« Hybrid Survey | Main | India Energy Independence »

Design, Innovation and World-Changing

Luke Wroblewski, at Functioning Form, has written a brief-but-important comparison of different concepts of strategy and innovation, based in part on recent analyses of the role of creativity and design by Tim Brown, Roger Martin and Richard Florida.

Wroblewski compares the "Business" Approach to strategy and innovation to the "Design" approach. Here are a few key examples:

 “Business” Approach“Design” Approach
CompletedCompletion of strategy phase marks the start of product development phase.Never: continually evolving with customers.
Tools used to communicate strategic visionSpreadsheets and PowerPoint decks.Prototypes, films, and scenarios.
Described throughWords (often open to interpretation).Pictorial representations and direct experiences with prototypes.

The full list is clearly aimed at those who think about design from a customer-product perspective, but I think it can be abstracted into a comparison of linear vs. complex approaches to a variety of worldchanging issues. Replace "customers" with "citizens," for example, and think about this as a prism for understanding political processes. Or replace "customers" with "species" for a model of understanding ecosystems.

Taking a different angle, Wroblewski's list makes me wonder if there's a third column that needs to be added. If the "Business" approach is past its expiration date, and the "Design" approach is ascendent, what kind of approach is waiting in the wings? My first pass at what that might be is in the extended entry.

 “Emergent” Approach
Problem Solving Approach

Evolutionary. In constant state of changing form to meet changing conditions.
Validation throughHow customers change: observation of new capacities.
Informed byTopsight and measurement of of customer impact upon broader environment.
CompletedProcesses aren't completed, but can "fork" into multiple customized and contextualized iterations.
Focused onAn understanding of customer motivations and external/"environmental" pressures.
Tools used to communicate strategic visionWeblogs, discussion forums, wikis.
Described throughWords (subject to revision and reinterpretation), multiple media presentations, simulations.
Team membersOverlapping, collaborative and distributed.
Work patternsFuzzy boundaries between "work" and "learning."
Reward structureRecognition outside of peer group for useful/inspiring solutions.


(Via CPH127)

Comments (6)

As for the third way that's abornin', I say call it Peer to Peer...

Tony Fisk:

This sounds like the philosophy behind the so called 'Agile Manifesto', applied on a somewhat wider canvas than software engineering

Jamais, I like your "Emergent" approach very much, but I'm not sure I grasp the kernel of this post - it's a bit over my head. After reading it several times, I thought of the following:

1. Design processes so feedback arrives when it can still help.

2. Strengthen webs, weaken hierarchies.

3. Communicate through webs, not hierarchies. Spread good ideas "virally".

4. Encapsulate learning as "Patterns" or instructions; form "Patterns" into "Pattern Languages" or linked systems of instructions. Make knowledge genetic.

5. Decide your next step by the difference between what currently exists and what you truly, ideally want. Then make sure your next step helps and enhances the good in what currently exists.

6. Lead without commanding. Lead by following something great, and inviting others to join you. See leadership as helping the group learn. Remember that a group can learn more than the sum of what each member knows.

7. Fascination, determination, humor and fun are reliable, objective indicators of progress.

What Tony Fisk said.

I wish Wroblowesky had used different names for his columns. Wroblowesky puts the bad stuff in the business column and the good stuff in the design column. This smells of frustrated design consultants who have been unable to persuade their pointy-haired business clients to do the right thing.

Capital is a resource. People evangelizing agile design need to get at least some people with money on their side. This may mean "firing" some clients that are wedded to a top-down, non-iterative process. It also means a commitment to selling the new approach to people who might get it. Calling the bad thing "business" seems like the wrong way to sell.

Daniel N Smith Jr:

The idea that core aspects of a system-process trancend the specific and are applicable to others seemingly-unrelated rings true for me. The idea of things being always-fuzzy but clear enough seems right too. Does the image in a photograph ever REALLY capture what something is, or does it only provide a glimpse into a very specific moment of time. The emergent approach is something I grasp for too. Something beyond a customer-centered design approach.

Some thoughts I'd like to share:

Patterns not process. Patterns imply repetition, something never being complete, just being at a particular stage in its being, changing a little each time but maintaining its shape in general. When is the water cycle 'finished'? What is the last part? That line of thinking is very different from a product design-manufacture-launch as it is currently understood. What if you add a user driven fabbing shop to help take the process closer to a pattern? When is it 'finished?'

Circles not ladders. Corporate and government hirarchy is driven by control needs, not 'what is best for x,y,z.' Different people run in different circles and have different responsibilities and roles but are not 'above' or 'below' another. I think (hope) the third way will take control over the finer points out of the board room and into the hands of those directly involved. Does there have to be a difference between designer and user? How does feedback inform nature? Human creations?

My favorite quote from B. Fuller, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."


Dean Pajevic:

I like the concepts. And I'm sure everyone can agree that they are good ideas. BUT, by using words instead of prototypes and direct experience, are we not again planting ourselves firmly in the old "Business" metaphor?

Maybe "theories" and "systems of thinking", this need to "solve" and split the world into groups of us and them, good and bad, is really the main hindrance to just acting ethically, meaningfully and changing the world?

Do we really need all this to be able to "do the right thing?"

My two cents.


Dean Pajevic


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 16, 2005 3:26 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Hybrid Survey.

The next post in this blog is India Energy Independence.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34