Archives For global warming

Following the G20 summit this week, it seems as though we are in one of the most significant periods of new rule making we have seen for a long time. Our government leaders were promoting all kinds of new regulation to control hedge funds and banks. Similarly this year we expect to see new regulations emerging from the Copenhagen summit on carbon emissions. Here in the US, new rules are being proposed for health care, particularly around access, affordability and medical records.

Two of my colleagues at IDEO, Tatyana Mamut and Lionel Mori, have proposed that innovation, and particularly systemic innovation, is determined by a balance of three things – behavioral norms, tools and rules. As designers we tend to take rules and regulations as part of the existing constraints but in a time of rapid regulatory change I wonder whether there is a more active role for design thinking.

Take Formula 1 motor racing as an esoteric but illustrative example. This is a sport where the rules are often changed with little notice and the race teams invest millions of dollars in their response, attempting to gain tenths of a second in performance over their fellow competitors. Formula 1 is a kind of experimental hotbed where new rules are constantly tested. The intent of the rule makers is often to create a predictable reduction in performance so as to create safer or more competitive racing. What often happens however is that the ingenuity of engineers and designers combined with poorly written rules result in faster rather than slower cars. Design is testing the rules and innovation is the result.

What if design was used to test some of the rules our government leaders are proposing? Could we go through some experimental cycles using design and prototyping as a tool before final decisions are made about what rules to adopt? Might this help us avoid our tendency to create new rules and then walk away, under the assumption that our finance, health and global energy systems will now behave in the way we want them to?

If you live in the Bay Area then consider going along to the CCA (California College of Arts) MA design research class final presentation tomorrow night. Taught by Brenda Laurel and Kristian Simsarian, the focus this semester has been on energy. The invitation is here and directions to CCA are here.

Visualizing global warming

December 10, 2008 — 4 Comments

A Geneva based organization called New Economic Orientation for the 21st Century (NOE21) has created a quite compelling visualization of global warming. I like it both because of the Sims like design approach but also because it doesn’t stop at visualizing the high level problem. It allows you to dig into the details and find out more about potential solutions and gives clear advantages and disadvantages of various technologies and applications. I believe it is these kinds of tools that will spark the creativity of technologists and designers to come up with better solutions. It seems like a really good step on the way to the massive increase in innovation we need.

I am interested to see whether anyone has come across any other useful visualizations or other tools that might act as design inspiration for tackling global warming or other major social issues.

What characteristics does a tool need to have to inspire new ideas around a complex large scale issue?

This was a topic we touched on at the recent World Economic Summit in Dubai. The role of design to visualize problems and challenges so that they can be acted upon – storytelling as an input rather than an output.

I believe we have tended to disassociate storytelling from design and I think it would be useful to make the connection more explicit. That is what NOE21 is doing by connecting issues to solutions. I believe we can help many more people make the leap from taking a passive approach to a seemingly intractable problem to active participation in creating solutions (or at least participating in the solutions that are already available such as energy conservation) if we use stories to make the connection.