Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design

design

The Importance of Social Design

I read widely to challenge and expand my thinking. In The Intergalactic Design Guide: Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design, Cheryl Heller presents a system for putting social design into action. This takes creative abilities and puts them into practice. It’s different.

Cheryl Heller is the founding chair of the first MFA program in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

 

What is social design?

Social Design is the design of the invisible dynamics and relationships that affect society and the future. It’s the creation of new social conditions intended to increase human agency, creativity, equity, resilience, and our connection to nature.

It is essentially the same process used to develop innovative products and services, but applied at a larger scale. Instead of a small team of expert designers being responsible for the creative output or product, however, social design is done by cross-disciplinary teams, including both people inside the company and in external stakeholder communities. The goal, in addition to breakthrough products and services, is breakthrough interactions between people that lead to ongoing innovation. Because the process is participatory, everyone learns to do it. Because learning to do it instills a greater sense of agency and possibilities, everyone who participates is transformed.

 

“Social designers are resourceful, observant, open minded and able to live and work with ambiguity.” -Cheryl Heller

 

Social Design versus Traditional Design

How is it different from traditional design?

Social Design differs from traditional approaches in several important ways:

‣ It looks far beyond design thinking, which has made significant inroads in business, education and social organizations in recent years. It is an iterative process for developing alternative ideas and strategies based on understanding a “user” and a specific problem. Social design’s purview is whole communities or societies.

‣ The design process isn’t relegated to a team of designers, or isolated in a specific phase of the research and development process. Cross-departmental teams, some of whom are designers, are formed around a particular goal or outcome, and everyone participates in the entire process. What are typically sequential activities, performed by a series of experts, like research, problem framing, synthesis, ideation, testing and the like, are collapsed into a series of fluid stages in which everyone’s perspectives are integrated. This not only surfaces opportunities and challenges early, but also gives everyone access to insights that make them smarter, regardless of which stage they are accountable for.

‣ Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans. Preconceived ideas, however brilliant they sound, are to be avoided. Research is undertaken not to prove a theory, but to understand context and reframe questions. Answers are not determined in advance. The ultimate outcome may be fixed and inviolate, but not the step-by-step path to getting there. Observation of patterns, of unexpected reactions, whether in team members or customers, become the source of inspiration and invention—the real-time feedback that makes the idea, when it is developed, far more likely to work and succeed.

‣ Social design employs “making to learn.” That means giving ideas form to which others can react and help refine in collaborative fashion. Instead of waiting to get an idea “perfect” before showing it to its intended audience, users respond to versions in unfinished stages, and that input is incorporated into the design. Making-to-learn relies on iteration, and requires the freedom to pivot along the way, sometimes abandoning an idea, but always long before a big investment has been made. Giving form to ideas makes those ideas more appropriate to the people for whom they’re intended and makes them accessible to more people, and more diverse perspectives, as they’re developed.

‣ The outputs aren’t PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, they are maps and sketches and images and pictures underpinned with data that bring to life the entire ecosystem of stakeholders and forces in play. These visual outputs help make sure diverse people are seeing the same thing and can uncover otherwise hidden dynamics.

 

“Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans.” -Cheryl Heller

 

How is the role of the designer changing today?

Turn Your Passion into a Fulfilling and Rewarding Lifestyle

creative colors

What’s your passion?

Do you dream of turning that dream into financial rewards?

Anna Sabino is a designer, speaker, co-active career coach and author of Your Creative Career: Turn Your Passion into a Fulfilling and Financially Rewarding Lifestyle. She values efficiency and her mission is to share lessons learned and mistakes made to save fellow creative entrepreneurs’ time.

If you’re an artist or creative with a burning desire to launch something, Anna has been there. She built her business from scratch, one customer at a time, and has valuable lessons for anyone who wants to build something enduring.

 

“Living unconventionally comes at a cost.” – Anna Sabino

 

Don’t Crush Your Creativity

In the opening of your book, you talk about all that’s now available but then you say that “there are still things that can crush our creativity if we let them.” As you built your businesses, how did you overcome those things?

It’s up to us to decide what to pay attention to. Unfortunately, very often we tend to be attracted to dissatisfaction, so we notice people and things that make us feel inadequate. There are always going to be those who started earlier, have more resources and have achieved more, but we have our own creative path to follow – limiting distractions and staying on it is something that we should all strive for.

So, yes, we can crush our own creativity and flow if we choose to focus on dissatisfaction. Being aware that we’re doing it is a step closer to taking advantage of our full potential and starting to step into our greatness.

 

“Get comfortable with the process, it’s not important how long the process will take if the result is sustainable.” – Anna Sabino

 

I appreciate your take on discomfort and its importance to achievement and success. Would you share your philosophy with those who haven’t read your book?

Our entrepreneurial path is far from being straight. It has curves and roadblocks. Sometimes we have to stay in the discomfort for a very long time not knowing when or if the breakthrough will ever come. Most are scared of this insecurity and quit, sometimes right before succeeding.

When we put our heart into any project or career design, at first we are at zero with zero followers, readers and zero customers. Then our hard work makes us advance. However, the progress happens inch by inch. Those who want the miles and are disappointed by “the work input versus the result unfairness” get out of the game. They join a different game where all the pieces have been laid out for them, and they can securely step in and ride the wave of that success. It’s not their own, but to them success may be the security that they now have.

Definitions of success are very personal, but every success comes with its own territory. You’ll never like all the colors that it presents, but it’s crucial to realize what truly matters most to us and know that we’ll have to make some sacrifice to achieve our success and maintain it.

