Friday, October 5, 2012

Thinking Crazy - Do It!

"So much of coming up with great ideas is allowing yourself to think crazy" spoken by someone in the film "Design & Thinking" which screened last night at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. But can the corporate world accept this idea on a widespread basis? Can it be done without busting budgets? Important questions, addressed both directly and indirectly throughout this interesting film.

The film opened with scenes from the Occupy Movement and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes roving back and forth between New York City, San Francisco and Toronto, speaking with and observing a diverse and eclectic group of people in the design movement. I'm not sure why I'm calling it a movement, but after watching these people passionately describe what they do and what they think about the term Design Thinking, "movement" seems fitting.

There was the PhD candidate in Biology who had never heard of the term but described how he designs experiments with frogs (it seemed that no harm comes to the frogs - at least I hope so) and evolves his work through an iterative process that might sound familiar to someone from a classical design background. When he described the process of needing to be flexible and creative, it sounded rather like the many conversations during the film with people affiliated with classical design schools. These designers also spoke about following their intuition and being willing to shift course when development of a product produced unexpected feedback and results.

Moving from scientists to artists, along with CEOs, CTOs, and university faculty, one of the emerging themes in the film was: learning to be comfortable with taking risks. Realizing that you can do so at low cost. Taking risks and being willing to fail doesn't necessitate a huge budget. One of the challenges addressed throughout this film, both directly and indirectly, was how to "get a place at the table", i.e. in a number crunching bottom line world that wants algorithms for achieving success, how do you get the message across to all the relevant decision makers?

It can be done and the film showcased some wonderful examples. I loved the segment when the founder of Code For America was interviewed (was she was in her pajamas?) and spoke about the fear public officials have of putting anything up online that isn't "perfect". She made the very good point that the reason public officials are so risk averse is because we, the voting public, have made them afraid to make even the smallest mistake. No wonder they are afraid to innovate and experiment in the same way as firms in Silicon Valley. The good news however, is that organizations like Code For America are fostering cultural change in small incremental steps.

There is a lot more to say about the film's point of view on multi-disciplinarity, social entrepreneurship and having an impact. For now, consider how this might apply in your world:

"So much of coming up with great ideas is allowing yourself to think crazy"

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