Reload & Reset

Crafting a prototype is always a complex, time consuming work and you can use hours of figuring out every little detail and possibility of its use. But at some point, the prototype needs to be tested and all if a sudden the customer requirements have changed, far less budget than calculated is available or the test persons are just not happy with the prototype. What now?

The solution is “reload and reset”. Adapt major changes to a concept, business model or design often requires a bigger step than adding some features to your current prototype.  Restart your hole prototyping process can be far more effective to create in an innovative way and there will be a huge difference at the second start.

This time you got a great advantage starting a prototype, you already have gained some data through your first prototype which can be implemented in the second draft. Your first idea failed, but you can take a lot of learnings from it to improve the second prototype and rethink your ideas with the feedback you got from the early testers. Through this process you are able do create a new concept which includes the ideas from your customers, to create more accurate solutions for their problems.

 


Rekonfiguration und Materialien

In der letzten Einheit haben wir vereinbart Zwischenziele in unsere Projektarbeit einzuführen, damit unsere Forschung durch die ganze remote und online Arbeit nicht untergeht und alle am Ball bleiben. Eines dieser Zwischenziele ist die Auseinandersetzung eines jeden Teams mit unserer Forschungsfrage. Da dieses Thema hoch komplex ist und wir sehr viel Hirnarbeit hierfür benötigen, ist der folgende Blog ausnahmsweise auf Deutsch verfasst.

Die Forschungsfrage, mit der wir uns auseinandersetzen lautet:

Wie rekonfigurieren unsere Materialien unsere kollaborative Arbeit? Und wie können wir unsere Materialien für Management by Design (unsere Bedürfnisse) rekonfigurieren?

Um uns an diese Aufgabe heranzuwagen, fassen wir noch einmal den Grundgedanken unserer Designprofessorin zusammen: Unsere Forschungsfrage ist zirkulär. Das bedeutet, dass wir durch unser Arbeiten die Rahmenbedingungen verändern und in diesen veränderten Rahmenbedingungen weiterarbeiten. Die Annahme in unserer Forschungsfrage ist, dass wir nicht nur als Menschen und Individuum arbeiten, tun, schaffen, sondern in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Material. Materialien sind hier jedoch nicht nur fassbare Dinge, sondern auch Texte, Regeln, Narrative, Informationen und Vorgaben. Also Dinge, die gegeben sind. Diese Materialien sind einerseits einschränkend, weil gegeben allerdings ermöglichen sie auch Neues. Hier entsteht eine Zweiseitigkeit, die wir ausnutzen möchten.

Wir als Gruppe Website beschäftigen uns vor allem mit digitalen Materialien, wenn wir von Materialien im klassischen Sinne sprechen. Wir beschäftigen uns mit der Website, mit Social Media und auch die Kommunikation im Team verläuft digital. Wenn wir von vorgegeben Materialien im Sinne von Regeln und Vorschriften sprechen, dann ist ebenfalls die Website das zentrale Material: Die Tatsache, dass es eine Website und einen Blog gibt war von Anfang an vorgegeben. Die Zweideutigkeit von Vorgegebenem und Veränderbarem wird hier sichtbar, weil wir die Website sehr wohl gestalten und zu unseren Bedürfnissen verändern können. Auch das Verfassen von Blogposts ist ein „vorgegebenes Material“, jedoch veränderbar in Hinblick auf den Inhalt und die Gestaltung des Eintrages selbst.

Okay, dann tasten wir uns jetzt langsam an die Beantwortung der Forschungsfrage heran.

Bevor wir damit anfangen, schauen wir uns die exakte Definition und Bedeutung von „rekonfigurieren“ an. Der Duden schlägt Folgendes vor (https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/rekonfigurieren):

Formulieren wir die Forschungsfrage einmal um: Wie gestalten unsere Materialien unsere kollaborative Arbeit? Und wie können wir unsere Materialien für Management by Design (unsere Bedürfnisse) an die neuen Anforderungen anpassen?

Wie gestalten unsere Materialien unsere kollaborative Arbeit?

Das Material Website gestaltet unsere gemeinsame Arbeit dahingehend, dass wir eine für alle einsichtige Plattform der Forschungsarbeit haben. Wir arbeiten zwar in unterschiedlichen Teams, können (und sollen) jedoch zu jedem Zeitpunkt die Arbeit der anderen beobachten. Außerdem sind wir als Team Website durch die Materialien Social Media andauernd in Kontakt mit allen Teams sowie auch externen Personengruppen wie beispielsweise Coresearchern. Das Material gestaltet unsere Arbeit also in Hinblick auf Vernetzung, Zugänglichkeit und Kontakt.

