conduct an observational study of level 1 bike riding behaviors and then claim that to be what bike riding is right now.
  2. study bike riding from sixty years ago and them claim that to be what bike riding is today.
  3. read sixty year old level 1 bike riding instructions in a book and then claim that to be what bike riding currently consists of.
  4. hand out sixty year old level 1 bike riding instructions to fifteen people, ask them to get on a bike for the first time, observe what happens and then call that bike riding in 2012.

The possible avenues for odd-ball sillybilly research approaches seem endless.

To build on that sillybilly logic, if you were a creative writer you could no doubt find some current “research” to cite that utilized written instructions from sixty years ago, assuming that was bike riding.

Alternatively to those approaches, one could apply a little common sense and appreciate that at level 10, the view of bike riding might look considerably different. One might take into account time considerations, that bike riding in 2012 would probably be different from the bike riding that took place fifty or sixty years ago. The bike might be different, the riding interface might be different, etc.

Of course the notion that multiple states of bicycle riding do exist has been known for decades. Also known by many organizational leaders today is that similar skill progressions apply to most aspects of teamwork and or cocreation. Have you ever heard of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing? Evidently not everyone writing about teamwork, brainstorming and collaboration has.

Suffice it to say that in the “media” today one can see a lot of commentaries regarding teamwork, brainstorming, collaboration, problem solving, creativity, that seem to be derived from “research” based on what appears to have been the equivalent to cursory reading of sixty year old level 1 bike riding instructions. Misconstruing the study of level 1 bike riding disastors for the study of bike riding is a phenomenon that can be seen in the vast majority of the academic research that has ever been conducted on the subject of “brainstorming”. Why that is occurring is an entire subject unto itself. Are such studies manipulative, riddled with distortions or just plain unenlightened?

Whether everyone likes it or not, the notion of a skills progression ladder is always going to apply regardless of whether it is an individual or collective interface that must be mastered. Most of the organizational leaders that we work with are well aware that cocreation events involve individual and collective interface mastery.

If your goal is to create an organization of level 1 bicycle riders then you should pay a lot of attention to the academic research that has knowingly or unknowingly been focused in that direction. If your organization seeks to build level 10 riders, that academic research is essentially irrelevant. What’s your guess: Do folks on route to becoming “Jedi Masters” of bike riding get off the bicycle at level 1? We don’t think so.

It is safe to say that if the two GroupThink authors, Susan Cain and Jonah Lehrer were a little more knowledgeable regarding the current evolution of the integrative thinking frontier, instead of creating “straw-man” arguments against where the frontier was sixty years ago, these articles might have been focused quite differently. But then again all that eye-ball directing drama would have been missed…:-)

Feel free to subscribe to the Humantific Quarterly.

27
Jun

Thinking Made Visible Research

We are delighted to see so much interest in Humantific’s Integrative Thinking Research Initiative. Much to our surprise viewers of the Design Thinking Made Visible Project story have exceeded 15,000.

Posted for public viewing the research outcome included these findings:

Integrative Thinking Research: 10 Key Findings:

Finding 1
This research predates and debunks the widely publicized 2009 academic theory that thinking attributes (reliability & validity) can be rigidly pre-assigned to individuals or teams based on discipline labels such as design, designer or business, business manager. (This is a nice way of saying this was already known prior to 2009.)

Finding 2
Some students of design schools have the same thinking preferences as some students in business schools and vice-versa.

Finding 3
Professors and students are generally unaware of how radically different design process approaches are from one person to another.

Finding 4
Many students of design/innovation are not accustomed to externalizing their thinking process.

Finding 5
For numerous students in this study design thinking jumps off from a framed problem defined by a brief. Often there was no process activity upstream from the brief.

Finding 6
Design Thinking processes often appear very different visually while similar fundamental steps can often be found within. Some steps appear universal, other situational.

Finding 7
Most Design Thinking processes seen here have assumptions embedded that outcomes will be product or service creation.

Finding 8
Most design thinking process models seen in this study contain no reference to behaviors.

