Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Designing For a Weird World

Excellent post on the problems of designing in a world increasingly getting more complex and weirder.  Tradeoffs and the laws of unintended consequences seem more difficult to manage.  From the post:  
"We’ve reached the end of the useful life of that strategy and have hit severely diminishing returns. As illustration, we created rules to make sure people can’t get in to cockpits to kill the pilots and fly the plane in to buildings. That looked like a good rule. But, it’s created the downside that pilots can now lock out their colleagues and fly it in to a mountain instead.
It used to be that rules really helped. Checklists on average were extremely helpful and have saved possibly millions of lives. But with aircraft we’ve reached the point where rules may backfire, like locking cockpit doors. We don’t know how many people have been saved without locking doors since we can’t go back in time and run the experiment again. But we do know we’ve lost 150 people with them.
And so we add more rules, like requiring two people in the cockpit from now on. Who knows what the mental capacity is of the flight attendant that’s now allowed in there with one pilot, or what their motives are. At some point, if we wait long enough, a flight attendant is going to take over an airplane having only to incapacitate one, not two, pilots. And so we’ll add more rules about the type of flight attendant allowed in the cockpit and on and on."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Design the Designing

From Medium (which I would highly recommend following) - - one of the best articles I have read on the art and science of collaborative design teams:

Language defines the territory of projects. It is therefore important to constantly check that people share the same understanding of a word, phrase or name. Ideally at the outset of the project you should define the language, almost to the point of giving each person on the team a list: when we say this, this is what ‘this’ means.

Because design work is naturally collaborative there needs to be some type of announcement that declares, “Here I am. I am going to contribute.” As someone who leads/listens to a team, I often use the way in which somebody says “Good morning” as a barometer of their mood. It tells me how they are feeling without me having to ask.

Design, through a humanist’s lens, sees optimism as a choice and creativity as an optimistic act. Therefore, constant optimism is a key ingredient to iteration. It fuels the persistence and tenacity necessary for sustaining the creative process, especially during challenging times. For example, the difficulty of innovating within a large corporation reflects a work environment where people often say, “No” or “I don’t understand” because change in corporate culture is often uncomfortable and slow. As a result, negativity must be confronted and countered — not just in a brainstorming session or during a proposal — but on a daily basis.

If we cannot laugh at and laugh with, then we cannot function.

Lunchtime marks a natural pause in the day and becomes a great opportunity for conversation and ultimately creativity. Eating at your desk or in one’s cubicle seems so awful to me and far too solitary for a culture tied so closely to collaboration. Instead, find a table so that members of the team can eat together as a group — doing so will bring a team together. Therefore, a studio should prioritize eating together. You are bound to learn something about your colleagues or yourself.

As designers we are often asking people to take a leap of faith and to picture a world that doesn’t quite exist. We are, at our essence, doing nothing more than creating fiction and telling good stories — an essential part of human communication. Wouldn’t it then make sense to, at the very least, invite fiction into the studio or at the most encourage it to flourish?

Conversations in the open allow others to tune in, tune out or overhear what is going on. Sometimes people, not initially part of the conversation, will spontaneously jump in, taking the conversation in a new and more interesting direction.

I don’t believe you should bind line management with creative leadership. If you do, a team will quickly become subservient and will design only what they are instructed to design.

"It's Difficult to Build Businesses Around Something that Isn't Valued"

And solving California’s drought – and helping to better manage global water resources in an increasingly water-constrained world – isn’t necessarily a problem that needs to be solved by new technology. Other regions around the world like Israel are already successfully using (and exporting) available water conservation and cleaning technologies.
As David Sedlak, co-director of Berkeley Water Center, told the tech news site Re/code last year: “Solving the problem of water supply over the next 10 or 20 years is going to rely on technologies that are here and mature now.”
There’s no reason to wait to deploy future disruptive water innovations, when there’s current water tech that just needs financing and maybe the right business model to deploy now.
Israel reuses about 80% of its municipal wastewater, mostly for irrigation, and plants are using activated sludge (circulated micro organisms), membrane filtration and stabilization ponds, among other methods. Israel is also aggressively using conventional reverse osmosis desalination tech to clean seawater and is now a world leader for desalination.
From a startup perspective, one area that is ripe for new ideas and entrepreneurs is helping bring the world’s water infrastructure into the digital age and making it much more efficient, similar to what is now happening with the power grid. At a conference in San Francisco last week, startups like Lagoon, Valor Water Analytics, and Fathom, showed off algorithm and data-driven water products for companies and water utilities.
The majority of California’s (as well as the world’s) water use goes to agriculture – not to water used by cities, industries or the water-intensive energy industry. And agriculture is actually one area where Silicon Valley is starting to pay a lot more attention recently. Investors call this sector “precision agriculture” and it’s focused on using the latest computing technologies – from robotics, to big data tools, to drones to sensors – to help farmers deliver crops with less energy, water and fertilizer.
The large tech industries in the area can also just help by starting to make the same types of aggressive pledges to water conservation and reuse that they’ve started to do with issues like clean power. Google, Apple and Facebook have all made aggressive pledges to adopt large amounts of clean energy to power their data centers, despite the early nature and sometimes higher cost of these goals. Google has experimented with using recycled wastewater to cool a data center in Georgia, and seawater for a data center in Finland.