Führt man diesen Gedanken weiter aus, fällt auf, dass das Material Website wie auch die Social Media Kanäle die wir bedienen, auch immer eine gewisse Ästhetik mit sich bringen. Die ist auf der einen Seite bewusst von uns gewählt und beeinflusst, auf der anderen Seite gibt es jedoch schon eine vorgegebene Richtung, die für uns nicht antastbar ist. Bestimmte Voreinstellungen sind für uns als Gestalter*innen und Bestimmer*innen über Design und Inhalt schon vorab getroffen worden und bleiben unveränderbar. Wir können beispielsweise das Medium digitale Typographie nicht mit analoger Typographie ersetzen. Diese vorgegebenen Einstellungen beeinflussen den Rahmen unseres Handlungsspielraums und Einwirkungsrechts. De facto hat dies unterschiedliche Auswirkungen auf andere Personengruppen, die wir in unser Projekt miteinbeziehen. Manche Personen fühlen sich von der vorgegebenen und/ oder gewählten Ästhetik positiv angezogen, manch andere vielleicht nicht. Dies hängt weiterhin damit zusammen, dass Personen bestimmte Gefühle zu einem Design haben, losgelöst zum Beispiel durch bestimmte, persönliche Erinnerungen. Dieser Zusammenhang prägt weiterhin unsere kollobarotive Arbeit im Team mit anderen Studierenden, Professor*innen, Researchern und Co-Researchern. Das Material Website und Social Media als Gestaltungsmedien hat demnach großen Einfluss auf die effektive Zusammenarbeit und Partizipation. 

Und wie können wir unsere Materialien für unsere Bedürfnisse an die neuen Anforderungen anpassen?

Für die Beantwortung dieser Frage möchten wir zuallererst folgenden Gedankengang anbringen: Sprechen wir von Materialen im Sinne von Vorgaben, kann dies eine unmittelbare Limitierung von Kreativität bedeuten. Durch meist nicht handelbare Rahmenbedingungen, vorgegeben durch unsere Professor*innen, die als “Rulemaker” fungieren, ist unser Handlungsspielraum bezogen auf unsere Rolle als Gestalter bzw. UX-/UI-Designer der Website in ihrer Freiheit gewissermaßen vor-eingeschränkt. Für uns als Design Thinker wird der Prozess aus Verstehen, Beobachtung, Ideenfindung, Verfeinerung und Ausführung dadurch im gewisser Weise limitiert. 

Auf der anderen Seite kann man diesen Gedankengang auch von einer anderen Position betrachten: Zieht man als vereinfachtes Beispiel folgende Vorgabe heran: “Bitte ändert die leitende Farbe, die  die Unternehmensidentität des Forschungsprojektes schärft und bestimmt, von dunkelgrau zu blau.” Auf einen ersten und oberflächlichen Hinblick, scheint dieses Argument durch die persönliche Präferenz des “Rulemakers” entstanden zu sein. Er oder sie präferiert blau im Gegensatz zu grau. Lässt man sich dennoch auf den Deal ein und fragt nach einer Erklärung, fällt auf, dass die Wahl der Farbe viel tiefergehende Wurzeln hat als nur die persönliche Präferenz. Wir als Designresearcher müssen als aktive und kreative Spezialisten handeln. Demnach müssen wir Materialien (wie in diesem Beispiel die Farbe) in Zusammenhang mit ihren Bedeutungen sehen und dies in den Prozess unserer Gestaltung miteinbeziehen. Demnach sollten wir gegebene Vorgaben nicht als gegeben nehmen, sondern als Möglichkeit zur Erweituerung unseren Wissensrahmen betrachten. Ein*e gute*r Gestalter*in nimmt Vorschläge und Vorgaben nicht blind an, aber nimmt sie als Motivationsquelle die eigenen Fähigkeiten zu erweitern und den Gestaltungsprozess auf ein neues Level zu bringen, indem man sich bereits fundiertem Wissen bedient. Im folgenden kann durch das Erlernte eine bewusste Entscheidung getroffen werden, die sich entweder in einem Einwand äußert, oder aber in Zustimmung.

Erst daraus resultiert ein bewusstes Verständnis für unser Wissen und Können und je mehr Wissen erlangt wird, desto mehr Handlungsspielraum bleibt für die Generierung der Ideen.

Diese anfänglichen Gedankengänge münden in einem Verständnis, das weit über den Aspekt Wissen hinausgeht. Auch schulden wir diese Überlegungen der Disziplin Design - Es hat demnach also auch in gewisser Weise mit Respekt zu tun. Weiterhin nimmt diese Betrachtungsweise Einfluss auf unsere Anforderungen und Bedürfnisse.

Doch wie können wir weiterhin sicherstellen, dass wir unsere Materialien für unsere Bedürfnisse an die neuen Anforderungen anpassen?

Aus unserer Sicht fängt dieser Prozess nicht bei den für uns zugewiesenen Materialien Social Media und Website an. Vielmehr beginnt der Prozess mit dem Beginn des Forschungsprojekts und dem Bedarf der Integration einer effektiven Kommunikationsplattform. Da wir dies aufgrund unterschiedlicher Hürden nicht gewinnbringend umsetzen konnten (Danke Corona) wurden wir im Verlauf in unserem Designprozess immer wieder “aufgehalten” und mussten Rückschläge hinnehmen. Dies wurde ebenfalls losgelöst durch die Umstellung von “face-to-face” hin zu “online” Kommunikation. Offensichtlich waren diese “Rückschläge” essentiell und auch wichtig, dennoch lösten sie ein wenig Demotivation aus. 

In einer Welt der endlosen digitalen Lösungen und smarten Management Tools ist es schwer sich im Überfluss "richtig" zu entscheiden.