Finding 9
This research makes visible why the orchestration of design innovation work remains complex and a key challenge for teams and organizations.

Finding 10
This research suggests that real tools and visually sharable results are extremely useful in moving understanding of Integrative Thinking beyond stereotypical notions of design thinking and business thinking.

You can see these findings on pages 119-129 inside the Design Thinking Made Visible Project.

For “What is Integrative Thinking” see page 13-29
For “Humantific’s Innovation Harmonics” see page 18-29
For “Integrative Thinking in History” see page 131-135

Humantific has numerous streams of Thinking Made Visible Research in progress. Not all Humantific research is public. We often work with business leaders seeking to create private internal research projects focused on better understanding various aspects of their organizations “Innovation Brain”.

If your business organization or school would like to participate in one of our public or private streams of Thinking Made Visible Research send an email to thinkingresearch (at) humantific (dot) com.

27
Jun

Humantific at the BBC

Bringing Complexity Navigation Skills to the BBC in London

Humantific is working with the BBC bringing Complexity Navigation Skills to their User Experience & Design senior leadership team this summer and fall seasons.

Humantific’s Janet Getto and Elizabeth Pastor spent a week in London this past June with BBC’s User Experience & Design senior leadership team. The Strategic CoCreation program was focused on learning cross-disciplinary innovation process skills. The team was very engaged and enthusiastic and gave the whole experience a 9.1 average rating (over 10). Adam Powers, Head of User Experience & Design for Branded Experiences, had great things to say after the experience:

“Humantific were hired by BBC UX&D to deliver a four-day workshop. I am not overstating things when I say that Janet and Elizabeth’s work was transformational for the fourteen people that attended. Seismic organisational changes in BBC UX&D meant that all attendees were particularly open to new ways of thinking, problem solving and collaborating, but Humantific gave us shape and extraordinary focus. We left with practical tools and felt empowered to use them, along with a sense of shared purpose that unified a previously disconnected bunch of creatives. Many organisations can provide training in this Design thinking /Innovation space, but Janet and Elizabeth bring unique insights and approaches – and what’s more, they bring themselves. Inspirational.”

Humantific’s Elizabeth Pastor and Michael Babwahsingh will be back this fall for the second part of the program focused on Visual SenseMaking. Stay tuned!

20
May

The Power of Your Mind 1952

We love and respect innovation history. In the marketplace, we see some experts running around claiming to have invented everything from integrative thinking to various forms of innovation. To us, such claims are nonsense. We all stand on the shoulders of many smart folks who contributed much before us. Let’s respect that.

Sure, we have updated, extended, and changed much of what was done historically, integrating new knowledge, methods, and tools to address contemporary needs, but there is a lot we can learn from the various streams of innovation history.

With so much hype around innovation and creativity today, we find it useful to be aware, at a deeper level, of the history of innovation, applied creativity, creative problem solving, and design thinking. There are many overlaps in the history that are quite amazing, in retrospect.

Pictured here is a gem from the Humantific Collection. This terrific, little booklet by Alex Osborn, entitled The Power of Your Mind, was published an astonishing 59 years ago, in conjunction with his book Wake Up Your Mind (also published in 1952).

In the historical publications, one can see early acknowledgement of numerous challenges that many organizations and societies still grapple with today.

Like time capsules, the early publications on the subject of applied creativity reveal the optimism of the post-World War II era—a focus on encouraging imagination, and the application of creativity in an American business context.

In 1952, Osborn wrote, “Exercise your imagination—the more creative you become, the more you will get out of life.”

It’s not difficult to see that, as early as the 1940’s, thought leaders were trying to make the case that American business schools, and schools in general, get more serious about teaching, and encouraging imagination and creative thinking. Evidently, many educational institutions, including the business schools, did not listen to that message for a very long time.

Also revealed in the historical creative problem solving materials are the societal stereotypes of that era. In the early publications, women were often depicted as housewives engaged in creative domestic work, while men were often depicted as business-oriented workers not making effective use of their imaginations.

“Many housewives work their imaginations more than their husbands do.”

