Archives For emergent design

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Does changing how you make things change the way you live?

The answer is “yes,” according to Made in the Future, an experimental project I collaborated on with some colleagues at IDEO Boston. The Made in the Future website recently launched and it explores how today’s innovations in maker technology might affect designers and society at large five to ten years from now.

To get inspired about what making something by hand means to people, we constructed toy airplanes with kids, cooked alongside chefs, built motorbikes with weekend gear heads, and hung out with gifted researchers at the MIT Media Lab. We looked at cutting-edge innovations in designing, manufacturing and distributing, and asked: where’s it all heading next? It was all incredibly inspiring and we learned a lot.

On the website, we break down what we learned into five themes, each illustrated with provocative product concepts. For example, a device called MatterTone addresses the desire for meaningful customization by creating 3-D recordings of ephemeral conversations.Master’s Archive, a combination camera/laser projector, enables augmented reality woodworking education in real time and speaks to the possibilities of tech-enabled learning and mastery. These are only a few of the types of tools we might create, how those things will change the way we act and learn, and how these technologies will ultimately shape our future.

Many of the advances in manufacturing and communication we enjoy today—not to mention a number of careers like “designer” and “engineer”—trace their roots back to the Industrial Revolution and early 20-century. Some of these seismic shifts took hundreds of years to play out. Imagine what will happen if, in the blink of a decade, mass manufacturing and mass media become massively personalized, variable, and collaborative?

If my predictions are accurate, creative skills will be in ever-greater demand even though access to tools will be significantly democratized, and creative confidence will be a necessary mindset for doing business. It also means we’ll longer be slavishly consuming goods, but collaborating with the most sophisticated, large-scale manufacturers to create the exact things we need when and where we need them.

If all this sounds worrisome, take heart, there’s one thing I know won’t change. Yesterday, today, or tomorrow: the act of making makes us human.

How will you participate in the maker society of tomorrow?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Reflections on Davos 2013

February 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

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I recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The overall sentiment there was one of cautious optimism. While there is a long list of major problems to be tackled, the immediate prospects for the global economy seem reasonably good and there is a sense that most economies will grow this year.

The theme of the week was resilience—the question being, how do companies and countries weather the increasing volatility of markets, society, and climate? One obvious conclusion is that resilience requires the ability to rapidly react and innovate in changing circumstances. Creativity and design can help make organizations more resilient.

Another theme was the growing focus on tackling global problems that are associated with basic human needs. I couldn’t help but reflect upon the Designing for Life’s Necessities post in December. Access to healthy food and clean water, achieving active healthy lifestyles, redesigning broken healthcare and education systems, creating new jobs, supporting aging communities, and mitigating the effects of global warming—these were all topics of discussion in Davos. My sense is that in the next year more large corporations, governments, and NGOs will be looking for creative ways to address these issues.

Davos is a place to meet intellectual superstars and I was fortunate to spend time with both Daniel Kahneman (father of behavioral economics) and Clayton Christensen (of The Innovator’s Dilemma fame). They both offered wise words about purpose, success, and happiness—while commenting on the dangers of taking a conventional view of success and happiness. In particular, how companies measure success today in terms of return on capital.

How will you measure purpose, success, and happiness this year?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Successful startups have a clear and defined purpose—an offering, product, or business model like no other. They also know when to evolve, redesign, or adapt, in sync with emerging market needs. But how?

Arvind Gupta, a colleague in Shanghai, recently wrote about the importance of adaptive innovation cycles in emerging markets in Rotman Magazine. These are methods that I believe can be easily molded for businesses in both the US and European markets as well. Adaptive innovation involves stripping steps from the corporate R&D process and executing quickly in two modes: learning and creating. Some of us at IDEO refer to this as “the squiggle.”

This approach empowers designers to rapidly integrate information from in-market testing. Through repeated adaptive innovation cycles, a team can iterate an offering, product, or model in sync with evolving market needs and stay ahead of the competition. According to Arvind, there are four pillars of success to this approach: Purpose, Pace, Pulse, and Prototyping. Read more about the four pillars of adaptive innovation here.

Where could you be using adaptive innovation to improve an idea?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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If you talk to people at the Santa Fe Institute, or read any of their books, you’ll learn that a key characteristic of a complex system is that the more complex a system is, the more information flows through it. If this is true, then we ought to be thinking more about these information flows when we are designing for behavior change in complex systems.

Harvard’s Nicholas Christakis has studied the relationships between people with respect to their health, and one of the conclusions he has come to is that if you are in a network of obese people, you are three times more likely to be obese yourself. Conversely, if you are in a network of non-obese people, you are three times more likely to not be obese. This is a very important insight for design: that the behavior of those around us significantly affects our behavior. Intuitively we might know this, but we don’t necessarily always think about it when we’re designing systems.

One way to exploit this insight is to put the tools of design themselves into the hands of people in the networks who may be delivering services. For example, at IDEO we’ve been working for several years with Kaiser Permanente, teaching nurses and doctors and technicians how to use design thinking to improve patient care. Kaiser now has its own consulting group made up of nurses who have become experts at this. They go around to hospitals working on different problems, creating wards and hospitals of the future, and evolving the designs over time as needed. Continue Reading…

A show curated by John Cary of Public Interest Design has just opened in San Francisco at the Autodesk Gallery. It is a must if you are interested in design and the social sector. The exhibit features many of the organizations that contributed to the design labs at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative conference, which I wrote about here last week. It is a great chance to see some of the creative approaches designers are taking to create impact beyond the world of business as usual.

One of things I love about several of the projects is that they invite involvement by many beyond professional design fields. Parklets—i.e. mini-parks inserted into public streets and parking bays—are popping up in cities beyond their birthplace in San Francisco. Code for America is encouraging software designers and developers across the country to tackle civic design challenges such as the Adopt-a-Hydrant app. TEDx has already become a global phenomenon, but TEDx-in-a-Box enables under-resourced communities to have everything they need to hold their own TEDx conference.

You can see a great infographic explaining more of the exhibit’s content here: exhibition.publicinterestdesign.org.

The show itself is elegantly inserted into the already wonderful Autodesk Gallery. For anyone fascinated by how contemporary design gets done, the gallery is a cornucopia of digital models, prototypes, and special effects clips.

Infographic by Megan Jett for Autodesk.

(posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)