Wiederum dann stellt sich die Frage, ob es richtige und falsche Entscheidungen in diesem Kontext überhaupt gibt, oder ob nicht der Umgang mit dem Resultat der Entscheidung selbst erst bewertet werden kann.

Welches Tool ist das Richtige für unser Projekt? Das aller wichtigste für ein Projekt, dass aufgrund der Umstände online stattfinden muss, ist wie zuvor angedeutet, eine gelungene Kommunikation. Dies stellt bereits eine Herausforderung in der realen Welt da. Jede Person hat bestimmte Vorstellungen und persönliche Präferenzen. Jede*r möchte sofort mit der eigenen Herangehensweise in den Prozess eintauchen, anstatt sich mit unerwünschten Rückkopplungen und potentiellen Zeitverlusten (die oft keine Verluste, sondern Gewinne sind) zu beschäftigen. Online Vorlesungen beispielsweise bergen eine Reihe von Problemen, denn für konstruktives Arbeiten ist hierfür definitiv mehr Eigenwille und Selbstbeherrschung vonnöten. Daraus resultiert, dass der effektive Arbeitsprozess oft durch private Ablenkungen verhindert wird. Damit dies auf ein Minimum beschränkt werden kann, sollten wir ein Tool wählen, dass sich diesem Problem annimmt.

Der Versuch einer Antwort

Die zuvor beschriebenen Gedankengänge sind der Versuch der Herantastung and eine Beantwortung der Forschungsfrage. Auf eine endgütlige Antwort beziehungsweise Lösung können und wollen wir uns zu diesem Zeitpunkt jedoch noch nicht festlegen, da der Forschungsprozess weiterhin im Gange ist und sich die Umstände somit nach wie vor permanent verändern.

Was wir jedoch festhalten möchten ist Folgendes:

Durch die Einrichtung unseres "eigenen" Spaces auf der Website haben wir uns einen Ort der Zusammenarbeit geschaffen, der für alle Gruppenmitglieder zugänglich ist und dennoch unser Ort ist. Wir wollen hier niemanden von unserer Arbeit ausschließen (der Bereich ist nur für Externe nicht sichtbar), möchten aber einen Platz schaffen, an dem wir unseren Bedürfnissen als Team Website nachgehen können. Das ist uns gelungen. Auch als Management by Design haben wir mit Miro ein Tool entdeckt, welches unseren Bedürfnissen als Studiengang entspricht. Dieses Design Thinking Tool ermöglicht uns eine ganz andere Art der kollaborativen Arbeit als beispielsweise Microsoft Teams. Ein großer Vorteil ist auch, dass wir es dennoch in Teams einbinden können (die Programme sind verknüpfbar) und somit neue Komplikationen, durch die Unübersichtlichkeit tausender Anwendungen verhindern. Wir sehen also, dass wir als Management by Design die gegebenen Materialien durch Veränderungen an unsere Bedürfnisse anpassen. Wie das geschieht, ist wohl von Team zu Team etwas unterschiedlich. Wir sind sehr gespannt auf die Überlegungen der anderen Gruppen.

Letztendlich stellt sich die Frage, ob es die eine Antwort auf unsere Frage und die perfekte Lösung für die angesprochenen Komplikationen überhaupt gibt. Denn auch hier sind viele Akteur*innen eingebunden, was wiederum viel kollaborative Arbeit verlangt, damit ein solcher Ansatz für alle zufriedenstellend ist. Die Implementierung der neuen Anforderungen an unsere Bedürfnisse ist vermutlich nicht zu 100 Prozent verlustfrei umsetzbar. Nicht in unserem Team und auch nicht in der gesamten Gruppe. Einerseits, weil in Gruppen immer Kompromisse eingegangen werden müssen. Andererseits weil der online Kontakt und die online Kommunikation erschwerte Bedinungen darstellen und der persönliche Kontakt und eine physische Zusammenarbeit uns hier bestimmt schneller zum Ziel bringen würden. Doch Verluste sind nicht immer nur etwas Negatives, denn aus Fehlern lernt man bekanntlich am besten. Durch die Auseinandersetzung mit diesen Frage haben wir das Projekt von einer ganz anderen Seite betrachtet und reflektiert.

Es hat uns auf alle Fälle auf eine neue Art und Weise zum Nachdenken angeregt.

 

 


Design as a strategy of organisational reconfiguration

James Box supported Management by Design (MxD) in exploring design as a method. The following text is based on the workshop with James and students and teachers from MxD.

As a design practitioner and consultant, James has been thinking about design as a “learnable, repeatable, scalable” process (Box, 2020), that organisations can adopt in order to stay viable, and to even thrive on the challenges of changing conditions.

Design has long been held responsible for the novel and the innovative and it has been romanticised as the skill of genius, or as a special leadership skill. However, aspects of serendipity and practical tinkering are also part of the characterisation of design. Just how design really works remains mysterious (Kolko, 2011).

In his talk on “Venture design”, James describes design as a toolkit for successful innovation by organisations. Venture Design is a method which he uses in design practice. It combines design & entrepreneurship to quickly identify and capture viable market opportunities (Box, 2020). It leans on several established areas of design – Design thinking, Lean Startup, Agile Product Development. As a method it seeks to achieve “preferable futures” by design.

