14 September 2010

words have power

One of the primary joys of working with designers is the opportunity to see problem sets from an entirely different angle - to completely change the frame. For me this enables a reshuffling of attributes, components and forces that regularly shakes things loose and allows for a sudden refocusing and more complete grasp and understanding.

For this to work - however - I have to be open-minded when coming into this collaboration. If I have a fixed field of view and a fixed perspective on the problem set (or worse yet if I've reached an conclusion beyond a simple hypothesis) then the entire process becomes pointless.

This is thus on me.

But one of the primary frustrations of working with (many) designers is a lack of curiosity for topics / concepts / ideas / processes / values that exist outside of the world of design. Without a basic level of curiosity in this manner, any and all discussions become entirely tactical. Rather than "how do we frame the problem" the discussion jumps immediately to "how do we solve the problem." For me, this inevitably results in frustration as the solutions are usually partial, wrong or inelegant.

This is thus on designers.

My current example of this problem is around semantics and semiotics within the world of design agencies. The perfect illustration is the dissonance around the meaning of words including "strategy" and "tactical" and "research" and "marketing."

The issue is not that there is a commonly agreed upon meaning for each of these. The issue is not that creating your own meaning is inherently wrong (or right). The issue is that any form of dialogue that creates value requires an understanding of the meanings for these concepts in the minds of those involved in the dialogue and both a negotiation of a shared meaning and a narrative around that meaning. If instead there is simply a requirement that your own meaning be understood to be "right" and a lack of curiosity about what others' meanings might be, then you might as well be speaking two mutually unspoken languages.

Working with people from a different perspective (designers in this case) who have this curiosity and this open-mindedness - who understand the need for dialogue, negotiation, narrative and development of shared meaning - results in revolutionary outcomes.

The alternative just makes me want to execute people.


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