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Emergent pathways to a better post industrial future

August 19, 2012

Intersections: One of Cornwall’s most famous artists is Peter Lanyon (Tate St. Ives Bio), Lanyon took up gliding as a pastime and used the resulting experience extensively in his painting, Lanyon talked about exploring vertiginous edges such as ‘the junction of sea and cliff, wind and cliff, the human body and places. As one of his sons remarks that if there was an edge or any sort Peter Lanyon found it.

This idea of the intersections between seemingly disparate elements to blend and interfuse to create new forms appeals to my thoughts on how design thinking can come to the aid of many industries and organisations resulting in transformation by exploring these challenges as a design problem. Nothing is sacred, as the designer must explore all new or emergent avenues to seek transformational change. The other thought I had reflecting on Lanyons work is the ability to see new form, novel form, emergent patterns – for example as landscape is depleted of its well understood shapes and forms our navigational abilities can start to fail this creates anxiety and a fear of moving forward. in 2006 IBM outlined in a report that 8 out of 10 CEO’s saw a world evolving in which they felt much less certain and able to cope with its challenges.

So design thinking requires an ability to be able to entertain emergent concepts whilst evolving a sense of pattern and shape. Indeed, emergence is a creative process and is deeply associated to thinking about the world systemically.

Pathways to a better world: So systems thinking requires an appraisal of emerging new technologies, processes such as open innovation, open business models or SCRUM, legal frameworks, 3D printing, it could be the social design of collaborative practices where the movement of thoughts and ideas between a small or large group yields into powerful meaningful action. And these are but a few examples. These all represent potential pathways. Robert Macfarlance writes in his wonderful book, The Old Ways, describes the etymology of the word trail, beginning with the verb to learn, meaning to ‘acquire knowledge’. The Old English is leornian, ‘to get knowledge, to be cultivated’. From Proto-Germanic we get to the word liznojan, which means to ‘follow of find a track’. We have it seems been creating tracks for a long time. Tracks build into knowledge, and today we need to be creating a new cartography of our world.

What to do

  • Understand – buying the future will not work
  • Learning to create the future will work
  • This requires a learning culture to be inculcated inside any organisation for the simple reason to embrace change people have to create it for themselves and so the organisation must be designed to exist in beta. Why? Because diversity, flexibility and collaboration are central to the evolutionary journey of life and are the framework that provides resilience in eco-systems
  • That true innovation always comes from the edge so why not create that as a design default setting
  • Therefore management in a networked world is not about efficiency but about the effectiveness of creating new pathways to success

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