Design as a reconfigurable posture

James refers to Rita McGrath, who writes on “transient advantage” as the modern, fleeting remains of what was formerly called “competitive advantage” in organisational strategy. Because of uncertain societal and environmental factors, she argues, it is not possible anymore to stick to a strategy that is adopted once and then may lead to continued successful initiatives. Instead, it is necessary to work with “transience" and to create an organisational approach that systematically reacts to “amorphous” conditions.

“Often, the very success of the initiative spawns competition, weakening the advantage. So the firm has to reconfigure what it’s doing to keep the advantage fresh. For reconfigurations, a firm needs people who aren’t afraid to radically rethink business models or resources.” (McGrath, 2013)

This quote emphasises “reconfiguration” as an important concept in dealing with change. If changing conditions require continuously adapted responses, the ability to reconfigure oneself, alongside the changing conditions, is the key to adapting successfully. Reconfiguration is the ongoing renewing of one’s position in relation to new conditions.

There is an opportunity to think of change as an ongoing condition of an organisation. Change is a permanent state. Design would then be the posture to adopt as an organisation in order to remain reconfigurable. As requirements change, with design as a posture, the organisation can be reconfigured. Innovative postures are reconfigurable - they are responsive to changing conditions.

Design provocations as the material of innovation

Through a reconfigurable posture, the organisation can remain open for change and innovation. But how to meaningfully participate in reconfiguring change? James uses concepts, drawings, or the business model canvas as “provocations for preferable futures” (Box, 2020). These provocations are representations of innovative ideas which invoke change. It is not unusual to use conceptual materials in design innovation. But here these materials are not treated as a mere ‘representation’ of the innovation, like a well-defined production plan, but it is understood as the idea-generating tool itself. The conceptual provocation is the active impulse for innovation within the reconfiguring process unfolding, in which the organisation itself is reconfigured and changed. “Provocations for preferable futures” are not the representations of innovation, but the very material that makes innovation.

The nature of innovating that this workshop inspires, uses the material of provocations and the posture of reconfiguration in order to be and stay innovative as an organisation.

References

Box, James. (2020). Venture Design, Workshop MxD @ New Design University.
Kolko, Jon. (2011). Exposing the Magic of Design. New York: Oxford University Press.
McGrath, Rita. (2013). Transient Advantage, https://hbr.org /2013/06/transient-advantage.


Possibilities for creativity in ambiguous plans

"Shared understanding" is one of the key elements that design projects reference as the device enabling innovation and progress (Patton, 2014). This week, in our design project, we seem to have temporarily lost this helpful device. So we would like to reflect hier briefly on the understanding that allows us to progress in a design project, and the roles that course leaders and students take in producing and maintaining this understanding.

"Shared understanding" may even be a tautology (Doppelaussage). Knowledge does not rely on one person alone, but knowledge is always a social process which is already defined through the relationship between the person knowing and their surrounding community (Gherardi & Nicolini, 2006). Rather than describing understanding – knowing – as a linear process of a person – a teacher – imparting knowledge on another person – a student – it is possible to conceptualise understanding as an image, held together by the people who produced it. Knowledge is not the product of a transmission of a substance from actor A to actor B. Much rather, we are interested in looking at knowledge as a relationship that exists between actors. Therefore, we view knowing as a thing that is coproduced between people.

We run this research project on the basis of several student projects around innovation. For one design project (on sustainable clothing), we pooled the hours of two courses together. We (the course leaders) wanted to increase the hours available for the project, and we also had a particular concept in mind, when defining this format. Our aim was to use the first course, "Service Design", for defining and learning the method, and to use the second course, "MxD Studio", for the actual design work. This was in line with the curricula of both courses. We had arranged the time tables accordingly, so developing the method would take place during the first half of the semester, and the design work would take place in the second half. As the leaders of these courses, it made absolute sense for us, to run the student project in this way. Our devices - the initial planning at the beginning of the year, the time tables, and the brief catch up conversations in between, were enough to assure us of our plan and how we would follow it. It was not until a month into the course had passed, that we realised that we had not done our best in sharing this understanding with the students. We realised that things were moving a little slower than usual, and we heard students complain about the lack of time for the project and how frustrating that was. A little alarmed, we were glad when the students approached us for a talk.

It became obvious that, what we had taken for granted - the vision we had for the project, and the amalgamating of two courses - was not what the view from the side of the students. They had worried that they would run out of time designing a useful solution in the "Service design" course, and then having to begin designing the next thing in the "MxD Studio" (this was the understanding they had built amongst themselves). The students have their own communication channels, such as WhatsApp, and it was on these - for us course leaders inaccessible - channels that they had built this understanding. We realised how we had mis-communicated; as the course leaders not making our pooled-hours concept accessible; at the same time as the students keeping their worry about time-waste to themselves. We had each built an understanding which was not accessible to the other.

When we finally spoke about this miscommunication, one of the authors had the following metaphor from basketball to share: When a basketball pass fails, then it was neither the thrower, nor that catcher, who is responsible alone for the failed pass, but both are responsible together. To equate successful course communication with a basketball pass, course leading does not mean to be responsible for throwing the ball well, while students are merely responsible for catching the ball. But course progress / a pass happens in the relationship between the thrower/leader and the catcher/student. Knowledge creation, learning, and course progress happen in the relationship between leaders and students.

