Mind, future, now!

Do you regularly… Open twenty plus tabs in Chrome? Comment on bad design? Overthink standardized test? Connect the dots for meaning? See the bigger picture? If you answered “yes” twice, read Daniel Pink’s  A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers will rule the future.

4970057740_8437cd9a74
Why should you care?

The days of the knowledge worker are gone. Automation will take jobs. Big data will make decisions. And we are going to live a lot longer. So, what will set you apart? Dan argues we need to pair right brained characteristics of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning with the left brained proficiencies such as logic and order. Those who can master the pairing , which Dan calls high concept high touch, will succeed in the future.

What can you do about it?

We are all designers! Sure the majority of our designs don’t get beyond imagination. Yet, we all sketched one out on a napkin. The point, we are all curious by nature. Even if your knowledge of design comes mostly from encountering “bad design,” that’s okay. Creativity is applied imagination.

wirelessvisualizer.jpgIMG_1051.JPG

Stories, we like them. One, they excite us more than facts and statistics. Two, they talk to us personally. The challenge, the sum of all knowledge is now available to us instantaneously and for free. If you can’t tell an engaging story or at least fashion context out millions of hits, you are just another statistic.

Connect and arrange the open tabs. Like an artist who draws/paints what s/he sees, you follow the links, connect the dots, and see the patters to synthesize relationships. Your symphony comes by corralling the pieces of the seemingly unrelated and creating knowledge.

Know what others feel, empathy. Don’t sweat the details of systemization, sequence, and logic. Artificial intelligence does this and processes staggering amounts of data quietly, quickly, and without complaining. Fortunately, logic doesn’t alway work with humans. So, it is better to be fuzzy around the edges yet attuned to desires and feelings. Those who can toggle between systematizing and empathy get the bigger picture.

Play is good. We succeed when we are having fun. Learning is not memorizing facts. We learn when we encounter interesting facts. We connect them to form an interpretation that creates knowledge. Play more and tap into the unlimited potential of the right brain to do anything.

We are born for meaning, not passive consumption. In this world of abundance with supersize drinks, binge watching, and mall after mall of the same stuff, it is easy to forget. Meaning rounds out the big picture and helps provide purpose. There’s no instant meaning in the future, yet you can draw upon design, story, symphony, empathy, and play to create it.

Cool brain image by by Austin Kleon @ Creative Commons

Advertisements

Design, innovation & our future: why should we care?

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. – Henry Ford

We are by our nature curious! We see patterns, ask questions, and draw conclusions. Occasionally we ask more questions. If we don’t get answers that make sense, we wonder. Not always for ourselves, for others too. We see things through their eyes. Often, we don’t stop there. We go beyond wonder and take action. We take a few notes, make a sketch, and connect a few dots. I would argue, we are all designers provided we work at it; else we risk becoming a group of passive consumers. We must care about design because the world does not need faster horses.

Future ready
I never let my schooling get in the way of my education. – Mark Twain

We can no longer accurately predict the future. Social media strategist, blogger, data miner, drone pilot, who knew these would be jobs? 1 We are creating artificial intelligence (AI) that does the amazing, drives, writes, and grades. We replace TVs, phones, and computers, not fix. Cars run for ten+ years. The future looks good. Yet, if we eliminate more jobs then we create, what will we all do? This is why we need our curiosity, interesting questions, and our ability to care; it defines our “humanness” if you will. We need to focus our educational efforts on our uniquely human qualities, which cannot be duplicated; else what job is next.

Creativity & innovation
Repetition is the death of magic. –Bill Watterson

Self-driving cars, stores where you don’t line up,2 and AI that writes poetry3 all seem wildly creative and innovative. Yet, so many products are poorly designed or lack empathy. We wait in too many lines. And standardized tests still define our future. We are in an age of transition. We struggle with how to teach creativity and define innovation. The top ten grossing films in each year of the first decade of the millennium, seventy-four of the one hundred were sequels, adaptations of an earlier work, or based on comic book/video games.4 Going forward, we need to be comfortable with the dynamic nature of terms like original, inventive, fresh, surprising, risk, better, and useful. Algorithms/AI cannot yet solve complex problems, build social collateral, or be empathetic. Remember when we used to play in the sandbox? We build stuff, worked with others, and sought feedback from parents. Teamwork can be infectious, if we let it. The future needs creativity and innovation and people who question authority. Let’s get back in the sandbox and keep magic alive.

What can we do?
Every great design begins with an even better story. – Lorinda Mamo

Don’t wait! Curiosity, wonder, the design cycle, these are not top down movements. It is not going to come from admin, the school board, or even parents. We are all creative provided we give ourselves the permission. Celebrate good design when we see it. Call out bad design, but be prepared to ask questions, to step up, and offer insights and solutions based on research. Critics only and passive consumers need not apply. Stop just reading and discussing what defines creativity, innovation, and design and take responsibility for our future! Go create a story to own. There no shame in failing, so why not do it with a little style?

Note: this post is a result of an on going collaborative between myself and  John McBryde the Director of Origins Education. Without his guidance and friendship, it would look quite different.

Footnotes

1. 10 jobs that did not exist 10 years ago – Digital Marketing Institute
2. Amazon to open convenience store with no lines – the two way breaking news from NPR
3. Google’s AI has written some amazingly mournful poetry – Wired
4. Everything’s a remix part 1 – Kirby Ferguson