Apart from the stereotypes that now seem comical, what is interesting to see is the view into a simpler world, the emphasis on idea finding in the context of product objects, and orientation towards engineering or science. Also fascinating to see is how little some of the problems around changing behaviors, in the direction of innovation, have changed since Alex Osborn, Sidney Parnes, and others began writing about the subject decades ago.

Today, organizational leaders face a vastly more complicated world in a state of constant change. Those engaged, today, in driving organizational change or innovation-enabling understand that many organizations have built judgment-dominated cultures, and simultaneously wonder why no innovation is occurring. How to create more balanced, more innovative cultures remains among the top ten most-encountered organizational business challenges even today.

Here is a small sample of Alex Osborn’s 1952 commentary on the subject:

“The thinking mind finds it easier to judge than to create. Nearly all of our education tends to develop our critical faculty. And our experience likewise builds up our judgment…The more we exercise our judgment, the less likely we are to exercise our imagination. By overuse of our judicial power we may even cramp our creative power.”

“Loss of imagination can be even more deplorable than loss of musculation… We can get along with less brawn in our later years but to surmount the obstacles which age piles in our paths we need more than seasoned judgment, we need well trained imagination.”

“When it comes to business, ideas are almost everything. Their value can often exceed that of any asset on any financial statement.”

Also, in the early 1950-era materials, one can see concern expressed that America was losing its creative edge—perhaps a timeless topic!

“There are many signs that Yankee ingenuity is on the wane — not because we are born with less creative talent, but because we no longer try hard enough to use the talent that is in us… Our softer living numbs our sense of enterprise and deadens our creative spirit.”

With the internet now enabling global interaction, and with it built-in judgment functionality, we are interested in how present-day and emerging technologies might serve to repair, balance, and address several deeply rooted human innovation challenges that have existed for generations.

Being aware of the history of education and innovation helps us and our client partners think about such issues in a context beyond the flavor trend of the moment.

Image Source: The Power of Your Mind. Chicago: National Research Bureau, 1952. Humantific Collection, New York.

(Originally posted in June 2009. Its a classic!)

05
May

Thoughts on AIGA’s One Day For Design

Since a lot of what we do here at Humantific is upstream strategy cocreation with organizations as part of changemaking initiatives, we were somewhat puzzled to see how AIGA (formerly American Institute of Graphic Arts), a professional graphic design association seeking to reposition itself, undertook a one day Twitter event on April 13th entitled “One Day For Design” (1D4D). The session was promoted with intriguing prompters including “What if you had one day to alter the future of design”.

From a cocreation perspective we could not help but notice that the 1D4D event seemed to contain a veritable smorgasbord of large scale, highly complex, some might say conflicting framing messages. This entanglement seemed to be combined with additional mixed messages around what the dialogue type was intended to be. How the complexity of the subject to be addressed and the intended dialogue type connected to the technology platform chosen was of equal mystery.

Among the complex simultaneous topics posed by AIGA for the 1D4D session on Twitter were: “The meaning of design, The future of design, The meaning of professional design associations, and The future of professional design associations.”

We noticed that 1D4D participants had wildly differing perspectives on session purpose and dialogue expectations. Some participants thought the purpose was to engage in “online global debate” focused on “the future of design.”

Others perceived intentions included:

“roundtable discussion”…“with every designer on Twitter.”

“dialogue between designers and the general public.”

“24-hour brainstorming on the future of design”

“allow creative folks to discuss current issues in design”

“get the pulse of the industry”

“a global conversation” “to alter the future of design.”

“[AIGA] expect[s] to better understand our role”

“explore ways [for AIGA] to better serve the needs of the design community.”

“bring designers and design followers together with leading minds in our profession”

“engage designers in a global conversation”

“exchange ideas, challenge viewpoints and push boundaries”

“an online, real-time think-tank”

“bring together a global community of designers and design enthusiasts.”

“evolve ideas, make connections and initiate change.”

Somehow others got the impression that “the ultimate goal” of 1D4D was:

“understanding how design could shape the future of the world”.

We love experiments but OMG what a confusing framing mix! There are at least half a dozen different dialogue mode types in that mix and more than a dozen different focus paths. That’s a lot of fuzzy complexity to hoist onto participants.