Being offered a concept of how the project is going to be run - the leader's concept of pooling hours, and of doing 'method first' and 'design after' - does not need to be received by the students in a passive fashion, especially when it is represented in an ambiguous way.

Ambiguity in plans may not be a liability - it may be an opportunity that allows for creativity.

A plan, where not all elements are defined, can be appropriated and turned into a thing one shares ownership in. A concept that is offered up as an insufficiently defined plan can be used as an unfinished item waiting to be completed, and one's own elements can be added into this plan. The power to decide how a project will be run is relational between people and the devices of negotiation. Elements in the plan are negotiable in the enactment of the plan. It is within this negotiation that the possibilities lie for one's own ideas. To conceive of understanding as relational (between actors) instead of located with individuals, allows greater contributions to outcomes of proposed actions. There is an important space between conformity and freedom in which one's own ideas can become a crucial and defining part of a project (Harman & Bohemia, 2007).

Just as the successful basketball pass exists in the relationship between the thrower and the catcher, so lives the successful project progress in the interaction between the course leaders and the students. Important are the artefacts of communication: the communication channels, and the representations of the project progress plan. A leader's version of a plan may be offered by the leaders, but an ambiguous representation can, instead of allowing it to be the source of frustration, be appropriated by students to be made their own.

References

Gherardi, Silvia, & Nicolini, Davide. (2006). Organizational knowledge: The texture of workplace learning. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Harman, Kerry, & Bohemia, Erik. (2007). Another way of thinking: Creativity and Conformity. Paper presented at the Creativity or Conformity? Building Cultures of Creativity in Higher Education, Cardiff.

Patton, Jeff. (2014). User story mapping: discover the whole story, build the right product. Cambridge: O'Reilly.


Observation of architecture

During our last lecture we decided on the topic of architecture. In the beginning started with an observation of the the architecture at our university, the New Design University. We could see that the classrooms are basically well designed. Unfortunately both the tables and the windows are not practical. The tables cannot be moved easily because they are very heavy. The windows can only be opened a small gap because of the fall protection. This prevents fresh air from flowing through the rooms. Furthermore, the lamps in the rooms are particularly clinical. This makes long concentration difficult. In addition, the possibility to move the tables and chairs individually within the room makes it difficult to move all the chairs and tables back to their previous place due to regulations after the end of the lecture. We might also find that there are very few comfortable seating areas that encourage people to exchange ideas and spend some free time there. Apart from the "open-plan studio", which is more reserved for creative studies, there are hardly any good rooms for spending the break or group work, except for the "Blaha Lounge". Basically, the university is well planned, but the potential is not yet well enough exploited to ensure a pleasant atmosphere. 

We have already developed some ideas that can be integrated into the university's existing architecture:

Bar tables could be provided for team work to counteract the daily sitting. We would also make special lampshades that would make the clinical light in the rooms look a little more friendly. Sliding tables are also a next step to improve the rooms. This would encourage more to make classrooms interactive. In addition, several small groups of seats should be created with possibly more plants, upholstery, carpets, to allow individual learning and comfortable sitting together. In addition, we would consider to implement a concept, in which we would like create fixed room plans for 4 rooms each. For example 4 rooms with tables placed in an U, in the other section, 4 rooms  with bartables. 


Organising contributors - the materiality of categories

"Design teachers, design practitioners, design students" was the brief. These are the people contributing to our research project. And this is how we had organised the contributors on the website. The consent form, which formally includes someone as a contributor in the project, asked a person to identify as a teacher, a practitioner, or a student of design. These categories were offered as a list of options. It practice, we began separating people accordingly on the "Contributors" page. Underneath the headings "Design teachers", "Design Practitioners", and "Design Students", we placed people's names and photos.

At first, there was only one person underneath the heading "Design Practitioners". As we added the second practitioner, it became more difficult to maintain this separation. The practitioner had selected two options on the contributor identification section. Should this person be placed in both categories, in "teachers" and "practitioners"? Should we enforce the category "practitioners" (able to do so as website administrators)? Should we redefine the category "teachers" more closely to include only regular design teachers (able to do so as research leads)? The boundaries that define what categories include and exclude are fuzzy. Categories appear to be fixed at first, but they emerge as dynamic entities. Steven Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (1999) speak about the labour of maintaining categories, and the hidden work required to maintain these as viable categories, making them appear to be "natural". Categories change as elements do not fit neatly, and as category boundaries require work to be able to include or exclude elements. Category boundaries are negotiated - widened and tightened - during the work of organising elements. Categories are defined by what they are able to include and exclude. Categories do not exist naturally – they are the products of negotiating boundaries.

The boundaries of categories are not only negotiated by people, they can also be enforced by material factors. Bowker & Star write that the original International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defined 200 different diseases. But these 200 diseases were defined "not because of the nature of the human body and its problems but because this was the maximum number that would fit the large census sheets then in use." (p. 46). What counted as a disease was defined not only what doctors, patients and medical administrators had negotiated, but also how the census sheet was laid out, and how it was usable. In our research the consent form and the contributor identification section participated in the categorising of people.

