Sunday, October 3, 2010

Conference Keynote in Riga, Latvia

Dizains konkurētspējīgai uzņēmējdarbībai 2010 / Design for competitive entrepreneurship

Set above a trade show of Latvian designed goods, this year’s annual design conference, organised by the Latvian Designers Society, enjoyed a strong attendance of some 150 delegates. I had the opportunity to talk about my consulting and facilitation work as Design Connect as well as offering some more thoughts on design learning for all which had crystallised for me back at the Helsinki Design Lab last month. (See my blog from 10 Sept)

The world is changing dramatically. We already face huge-scale, complex challenges in our communities and societies. We have a turbulent and often destructive relationship with our environment and planet. We see complex, systemic challenges ahead of us that defy logic and traditional methods of problem solving. We are entering situations that demand ‘new ways of working’ and new combinations of skills.

With this in mind, I took the opportunity to outline some of the attributes, skills, characteristic behaviours and methods that design learning for all would encourage and develop in all our young people.

My list included the following(not in any order of priority):

Equivalent levels of fluency in visual language as in word and number; visualising thinking and ideas; creating new concepts in response to complex challenges in multi-learning-style teams; configuring ideas; working horizontally across disciplines and content boundaries; being user-centred in the ‘problem definition’, ‘re-definition’ and ‘resolution’ process; thinking ‘strategically creatively’ (as opposed to artistically); switching seamlessly between expansive, big-picture-thinking at the level of possibilities and concepts and the micro-level of detail and implementation.

I didn’t stop there. In the course of my 35 minute presentation I added some more:

Empathy for others; facilitation skills; interpersonal skills; confidence; handling doubt and uncertainty; managing and taking risks; courage; belief in ideas; mapping; empowerment of others; leading by facilitating and influencing; being open to changing course as necessary and being open to surprise and unanticipated results; non-linear non-sequential thinking; team working; insight into personal learning styles of others and behavioural trends.

All of this to be underpinned by a number of core values including sustainability, design for good, empathy for users and the concept of beauty. (Not a word we hear very often nowadays). And all of this, feeds off the deep well-spring of an innate human attribute common to us all – creativity.

Perhaps the design imperative may not only be about supporting better innovation and increasing wealth creation at the level of the economy, but also, crucially, about a development in our understanding of learning. Of course, design is not the answer to everything. It is not the panacea for all our ills, but I believe the bigger and broader idea of design is still a rather narrowly-defined concept in our societies. There is still more to reveal and discover. There is potential in extending it far beyond the domain of professional practice and specialist education.

As I concluded at the conference, the concept of a storm has within it the knowledge that the storm will pass - it will be over - hopefully sometime soon. But in the new world, perhaps the storm is here to stay. The storm is the weather now.

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