I’ve been following the #MakeTime hash tag today, as the Good for Nothings have been doing their thing, making stuff at an incredible rate, and having a blast (I’m more than a little envious). Intoxicated by the photos of a room full of designers and developers, I wrote the following post.
A room full of designers and developers holds so much potential.
Digital tools and platforms are revolutionising our world and reconnecting us in various ways, both old and new. Those with the ability to conceive of such things and the skills to create them are becoming increasingly valuable, and ultimately, will have an immeasurably large impact and vitally important role in shaping our future.
Designers and developers are natural problem solvers. Well versed in critical thinking, the exploration of problems, and the use of thorough process in designing solutions, we spend much of our time pushing for better, considering alternatives, and assessing a wide variation of situations. Because of this, we have a tendency to see things that need improvement – problems that need solutions.
When designers and developers collaborate to work on realising a vision of the future, big things can happen. Really big things.
There are various movements springing up aimed at encouraging this, and it is starting to happen more frequently. As advances in open source technologies make it quicker and easier to realise our ideas, this will accelerate. Things are looking up, but we can do better.
- How do we encourage more thought and conversation about the future? How do we ensure that there are even more people with passionate ideas about how they want things to change?
- How do we bring together people with skills and people with ideas more often? How can we create spaces for these people to meet and collaborate?
- How do we show people that they have the opportunity to help shape the future? And how do we teach them the skills to take that opportunity?
There are many ways to address all of the above, I’m sure, and I know of several initiatives already doing so. To help clarify my own thoughts, though, and perhaps to instigate conversation, I’d like to share the following three step process:
Step 1. Consider a better future – ask questions and challenge assumptions
This step requires both individual reflection and collaborative conversation. We can start by reflecting on big questions that are important to us personally. For me, for example:
- Why do we still train children to work in factories?
- How can we reconnect makers and consumers?
- How do we encourage more people to get involved with the process I’m writing about here?
Write about these questions and any thoughts about them. Discuss them with friends, family and colleagues; take them to meet-ups and post them on forums.
Don’t be precious about ideas – good collaboration happens when we’re open and ready to adapt. Bounce thoughts between people and get each other excited about the possibilities. Take criticisms as an opportunity to explore a previously unseen facet of the idea. Collaboration isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Step 2. Seed ideas and figure out what to make
Get together for this one. Ideally in a physical space, but use a virtual one if that isn’t possible (location shouldn’t be a barrier).
What can we make/build/do to support our ideas about how we want the world to be in the future?
Ideas are great when they’re big, but they certainly don’t need to be. They simply have to support your vision in some way, even if it’s a very small way. Sometimes small ideas that are quick to get off the ground turn out better than big ones.
Step 3. Make stuff
Next, make a plan of action. Do what Good for Nothing do: write a brief and plan a couple of days of doing. Make stuff. Realise your ideas and move us a little further towards your vision of the future.
Some of the biggest questions I have right now are around how we might build this process into our culture. Imagine if it were usual for people to do this – to go out and make things to support their own visions of a better world. Imagine what might happen if children left school with big ideas about what they’re going to make, and how that might support a better future for all of us. Imagine that.
Designers and developers, particularly in collaboration, have a big part to play. What can we make to support this vision of the future?