Maybe these designer types are from another planet and can digest multiple streams of giant-size fuzzy complexity while leaping tall buildings! It seemed more likely that 1D4D participants were going to be humans from planet earth. We could not help but wonder if anyone thought about the framing of this session from a human-centered perspective. Without that orientation the confusion of event dynamics can be as complicated as the subjects to be addressed. That cognitive double whammy tends to undermine and deplete participant energy.

All organizations face a continuously changing world and AIGA would be no exception. This could have been important strategic thinking work involving complex present and emerging future states, fuzzy challenges and opportunities. Apart from the romancing of social network technology, since when is Twitter geared up for such complex work?

Some of this framing implied outcomes other than casual chit-chat. Was it possible that 1D4D organizers did not understand the difference between a conversation, a debate, a roundtable, open dialogue and outcome oriented dialogue? Was it possible that 1D4D organizers did not understand the default dynamics of 100% emergence? We wondered what happened to the much-vaunted AIGA design process. It seemed to be completely absent.

We noticed that 1D4D participants were asked to imagine the future of something that AIGA leaders have presented no framing for in the present. How does that work? Was this event about the present and future of graphic design or something else?

We will gladly leave the post-session parsing of words used in the One Day for Design event to the analysis by others. We will happily leave commentary on how to improve the collaborative functionality of Twitter to our interaction oriented colleagues. With all due respect we leave AIGA members to sort out their own challenges as a still graphic design oriented professional association, struggling to reposition itself and expand into the broader strategic design community.

Our only concern is that it seems likely as a result of the AIGA Twitter event that considerable misunderstanding around what strategic design is and does, now seems to have been generated in the broader community outside of design. If the “meaning of design” was in fact tweaked by AIGA’s One Day for Design, it was not in a way that was particularly constructive, not in a way that relates to the many challenges and opportunities facing design. An unfortunate message seems to have been sent by 1D4D: that the design community of communities thinks change making cocreation and meaning making can be accomplished with sloganeering and soundbites. We assume that this meaning making was not AIGA’s intended message.

With all due respect to AIGA and its no doubt noble intentions:

Please don’t assume that AIGA represents the entire design community. It does not.

Please don’t assume that AIGA´s One Day for Design event on Twitter had anything to do with the present or future states of best design practice, methods, modes or consciousness outside of graphic design.

Please don’t assume that 1D4D has anything to do with how strategies are being cocreated today by organizational leaders interested in meaningful change making.

What was most interesting to us about One Day for Design was seen, not in the event itself, but rather in its aftermath. In the wave of post-event commentaries could be seen a thread of cocreation awareness connected to the not often talked about subject of emergence. It is becoming clear that there is rapidly rising awareness in several communities of practice including design, that fuzzy 100% emergent events are very time consuming for participants and typically problematic along what has already become a well-worn path (a subject onto itself).

Picture ahead: Multiply that 1D4D experience by 5 or 10 or 100 and at some point along the way, for some sooner, for others later, most will no doubt be ready for something, anything other than 100% emergence. That romance is rapidly dwindling. This is probably not so good news for those selling 100% emergence as a new collaboration holy grail.

As the number of professionals in various fields reach that realization it seems inevitable that much in the current mix will change. It is that rising awareness that will change not only how we work, but what we expect of our technologies, our organizations, our leaders and ultimately of ourselves.

Whether all of us like it or not, at the end of the day 1D4D represented one of many small defining moments in the slippery decline of 100% emergent events. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, unless you want to repeat those outcomes, it is already time to rethink the think and move on. In that moving on many design opportunities can be found.

31
Aug

Humantific in Finland

Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter will be giving several presentations on NextDesign Geographies / Understanding Design 1,2,3,4 and SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at Savonia University of Applied Sciences and Kuopio Academy of Design in Finland Sept 14, 15, 16. He will also be meeting with program leadership, observing studios, student work, etc.

