Facilitate Better Learning by Breaking The Cycle

Conversations are taking place all around us, and in this Conversation Age, we are looking to learn a thing or two from them. My idea for this chapter came while reading an article in Harvard Business Review by Chris Argyris.

What is the quality of insight gained for the curator of the conversation? Moreover, ask yourself the question, are we addressing the more fundamental impulsions behind the responses from the newly formed community of conversationalists?

As the curator of the conversation, you are seeking to learn from the players involved. But also, you are seeking to further facilitate and massage the conversation forward with hopes to gain maximum insight. The problem arises with curatorial benevolence.

The curator strays from questioning the assumptions and fundamental biases in responses from the players of the conversation. These assumptions and fundamental biases are laid in the early formation of the group involved. A sense of communal identification is borne from active listening, conscious participation, and purposeful speaking. 

This initial process of respectful engagement will inherently lay a foundation that must be shaken for optimal insight. Most importantly, as this identity develops, the curator usually takes a passive role. Passivity is the result of the curator’s fear that he or she will discourage the players from participation.

This passivity is a disservice to net learning. As a sense of community develops, fundamental assumptions are not addressed behind player responses. A cyclical process of learning develops as a result. The sense of communal assumptions (identification) with other conversationalists contributes to closing the circle, further continuing the cyclical process. This continues until the curator steps in to question the communal assumptions, thus breaking the circle, and allowing for deeper insight.

The curator must act as a catalyst at his or her recognition of this cyclical learning. The curator must seek to disturb the harmony when they detect cyclical or homogeneous responses, by questioning fundamental impulsions behind the responses. They are not destroying communal identification, but allowing for a more sustainable and beneficial learning process. Argryis calls this the double loop and single loop phenomenon, I am adapting it here, calling it “a need for cyclical breakout.”

Are Designers the Enemy Of Design?

Nussbaum recently gave a talk at my school, that caused quite the stir. He details how the dynamic and evolution of the design process has brought us to this new form of design, where everyone is a designer and that design by ego is destroying the potential and requisite of today's designs. (Pic: Philip Stark Juicer)

Nussbaum said that "designers suck" and are in need of a paradigm shift for sustainability. I have to agree, but disagree. As a student of Design Management, we are not IN NEED of a paradigm shift, at least I don't see that, but rather, we are undergoing a paradigm shift. To me, when I graduate in a year, I will work in a market where sustainability is presumed to take importance. Maybe bottom line business men will tell me otherwise, but more and more I am reading of how they, too, now realize the impetus in sustainability to grow that bottom line over time.

As we breed this new form of designer, we are making history, in fact, defining the management of the process. Design management is the facilitation of the design process in the interests of all of those at stake. This inculcates sustainability amongst other things, but it is not apparent (reference to apple's counter-sustainable products).

My thoughts? In response, NextD did a whole write up drawing from the brightest minds in design of today and yesterday. There is strong potential in society for sustainability and participatory design. This process and its importance in the administration of business is exemplified by the emergence of Design&Management departments at Parsons, Pratt, Stanford, and Harvard.

This nascent industry embodies the profit-potential held in participatory design while strongly entertaining sustainability as a priority before achieving anything with popular culture. I would know, I am a student who is on the receiving end of courses and lectures of design management training.

I am frankly excited by the emergence of this MANAGEMENT-DESIGN pedagogy, as it transfers power to those who know and appreciate from those who are ignorant... so designers don't suck, business sucks. Good thing though, because as I see it, business models for the day after tomorrow are being learned today, in dschools.

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