Shapeshifters: the new creatives

Last night I went to the UTSpeaks event called Shapeshifters. I’ve been engaging with all of the speakers for some time now, but I still heard some useful and stimulating advice from them at this talk. So here are the thoughts that I noted during the event:

First up was Professor Kees Dorst. He said that after years of research into the processes used by the world’s great designers that he has found that expert design behaviour centres around frame creation. Apparently good designers focus on the problem through frame creation. He says the process moves through these stages or phases: Archaeology (gaining a deep understanding of the problem); Paradox; Stakeholders; Problem arena; Themes; Frames; Futures; Transformations; and Connections.

His research led to UTS establishing a Designing Out Crime (DOC) research centre.  Frame creation is at basis of all DOC projects. For example to tackle traffic congestion problems during the Marathon in Eindhoven, DOC started with analysis of the environment and the participants. They widened problem and enriched it to solve it. They mapped all participants, gathered data and mapped the city. This resulted in spreading people all over city according to their interests to solve traffic problem but also much more.

Second to speak was Dr Jochen Schweitzer. He first stressed the need for UTS to graduate more entrepreneurs. To do that we need to provide students with opportunities to test ideas. He also said we should be in the business of surprising customers (I like this idea A LOT).  He went on to point out that innovation is held back by homogenous or non-diverse groups of people (ring any bells?) and said that a common language is needed for design (from designers) and that we need to use it more.

Dr Joanne Jakovich was the last speaker. She also gave some background on her work as a designer and researcher and then talked about her recent experience with u.lab.  She said that u.lab provided a playful creative space for an open design process, allowing for deep understanding from observation. U.lab practices iteration, failing, sharing, prototyping and doing (not just talking). She stressed the importance of initiatives like BikeTank that make connections to rediscover the innate creativity in all of us as a function of our capacity for shared humanity. BikeTank was aimed at making cities more human and she said that cities desperately needed innovation via collective creativity.

Joanne then gave us her 10 point manifesto:

  1. Encourage creative collectivism 
  2. Love the city 
  3. Action first then stewardship 
  4. Use creative altruism 
  5. Reverse engineer the emotional experience of innovation (what makes people really join in and contribute?) 
  6. Raise the bar of creative expression however you can (e.g. bribes and creating the best environment for it) 
  7. Orchestrate extraordinary experiences (I love this!) 
  8. Good ideas scale when dead 
  9. Foster everyday entrepreneurship 
  10. We must tap into diversity in our urban being 

In response to a question after the talks Kees said that after tapping into the top level layer of design knowledge he found that the things creative leaders do best is to create an environment in which creativity is encouraged, allowed and recognized. Leaders also need to market and communicate about that, at least in part for their internal audience.

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