To learn more about the PALMU UnConference at Kuopio Academy of Designsee Facebook:

 

30
Aug

40 Reasons Why “UnConferences” Disappoint

After attending many formally and informally structured events framed as “design thinking” sessions branded as conferences, workshops, meetings and unconferences we have observed several dialogue patterns that are relatively consistent.

Many informal design thinking unconference-like events seem to reflect the fact that much of the newly forming “design thinking community” is relatively new to cross-disciplinary cocreation and thus assumptions from old ways of working are being imported into a new era. The emphasis seen often is on event brand building rather than event substance. The focus seems to on creatively selling old skills under a new banner rather than actually changing or admitting that new skills might be needed for a new way of working.

At such events the often conflicting universes of Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 can be seen in action. When I say “design thinking” which design are you referring to? At such events one can see that some present want “design thinking” to simply be a reflection of old Design 1.0 skills relying primarily on intuitive process now being creatively reframed as “emergence”. Alot of coffee-time chit chat occurs while often the goals and challenges pre-identified are not insignificant. This misalignment between meeting goals and the process in use is one of 40 dynamics seen at such events as described below.

40 Reasons Why “UnConferences” Disappoint

1.    Vastly different, unarticulated, unaligned expectations among participants.

2.    Lack of awareness that many types of dialogue exist.

3.    Lack of acknowledgement regarding what the default dialogue mode is.

4.    Disconnect between (serious significant) expected outcomes and (tea party-like) processes.

5.    Lack of acknowledgement that the scale of challenges facing us has changed.

6.    Lack of acknowledgement that few adults in the mix presently have been educated at high levels in cross-disciplinary work skills.

7.    Lack of awareness that content knowledge is not process knowledge.

8.    Deeply engrained academic value system based on argument dialogue dynamics.

9.    Lack of appropriate content knowledge among participants.

10. Lack of adaptable process knowledge among participants.

11. Lack of adaptable process mastery among session organizers and leaders.

12. Lack of common change making language.

13. Acting out of bad behaviors learned in previous eras.

14. Dialogue filled with tribal acronyms.

15. Habitual reliance and overemphasis on judgment/convergent thinking.

16. Lack of ownership of challenges among participants.

17. Lack of trust among participants.

18. Competitive marketplace forces (includes schools).

19. Assumptions that participants are all using the same cognitive processes.

20. Over-reliance on words, no visual sensemaking present.

21. Fear of looking dumb among participant colleagues.

22. Over emphasis on portfolio presentation of preconceived solutions.

23. Little upstream navigation awareness present.

24. Lack of awareness that sustainability is a type of challenge (content) not an innovation (problem solving) process.

25. Lack of awareness regarding the messiness of human cognition.

26. Inattention to the cognitive aspects of the psychical work-space.

27. Blank slate phenomenon, no acceleration research materials present.

28. Assumption that technology equals innovation.

29. Assumption that with technology present no process or process skills are needed.

30. Importation of conflict oriented online interaction dynamics.

31. Assumption that observing (lurking) is constructive participation.

32. Over reliance on feel-good ego-based (emergent) chat dialogue rather than on outcomes.

33. Resistance to learning by adult participants.

34. Lack of acknowledgement that new learning is needed.

35. Lets wait until they fail and then return to the default mode approach.

36. Lack of appropriately scaled and designed integrative thinking tools.

37. Challenge overload and fatigue among participants.

38. Constant churn, session activity overload.

39. Assumption that simply putting diverse minds in proximity to each other creates innovation.

40. Assumption that broadcast mode equals cocreation mode.

Humans are amazingly adapatable creatures. Even in these kinds of conditions event organizers can often be seen expecting participants to magically produce meaningful outcomes. While coffee-time chit chat is an important form of dialogue, assuming that it will lead to complexity navigation, opportunity finding, problem solving and or meaningful solutions is a giant leap of logic that does not reflect what is already known. Not knowing and or agreeing to what is already known remains a stable of the hotly competitive “design thinking” marketplace. There are alot of repeating starting point initiatives going on out there. For the most part “design thinking unconference” events remain far behind best practice cocreation. Are you looking forward to the era of beyond unconferences as much as we are?