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Design

From BFI, the Buckminster Fuller Institute:

“The function of what I call design science is to solve problems by introducing into the environment new artifacts, the availability of which will induce their spontaneous employment by humans and thus, coincidentally, cause humans to abandon their previous problem-producing behaviors and devices. For example, when humans have a vital need to cross the roaring rapids of a river, as a design scientist I would design them a bridge, causing them, I am sure, to abandon spontaneously and forever the risking of their lives by trying to swim to the other shore.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller, from Cosmography

It starts with deeply understanding need. Need is intimately connected with risk and opportunity, and how to intelligently deal with it. Eg by designing a bridge across roaring rapids, implementing a blue ocean strategy or anticipate a future opportunity by doing a Gretzky. Relevance is all about timing. Again, taking the bridge as an example building it close to a place where people already are wading over eg between two neighbouring trading villages. Value follows from combining all of the above. Combining it creatively and by design results in innovation. Innovation, whether incremental or disruptive, is nothing other than creating opportunity whilst reducing risk, designing for increased relevance while building upon something existing. Disruption is nothing but the healthy response from the market, letting go of increasingly obsolete artifacts and practices. Design, rather than something artificially added or as words added as frosting on the cake, can be simply described as the ability to better meet the needs of those you want to connect with, in a way that makes better sense for them in their own lives. As we are increasingly interconnected, tasked with building a sustainable global village, the need to design relevant bridges, relevant artifacts, sustainable practices and convivial models has never been as urgently called for.

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Measure

Man is the measurer of all things. We are rather fond of our measures. We spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. We devote considerable effort building whole organizations, companies and institutions around them. Consequently they command much of our attention. Which is why these measures in a lot of ways affect us in return. What control, what sense of security and predictability we gain from them, comes at a price. They also bring unanticipated results, some of which are complex and whose impact makes us design new measures .
Some of the core underlying assumptions from which we craft these metrics are growth, progress and freedom. The envisioned good, the ultimate purpose towards which we use some of our measures to gauge our progress and our growth, is the individual becoming more and more able to enjoy a good life and increasingly being capable of free choice what to become, what to do and how to grow into a successful, productive individual, responsible citizen and exemplary human being.
Now and then we reflect upon the efficacy of our measures. A great deal of the time though we more or less successfully adapt to the complex combined effects and results of the systems we’ve built based on our measures. Once in a while along comes a disruptive agent disturbing the homeostasis and the equilibrium at times making the system evolve and giving rise to new sets of measures.
What seems to yet remain to design properly is how to design our metrics so as to be sure they are actually reinforcing this progress, this growth. That said, the very robustness and resilience perhaps even the degree of freedom inherent in our systems, might depend on there being more than one set of measures, a diverse enough mix of competing sets, some of which are imcompatible, incommensurable even.
Another consideration we’ve only begun to address, is to reflect upon which sets of metrics, resulting in which systems, we need to design towards sustainability of these systems. For instance, one of the systems we’re currently enjoying, transportation, relies quite heavily on oil. As oil is becoming increasingly scarce, this will impact on growth, progress and freedom. Here as with many other systems that we’ve come to rely on for a good life, some of our taken for granted assumptions and measures need to be redesigned, need to be disrupted. Preferrably by design rather than default. Which brings us back full circle, to man as the measurer of all things, a potential source of good if by design, but perhaps more often than we care to admit, by default?

Connect

This is the swiss army knife word for learning to work and play well together with others. Two of the tools I particularly like, is the math connection, the precise connectivity of a network, and the social dimension, the slightly more fuzzy, yet essential algebra of connectivity between friends, family, coworkers, and other members of both human and other domesticated species. There’s also this, I believe, still mostly untapped potential inside each one of us, to connect the dots, to form meaningful patterns out of at times slightly too little data. And of course learning, when these new patterns, insights, forms meaningful correspondences with something outside ourselves, something larger, more inclusive than we were. A growth in understanding, and an amelioration of part of our exile inside our selves. Another connectivity, which enables me to reach out to you with these very words, is the virtual connectivity, my thoughts, my voice coded through these words, and published for would be readers out there, and, perhaps, connecting. What other tools in the swiss army knife?

Trust

Trust, like love, needs to be a verb. We need to keep on doing it, in spite of previous experiences, of disasters narrowly avoided, of opportunities lost due to reasonable, and at times, unreasonable doubt. When connecting, bridging between language and action, the trick, or rather, the knack of trust, is to favor neither action, nor language. All brawn and no reflection usually provides us with access to the school of hard knocks. Which can be a lot of fun, but not always conducive to neither trust, nor sustainable practice. All reflection is not all that good either, since that almost invariably risks coming to late to the party, all the best opportunities in life and in business already spoken for by others. Relatively little value in delivering an impeccably crafted powerpoint, if the deal was mostly sealed the evening before in the after dinner power schmoozing, when you excused yourself early to polish the last details. So, trust. Accept no substitutes. Besides, trust, repeatedly practiced, provides for excellent opportunities, either for profit, or for learning, and either way, for memorable experiences. A win-win! Eventually, through a long enough stretch of moments of trust, of trust chosen, of trust applied, a realization of win-win-win. Often hard-won, obviously, but that’s part of the deal. Life is a package deal. Trust.

Disclaimer: needless to say, you can do fear, anger, doubt and anxiety, but in the long run, it  is less rewarding than trust.

Distill

Life has this propensity of bringing lots of things to our attention, more or less unfiltered, and/or filtered in ways we at first don’t recognize, nor easily can make sense of. As we go through life, we develop this knack of filtering so as to get to, and get to keep the good bits. For an organization, it is essential to remain in touch with all kinds of input, intelligence, market conversations and whatnot, and remain on top of what to filter, what to sift and sort, and out of the things deemed important, what fractions to throw away and call market research, and what to keep, and call business. Most of the hard work involved, most of the action, consists of being mindful of what language is used, and how to put it to good use. A common approach, is to throw a lot of these distilled findings all together in a big bucket, and call a theory, a model, and/or a method. This is all good, fine and proper, as long as we remember that other people go around carrying their own buckets. The capability to bring water to others, and the related knack of helping others with wayfinding, charting paths to reliable wells, while avoiding most of the tigers, that’s what matters.

Usually, things that matter are embedded in situations that most of the time are rather complex.

This is one of the reasons why ConversationLab is offering Method Cards for Storytelling. Through using them, you can begin to make (more) sense of your own situation. This typically results in time saved, headaches reduced, and the ability to better tell your own, and listen to others stories. At times this also means you will get better at sharing knowledge with others. Here’s where the distillation comes into play, among a couple of other words that will follow in later blogposts. Through knowing what you and others have distilled, your game will improve. Oh, and speaking of play, the method cards are playable, a bit like a card game. But it is really a tool. A tool for working and playing well together.

...messing with you as little as possible

...messing with you as little as possible

The ConversationLab Black Box of problem-evolving. The golden thread running through the box is all about how to mess with you as little as possible, getting you from the bottom, to the top.

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