Connecting the Dots

Design has more bearing on industry and commerce than one might think. The education of future generations should place more emphasis on creativity and a successful integration of design thinking into these arenas.

If you ever get the chance to hear Sir Kenneth Robinson speak, take it. Arguably one of the best public speakers in the world, he is a unique mixture of a modern day Aristotle and premier humorist. The comedy infused throughout his oratory is used to move along a rather intensely serious underlying message, allowing it to be heard. Sir Kenneth argues that in the next 30 years, more people will be educated than have been in all of history, and that there is a very good chance that they will be educated in exactly the wrong way.

To borrow generally from his comments, Sir Kenneth, a noted consultant to academia, suggests that most Western education is set up to service an industrial economy than was the priority almost 80 years ago and that education has not kept up with the times. The current system of learning in the West at least, places a far greater emphasis on math, science and literature at the expense of the arts, design, music, dance and the humanities.

In fact, even within the taught arts is a hierarchy that regulates some of the arts to a lower level of importance than others. A dangerously crazy condition when we stand back and measure the importance of creative ideas in our access-flattened world.

Much creativity is nurtured through the teaching of the arts, and the idea that all people are creative should not be a radical thought for so many. However education still places a premium on adding figures and reading, but is discouraging when it comes to "less important" professions like art and acting.

The idea that creativity is vital to success is not widely accepted, yet it is built on a simple and wonderful truth, that all people have the capacity to be creative. Sir Kenneth suggests that when people are encouraged to be creative, they often find out what they are really good at, and it is when people find out what they are good at that they become better at everything they try. He identifies this as being something to do with "extreme confidence" entering the equation.

Many advances in design and creativity are largely about making connections that haven’t before been made: running shoes and lifestyle, cleaning the rug and high performance, even peanut butter and chocolate. The paragraph above outlines one ingredient -- what might be another?

Another persuasive Brit Rodney Fitch, namesake of the famed design consultancy Fitch recently wrote that next to sleeping (and perhaps work), the one thing people spend most of their time doing, is shopping. Even when we are not actually buying things we are planning what to buy. In fact Fitch goes on to say that because it occupies so much of our psyche, whether for sustenance or pleasure, shopping is by one definition, the purpose of life.

Everyone shops, and most businesses are set up to offer items and services that are used, consumed, instill loyalty and define personalities. Shopping creates emotional responses and attachments. There's the thrill of finding a bargain or getting something new. There are memories and ideas of satisfaction or disappointment. There are decisions made in the aisle, online, and via mail.

Buying things then is highly influenced by creative solutions, and the process can be connected with the fact that creativity is not being encouraged generally in education. We’re not discussing design education but rather all education. Also, for purposes of this essay I am putting business at the center of the argument, leaving aside social or governmental consequences. If what’s important for "shopping" is connected to leveraging creativity we very well could be preparing a generation to think and act in way that leaves them unequipped to succeed in the future.

Creativity is a powerful motivator. If one does anything the same way for long enough it becomes boring, it doesn’t matter what it is or how lucrative it may be. People are usually very motivated when asked and challenged to use creativity to solve problems or invent new methods or discover new opportunities. Design is the tool that most organizations can embrace to infuse creative thinking into the equation.

This is one of clearest reasons that design and design thinking are so important to business today: they serve as the method for "achieving use from creativity." But the need is deeper than the role of the designer, it goes to the whole organization. Everyone is creative if given the opportunity. Giving them that opportunity has become an imperative.

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