Earlier we raised the question the categorisation of "who", and as who someone contributes. And that our form - offering the options "teacher", "practitioner", or "student" should enable the conversation around how roles are defined in projects. The form and its three identity options has facilitated a first challenge. The "practitioner" refusing the singular identification as a practitioner, and identifying as a teacher as well, made us rethink the categories. We have now changed the categorisation of contributors on the website, and there are now two sections remaining - "teachers" and "students".

Maintaining categorisations of contributors maintains not only separations between people, but also asserts hierarchies between groups. It is the university teachers who lead the research project, who are responsible, who have the contact with the students, who invited the practitioners to work with their students. Therefore, the teachers are always at the top of the list of contributors, as the leaders and the enablers enabling the research. The form assists this separation. It asks people to identify as one of three: teacher, practitioner, or student. A person checking two options (teacher and practitioner) thus reframed this identity exercise by not seeing these identity options as exclusive. This reframing enforced a rethinking of categories. It made us change the web page "Contributors". It made the university teachers give up a litte bit of the space at the top of the page.

Design research helps us rethink in what ways hierarchies are maintained at the sites of knowledge production. This research project makes inquiries into who gets to count as someone who "knows" knowledge, and who "learns" knowledge or who "applies" knowledge. Practice-based research questions the view that practitioners only "apply" knowledge they once acquired by "learning" at university by people who "taught" them. Design practitioners are seen as those who produce design knowledge at their sites of work.

By including everyone as a researcher - "practitioners", "students", and "teachers", we deliberately blur these boundaries of who knows design. A boundary changed – that between university teachers and design practitioners. On the "Contributors" page they are both now in the category "teachers". The research consent form reinforced this boundary initially, but then it was complicit in allowing a change by one person's creative use of it.

 

References

Bowker, Geoffrey C., & Star, Susan Leigh. (1999). Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. London: The MIT Press.


How to funnel like MxD

Can you relate? You are talking with your group-members about a problem or the newest project. The basics and expectations have been communicated clearly so you can start thinking about a design. But as you have a team, you will get many different ideas for the “same” design. That's because everyone has different perspectives and approaches. Let's make an experiment: Ask ten people to draw an animal. Pretty sure you will get many different animal sketches as a response. It depends, amongst other things, on where a person got raised and educated. A person from the Antarctica will not draw a monkey or a lion. This simple fact, we will use for the first Brainstorming-Session.

SAME INPUT, DIFFERENT OUTPUT

We can create many different ideas in a small amount of time. If an idea is feasible or not, is not interesting at all. We want our team and the clients to dream big. When we begin the first Brainstorming-Session we try to sketch bigger ideas or directly prototype smaller parts. After the doing comes comparison. In order of asking questions about all the ideas, it is possible to see where problems could face up or if we need more or different data. With all this information we go directly into the second Brainstorming-Session. This time to combine all the different ideas and make them more tangible via new prototypes. We go from many ideas to only a few - we funnel them. Now it is important to find out if the ideas are possible to create with our resources and if not, how they could be realized.


The hybrid presence of mapping: From individual to shared imagination, and from fluid activity to material object

Mapping is a technique in design and innovation management, which can be used by teams collaboratively. It is a device that allows teams to get from one place to another place, while pointing the way. In design practice, maps can have a variety of shapes and formats, for example, a map can exist on a wall as post it notes, or it can exist digitally on a digital board such as Miro.

The map allows a team to negotiate a design space, and it is a means to innovate together within this space. The map is an artefact that facilitates shared understanding through visualising practices, activities and tasks that are sought to be innovated. It is a visualisation of the design space and of the design ideas within it.

In the collaborative work of visualising, the map takes shape, and continues to change shape as the work progresses. It is the map's taking shape and changing shape in collaboration, that contains its capacity and potential, enabling teams to materially and imaginatively negotiate a design.

We used mapping to visualise the life cycle of clothing production, in order to identify areas of sustainable innovation as part of a student project in Management by Design. Before we dived into the mapping of our project, we explored the power of mapping. What is the use of mapping?

"All maps are wrong, but some maps are useful”.

Wrong? If a map is wrong it won’t bring us where we want to go. And why is it still useful? This quote from innovator and book author Simon Wardly (1) is a play on the dictum from statistics that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.

From individual to shared understandings

The assumption is that we know where we want to go. However, the “we know” and the “we want” are not harmonious conditions of collaboration, but they are the very stakes that need to be negotiated. Some might know where to go, and others might not, or disagree. This is an important discrepancy to resolve. Many stakeholders collaborate on successful designs, as it is the multitude of experiences and imaginations that inform a good design. We do not want one person to decide for all. Neither do we want to design by committee - which might bring us to some coordinates where nobody wanted to go. We want an interdisciplinary design where everyone can be heard, and can have a stake in the outcome. It is the process of mapping that will create the shared vision of where we will be going.

Students voiced concerns that it seems contradictory to represent the understanding of where we want to go in a map, at the same time as developing the understanding while we are mapping. Do we need to have the understanding in order to make the map? Or do we develop the understanding while making the map?

