Giving a talk next week on innovation and design thinking has me turning to Bill McDonough for inspiration. His work and words align well with what Cognitive Edge practitioners bring to our clients, so let me explore that a bit.
Design = Intention
What is our intention? Perhaps the greatest shift we bring to our clients is the ability to stand in the complex and work from there in the complicated and simple. So our intention could be to recognize and work on complex human systems from within the complex adaptive system that they are. This perspective of systems is often lost by the user who remains planted, firmly in a linear, mechanistic mindset. From this non-linear, complex mindset we are still able to do linear work, from a Cynefin point of view the ordered domains of Simple and Complicated stuff. It is the vice versa that is hard to achieve because of the analytical thinking it uses – take stuff apart, figure out what each part does, understand the whole.
When we move to synthetic thinking or abduction, we begin to see even complicated linear processes as defined by their functions and part of a larger whole. In this way McDonough created a horizontal city in China that is underground and complex enough that the interactions of the parts produce a functioning, sustainable whole.
When you watch the video pay close attention to his description of designing a tree…”and we cut these down to write on them!”

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