On a crowded loop station this morning I notice a regular looking middle-class man in his late thirties, standing to the side of the crowd on the station platform, tentatively reaching into the yellow recycle bin to retrieve a mint condition daily newspaper, probably discarded by a fellow traveler minutes earlier. No regular scavenger, his down-turned eyes and the furtiveness of his stance convey a sense of the stigma that society holds for what should be a perfectly rational and sensible act — reusing something that is at hand rather than buying his own.
Most government policy has been based on the assumption that people rationally seek to maximise their welfare. But it is emerging that ‘homo economicus’ is increasingly showing signs of choice stress, due to information overload and general modern-day complexity. In their quests to identify alternative mechanisms for influence, psychologists and economists have started straying into each other’s fields in their study of individual decision-making in a variety of social and everyday settings.
Participatory design methods (co-creation) have been around for a while, but it’s been a while since a co-creation story as practical as the one told by Liz Sanders has been told.
Her employers, architecture firm NBBJ talk of bringing a ‘human-centred approach to architecture and planning’. That’s relatively progressive coming from a firm of architects.
‘Design thinking’ is being sold as a methodology for sticky problems. It is also being sold as a process that just about anyone can use to solve ‘wicked problems’. Either something is slightly inconsistent between these two claims or it’s one hell of a method.
‘Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker’ Tim Brown writes (HBR, June 2008). ‘Nor are design thinkers necessarily created only by design schools… many people outside professional design have a natural aptitude for design thinking, which the right development and experiences can unlock’.
Discussions of design thinking across the blogosphere and business press range from evangelical to critical to terminal, with commentator Bruce Nussbaum declaring the emperor dead or at least out to pasture. In April 2011 Nussbaum argued that there were ‘far too many failures’ in this process. CEOs took to the process side of ‘design thinking’, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes, he claimed. But such an approach could never deliver the heavy lifting of a viable innovation process.
The virtual presses are understandably full of accounts of Steve Jobs‘ significance and magnificence. Many raise mystical questions of what made Jobs special and whether others will ever be able to reproduce his success. Great stories from Apple insiders about Jobs are being told. Without wishing to cast the slightest dispersion on Jobs’ obvious genius in any way whatsover, I do find myself wondering what embellishments are being applied as his former disciples spin these yarns. Continue reading
We are all enculturated in the mythology of the master architect, the grand designer, the silver-haired visionary. Stories from design history depict larger-than-life figures, towering over grand designs, by virtue of their superior designerly powers, like design deity. Some historical figures were indeed geniuses. It is said that Frank Lloyd Wright’s reticence in revealing his concept for Fallingwater was making Kauffman (his client) increasingly nervous. With just hours before Kauffman was due to walk through the studio door, Wright apparently gathered his apprentices around the drafting table and sketched the concept in all its cantilevered glory before their eyes, narrating his thoughts as he drew. What this story says about Wright’s power of mental conceptualisation is inspiring. Myths are built on the exceptional, not the mundane.