These questions reveal precisely the nature of mapping. Each of us has a particular knowledge, experience and imagination. It is this individual understanding about a certain topic, that is the precondition for taking part in making the map. But the shared understanding is developed while mapping, and thus the map facilitates this change from my understanding to our understanding. This transformation is key, and is enabled through the map.

From the map as an activity to the map as an object

A map is a living artefact that actively contributes to collaborative design. It is not the thing in itself that is useful. The map is a communication device that enables teams to have conversations. It enables teams to have discussions and to move towards something that the team wants to create. The map is not useful as an object, it is useful in its coming into existence. We propose to rephrase the above quote in saying that maps are not generally useful for designing, but mapping as an activity is highly useful. A shared vision can be brought into being through collaborative mapping.

The map might also be useful as a device for measurement and accountability. If we can visualise as a team where we started off and where we are going, the map is a good indicator for who contributed where at what stage. It might also indicate if a contribution is missing, or if someone’s input is missing. The map as an object – as a representation – can thus be useful, it can serve as a visible account of what is there and what might be missing. So, it is not only the activity of mapping, but also that map in itself that does have some function.

The key capacity of mapping is the activity, but there is some capacity in the object. The map is a materialisation of a design vision as it shapes from individual ideas to shared experiences. As a material thing, the map is a hybrid artefact that has a material presence as an object in its incorporation of imaginations about possible future existences. The map as an activity, as a fluid design artefact, changes, and in its changing it changes designs.

*This blog post is based on a research workshop with Hayden Slaughter, in which we developed practice-based knowledge about “mapping”.

1 https://learnwardleymapping.com/


Design thinking as the culture for innovation

Introduction

Last week, before the world went on lockdown, and before anyone could imagine it happening, a design practitioner community event took place in the UK: “How to create a culture for innovation: A Design Thinking Approach”, organised by Ladies that UX, hosted by Samantha Whittaker from the Human Change Agency and Sarah Corney from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. We gathered at “68 Middle Street”, which is a community hub for the media and design industries in Brighton.

In their talk, Samantha and Sarah gave an overview and introduction to culture and innovation in organisations, showing that the “soft” factors matter when working with change. They took us through theoretical concepts and practical exercises, exploring with us the cultural problems that organisations encounter in innovation, and how the design thinking process can help overcome these problems. The design thinking process is represented as the UK Design Council double diamond (Design Council, 2015). In their work, Samantha and Sarah explore how the “magic” inherent in the design thinking process can be widened in order to embrace organisations entirely, and thus enabling design as the “collaborative muscle” within that organisation. Samantha and Sarah presented their own extended version of the double diamond. Their aim is to reinterpret design thinking as an approach to innovation that creates a lasting organisational culture for change.

Extending the design process as a way of thinking in organisations

When an organisation seeks to innovate, in the process, the organisation itself is likely to change. There needs to be reflection on its own state of thinking about problems - before they can be solved. “The problem” is not a defined spot. Therefore, the path to solution cannot be represented as a straightforward line from spot A to spot B.

“The problem” is likely too narrow a space, and in the jump to solving we can all be tempted by the first 'shiny' (usually technical) solution that presents itself, but that's rarely the best one. Sarah and Samantha used an example from the Design Council's work with the NHS to illustrate this point. There was a rise in incidents in patients acting violently towards staff in Accident and Emergency departments. The Design Council team conducted an ethnographic study, and found that 'violence' was actually patients' reaction to a combination of things they are faced with, such as frustration with long waiting times, confusion over lack of information, or fear for loved ones. Simply putting more police on the ward would be a straightforward thing to do, and it might bring some improvement on the surface (although it could also easily inflame matters and make it worse). The most obvious solution is probably not the best and most sustainable solution that could be found.

Designers in organisations commonly experience this simple problem-solution view as the prevalent understanding of design. But using design only for “shiny” solutions does not tap into the full potential of design. Design can function as the “glue” to facilitating the defining of a problem and the activity of solving it. Design can investigate problem spaces by diverging on present factors first, before converging these to a problem definition. Instead of jumping to a conclusion about rampaging patients requiring police force, we might look at what the present factors are, that contribute to a situation. This might be confusing signage, lack of information, long periods in waiting areas, and the high emotions that play out in emergencies involving relatives. Seeing these contributors to the problem can help us find a more creative solution.

Design can also facilitate questions, such as, “Who gets to define a problem?". Is it the management of an organisation? The expert on user experience? The technical expert? Or the sales department? There is an emerging need to democratise the design process, as "design has become too important to be left to designers” (Brown & Katz, 2011, p. 381, echoing a quote attributed to industrial designer Raymond Loewy). If organisations are serious in including many viewpoints – those of customers’ and of different experts – in order to find a solution that works, then the problem cannot remain a singular spot, defined by an individual actor. The problem space needs to be negotiated. After defining a problem, work can begin on solving it.


The design process by the UK Design Council (2015) is a representation of design thinking that supports the negotiation of the problem space and the solution space. Design thinking can be seen as more than a process, but as a "way of doing things" that can be cultivated within organisations. This culture – this approach – is what matters when organisations try to innovate.

