Sunday, February 8, 2009
Two things about this quote stand out. First, it recognizes design as a useful process beyond object-making, and second, it was published in 1999 – ten years ago. It was also ten years ago that I started teaching a course at UC Berkeley’s architecture school called, “Beyond Buildings; New Sites for Designers.” The purpose was to help students understand what habits of mind they come to know (often tacitly) through the design studio sequence of classes. Then, we looked at how those skills can be used to make things other than buildings. Over time, that work has boiled down to a list of qualities – or habits of mind – that one could arguably title “How to Think Like a Designer.”
It would be foolhardy to claim this list is absolute or even complete. It has started many conversations and some debates. We are reproducing it here in that spirit. In the following weeks there will be a post about each of these ideas. But for now, here is the whole list. Your comments and insights are welcome and will, no doubt, find their way into future posts.
Design Thinking: Ten Habits of Mind
1. Focused Creativity
2. Generous Collaboration
3. Drawing and Thinking in Pictures
4. Comfort with Ambiguity
5. Non-linear Information Processing
6. Multiple Solutions
7. Learning by Doing
8. Communicate for Understanding
9. Charrette Culture: Shaped by constraints and bounded by time
10. Curiosity is better than Judgment
Clark Kellogg is a designer and partner at Collective Invention.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I teach art in a kindergarten class every other Friday. I am an “enrichment teacher.” What that means is that I am enriched by my time with these 20 young artists. In my case, the enrichment is even greater: the classroom teacher, Ms. Wood, is my daughter, a second-year public school teacher.
These young artists are four and five years old. They are filled with spirit, wonder and unbounded enthusiasm. Our art projects are “pedagogically sound” and track with the California State Standards for kindergarten art. The state standards aren’t magic, but the children are. By smashing those two ideas together Ms. Wood and I create lesson plans. On the Friday after the presidential election my goal was to have the students discover that colors and shapes have meaning and – as artists – they create that meaning.
I’ve always flown the American flag on holidays. It bugs me that the colors and shapes of the flag seem to stand for something political instead of something patriotic. But after the election there were dozens of American flags flying in my neighborhood. That’s when I decided our Friday art class would be about the colors, shapes and meaning of flags.
The young artists in my class come in many stripes. So, I brought stripes of all colors. I made star fields with 20 stars – because there are 20 star artists in the class. On Friday we talked about the flag, about Barack Obama, about colors and shapes and about glue. Then, they each choose some stars and some stripes and made their own version of an American flag. We called them the Obama Flags and, indeed, they are filled with meaning.
After we made our flags we talked about them. Alejandro said he wanted to grow up and be the president. So does Vanessa. Then Richie said he wants to grow up and be an artist. Ms. Wood and I realized that our job is to make sure all of them keep believing it.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Arnold Wasserman recently participated in a Design Leaders Interview conducted by TAXI DESIGN NETWORK in September 2008.
Hello Arnold. You are a strong proponent of “expertise is the killer of innovation”. What is the most effective way, in your opinion, to “unlearn” all the knowledge built up over time?
The question of expertise vis a vis innovation is much more complex than this flip statement that I made within a particular conversational context. Expertise, or mastery of a particular field of knowledge or practice, is crucial to all human endeavor. I only want to be operated on by an expert surgeon and fly next to a jet engine or cross a bridge designed and built by expert engineers.
What I was trying to point to is the idea that carried to extreme, expertise can become a mind trap, inhibiting the exploration of “crazy” paths of creative imagination. It is all in how the expert holds his knowledge – as a provisional launch-pad for ever-further inquiry or as absolute law to be defended against any challenge.
For example, in 1714, the British Parliament offered a money prize to anybody that could solve the urgent problem of accurately finding the longitude at sea. Sir Isaac Newton, then president of the Royal Society and world-acknowledged genius of science and mathematics, said that a solution would have to be based on celestial navigation. Solutions based on time-keeping would not work because it was theoretically impossible to build a watch that would keep exact enough time. John Harrison, a modest clockmaker, after 20 years of laborious trail and error making and testing successive prototypes, produced a marine chronometer that kept time with the precision Sir Isaac Newton deemed impossible. Harrison’s innovation in navigation made possible the successful voyages that gave rise to the British Empire.
Sir Isaac Newton is not dead. He pops up in every designer’s career with dependable regularity.
Organizations are similarly blocked by “what they know to be so.” The better an organization gets at doing what made it successful, the worse it gets at seeing what is coming next. Our consultancy has developed a broad repertoire of techniques to help organizations learn how to unstick creative innovation by embedding practices that connect human insight to strategic foresight.
Perhaps the most important single practice is this: However expert one is, one must always approach each new problem with what Zen philosophers call “Beginner’s Mind.”
Arnold S. Wasserman is is a pioneer in the practice of user-centered, multidisciplinary product development as a competitive business strategy and partner at Collective Invention.