 

“We’ve always put talent on a pedestal but it’s actually its application that matters.” – Anna Sabino

 

How to Handle Criticism

How to Build Your Creative Confidence

Boost Your Creative Confidence

David Kelley has many titles: design thinker, writer, engineer, professor and co-founder of IDEO. IDEO is responsible for such things as creating the first mouse for Apple and the thumbs up/thumbs down button on the TIVO remote. But David’s proudest work is helping people unlock their creative confidence. He wrote a fascinating book with his brother: Creative Confidence Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All.

 

“Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation.” –David Kelley

 

Has Someone Killed Your Creative Gene?

Kelley shares a story that had a big impact on him when he was only in the third grade. His friend was working on a clay horse. A passing comment from a fellow student caused him to quit and roll up the horse in to a ball. That single comment stopped this student’s creativity in its tracks. When Kelley shares this story, he inevitably gets a ton of people sharing various memories of similar experiences. Many of us have a debilitating fear of judgment.

Kelley tells of his visit with Albert Bandura, a social psychologist, and their discussion with Bandura’s work with phobias. Bandura has developed a methodology that cures people very quickly. Within hours people with a snake phobia actually touch one by the end of the session. By conquering this fear of snakes, they birth a new sense of confidence and have less anxiety about other things in their lives.

Using this model, Kelley decided to take the fear of being creative and use the same techniques to boost creativity.

 

“Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.” –David Kelley

 

A Lesson in Creativity: Rethinking the Why

Kelley tells the compelling story of Doug Dietz. Dietz was proud of the medical imaging equipment he developed. One day, he arrived to find his MRI machine in use and a little girl absolutely terrified. Apparently, 80% of pediatric patients have to be sedated just to go through an MRI. Dietz, once proud of his machine, now hated it because of the fear it caused in kids.

I’m often struck by the “why” behind an invention. The MRI worked as designed. Scientifically, it provided all of the data necessary for medical professionals to analyze.

But when Dietz saw the scared child, his why changed. Now his purpose shifted from the medical professional to the kids.

Power Your Creative Thinking With the 4 Lenses of Innovation

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

  • Do you want to create a culture of innovation in your business?
  • Do you want to tap into your inner creative voice?
  • Do you want to power your creative thinking?

Power Your Creative Thinking

I love reading about the world’s greatest innovators. Whether it’s an innovative individual or a company, I am fascinated with the stories behind history’s greatest breakthroughs and inventions. Recently, a terrific new book on the subject crossed my desk and captured my attention. After reading it, I had the opportunity to converse with the author. The insights in this book can help any company improve its innovative culture and any individual become more creative.

That author, speaker, and consultant is Rowan Gibson. Rowan is one of the world’s foremost thought leaders on business innovation. He is the internationally bestselling author of three books on business strategy and innovation – Rethinking The Future, Innovation to the Core, and his latest, The 4 Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool for Creative Thinking.

 

4 LENSES OF INNOVATION

Challenging Orthodoxies

You share four lenses or perspectives on innovation. The first is challenging orthodoxies. There are many examples of people who stand up and say there is a better way. Perhaps that child with a rebellious streak may have a great future?

Almost by definition, innovators tend to be contrarians and nonconformists. As Steve Jobs put it, they “think different.”

 

“Almost by definition, innovators tend to be contrarians and nonconformists.” –Rowan Gibson

 

I just saw the movie “The Imitation Game” about the work of Alan Turing during the Second World War. This guy was obviously a genius, and a pioneer in the field of digital computing. He almost single-handedly built a machine that broke the German Enigma code, which undoubtedly helped the allies win the war. But Turing had no regard for prevailing wisdom, or for military authority, or for anyone else’s way of doing things. He believed only in his own revolutionary ideas.

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

So, yes, maybe that rebellious school child has a great future. Turing’s headmaster told his parents he was wasting his time at school because he wasn’t willing to be educated in classical thinking. Einstein was so rebellious he was actually expelled from school. But it was that rebelliousness toward authority that led him to question Newton’s seemingly unassailable laws of motion. Richard Branson was another rebel at school and eventually dropped out at age 16—going on to create Virgin Records.

If you recall some of the other famous individuals who were featured in Apple’s “Think Different” ads, such as Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso, they were all misfits and rebels. The saw things differently from others. They wanted to challenge and change the status quo.

There are just so many examples of companies that have innovated very successfully by challenging deep-seated orthodoxies: Swatch in the watch industry Dell in the computer industry, Southwest in the airline industry, IKEA in the furniture industry, Enterprise in the car rental business, Zara in the fashion industry, Chipotle in fast food, IT’SUGAR in candy retail, and the list goes on.

A recent example is Beats by Dre. They asked themselves why every other field of consumer electronics—TVs, laptops, smartphones—was being dramatically improved, while people were still listening to music with cheap, low-performance earbuds. What if there was a market for premium headphones, costing hundreds of dollars, that would reproduce music the way artists wanted their songs to be heard? And what if those headphones could be marketed as a fashion statement, not just as an audio accessory? Luke Wood, CEO of Beats by Dre, told the press, “People thought we were crazy. They said the marketplace would never support a $300 headphone.” Well, once again, here’s to the crazy ones. Today, premium headphones are one of the fastest-growing categories in the consumer electronics industry, making up over 40 percent of all headphone sales, and Beats owns over 60 percent of that market. Last year, Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion.

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

 

2. Harnessing Trends

The second lens or perspective is harnessing trends. How do you spot the trend in time to ride a new wave?

Well, you have to be very sensitive to what is changing in the world. It’s not about having a crystal ball and trying to predict the future. It’s more about having a wide-angled lens that allows you pick up important trends and then exploit them in some way.