Creating a culture for innovation

Samantha and Sarah explored how the design thinking process can influence the wider culture of an organisation. They aimed to answer how can a design process be translated to the complex relationships within an organisation? With lots of experience in helping organisations change, Samantha and Sarah report that “things like hierarchy and politics are being put aside when doing a design thinking workshop”, that design thinking can “make sure everybody is heard, has an equitable voice”. They explain that in facilitating a design thinking process it is possible “to deal with the dominant voices” and “to give people space when they are shy”. Design thinking can be a space of "shared meaning making”. These are the elements that should be brought forward into a culture for innovation within an organisation. Using design thinking to foster a culture of innovation does not only influence spaces outside an organisation, but is likely to shape the experience of the innovators themselves.

Samantha and Sarah explained their extended version of the double diamond as a way of amplifying a culture for innovation, introducing an initial “set up” phase, and a “close down” part at the end.


The idea behind a “set up” space is the making of a contract between the participating people, as individuals within a team. Making a contract means to reflect on how “I” want to participate in a team (“WE") in a shared project (“IT”). Setting up a project, that is likely not only changing users’ lives, but also mine, and ours as a team, requires reflection on how I want to participate, and how I find a place in the team and in the shared goal. This reflection touches on identity, and on a translation of individual identity into an identity as an organisation where everyone has a place. This process goes on implicitly in every organisation - the negotiation of places. The "set up" idea is trying to make this negotiation an explicit part of design thinking. This strategy should enable a person to find her place in the team, and to find her place in the shared goal of the project.

The “close down” part is a reflection on the past project, and should represent a “lessons learnt” for the next project. The closing down part follows the question in what ways everyone was able to participate. This phase is the creation of a safe space for talking about experiences. Ideally, it is a conversation where everyone participating feels seen and heard, and where these experiences inform the next project.

Acknowledgements

This blog post was written based on a talk Sarah Corney and Samantha Whittaker gave at 68 Middle Street.

Samantha on Twitter: @itsSamActually | sam@humanchange.agency
Sarah on Twitter: @corney_sarah | cxnoodlings.wordpress.com

References

Brown, Tim, & Katz, Barry. (2011). Change by Design. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28, 381–383.
Design Council. (2015). The Design Process: What is the Double Diamond? Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/design-process-what-double-diamond, accessed February 11, 2019


"You are here" as the creation of shared understanding

In a map, you know where you are. “You are here” is the confirmation of your position in the landscape within which you and others are moving. Knowing your current position is crucial if you want to map a path to a particular place. This is the case in a design project, because you want to get from “here” (the now) to “there” (a desired future state) where you will have made your innovation. Successful collaborative design teams are described to be aligned in their viewpoints, so they are able to operate in a “truly interdisciplinary” fashion (Brown, 2009).

The “you are here” metaphor first appeared in a phone conversation with Danny Hope in consultation for our project. He used the metaphor of “landscape”, and we discussed the workability of this image. Landscape as a metaphor, as an image, as an artefact shaping design activity.

For our project, we are exploring mapping as a tool to facilitate our collaboration. Creating a user journey map or a user story map is based on the collecting of data about a use practice. Use practices are represented as activities, tasks, ideas, emotions, and materials/technologies used. The method we explored in detail is "User Story Mapping", which Jeff Patton explains in a video (1). In user story mapping there is usually a chronological order (from left to right), and a hierarchy from larger activities to smaller tasks and resources needed (from top to bottom). The data feeding the map is made up of interviews, observations, own experiences and ideas, as well as technical details and business goals. The mapping activity is an arranging and ordering of data. This activity is done by the team in collaboration. The map is an artefact that ensures the representation of all data collected. Furthermore, the map enables the creation of a “here” position for the team within the landscape they are seeking to change.

The “here” is a form of validation within the team of where to begin a project. In science, the validity of data is commonly enriched by triangulation through capturing “different dimensions of the same phenomenon.” (2) These different dimensions can be understood as the different viewpoints of team members. The map is a design tool to aid the process of amalgamating these different viewpoints. People have different ideas and different understandings of things. Jeff Patton (2014) visualises these different ideas as differently shaped forms. Ideas begin to form at the beginning of a project. The ordering activity begins even before user data is collected. Each team member’s ideas are already the products of ordering processes. The map facilitates the alignment of these ordering processes that already take place. 

The mapping activity facilitates the creation of a shared understanding, through aligning individually shaped ideas. Jeff Patton theorises that through team members visualising their individual ideas in the map, the amalgamation of these individual ideas can be negotiated. The negotiation takes place through agreeing how elements on the map are arranged and ordered. Through conversations that challenge each others’ ideas mutual understandings are formed and visualised. He further describes that the conversations are experienced as a moment in time and space, and therefore last as a shared memory. The map aligns individually shaped ideas into one shared idea. Shared understanding within a project can be a useful resource for working together on a project successfully. The mapping activity facilitates the negotiation of a “here” that can be the beginning of the track towards the future.

 

Footnotes

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AorAgSrHjKM&feature=youtu.be

2 https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_triangulation_of_data_in_qualitative_research_Is_it_a_method_of_validating_the_information_collected_through_various_methods

References

Brown, Tim. (2009). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Patton, Jeff. (2014). User story mapping: discover the whole story, build the right product. Cambridge: O'Reilly.