Takeaway from DIBI
Another fantastic, thought provoking DIBI conference back in city of Newcastle.
DIBI was all about play. David Bailey, in his opening keynote, reminded me that I no longer played as often and as freely as I once did as a child and throughout my teenage years. As the conference progressed I thought how would the teenage me approach problems today and how would this differ from the current 33-year-old me.
When we play we’re often relaxed. Our mind is in a positive state and we don’t focus on the negatives. We look for opportunities and challenges. Whether this be seeking the defence splitting pass on a football field, the next set of stairs to ollie on a skateboard or the perfect 3-pointer on the basketball court; we pursue opportunity. As adult designers, our minds are more focused. Years of experience warn us of limitations. We’re aware of technical constraints one design may have over another and although we don’t like to, we work to deadlines which often push one design over the line in place of another. When it comes to a problem solving exercise we change our environment. We take ourselves away from the desk exposing our ears to our ‘in the zone’ music and we slap the do not disturb sign on slack.
So, can we change these habits? Can we bring the positive opportunistic thoughts into our everyday design environment and operate in a similar way as we did when we played?
Thinking like a child
Going back to David’s talk he exposed us to a quote from Fred Rogers. Having since read a little more on the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, the following quote resonated with me:
“When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
Could we benefit from occasionally thinking and behaving like a child in our working environment? When children are asked to solve a problem do they ask for the same silos, quiet environment listening to their favourite music? Do they asked to not be disturbed? No. Granted, their problem may not be as complex or deadline driven and they may not have their boss peering over their shoulder demanding a solution, however, this aside, their approach is unlike the approach we espouse as adults. If we were to think like a child what approach may we take?
The first approach we can try is to question everything. Children question everything. Every statement is returned with a “why”.
“Eat your vegetables”
“Because they’re good for you”
“Why”… and so on.
What if we adopted the same methodology but in a more sophisticated manner. If we questioned our work decisions routinely and at various stages of a process could we open the door to opportunity? It may cause us to stop and think of an alternative solution and not adopt a fix just because we’ve done it that way in the past.
Change your mind.
A second quality of children is that they’re happy to change their mind, frequently. One week they love a cereal, next week they don’t. One week they have one best friend, the next week they have two or their best friend has changed. As working adults, we may need to stick to our decisions for longer than a week. We can change our minds on cereal but when employees and process are impacted by the decisions we make, we can’t be as frequent. However, we can set aside time to retrospectively look at decisions we’ve made, consider if they still stand, and if not, we shouldn’t be afraid to change our minds. Would it benefit us or the team to reverse or amend past decisions? Unless we stop to question these past decisions, we won’t improve and rightly or wrongly our past decisions will endure.
See everything as an adventure.
The last technique is to see everything like an adventure. Children can make a game from nothing. Monsters under the bed, toys acting as advocates in battle, computer desks being transformed into tower blocks, the simplest activity becomes an adventure. If we take the same approach to our everyday tools and software would we produce a creative or different output? What if we decide to try something unusual for our next task? Colours we may typically avoid, what if we select them and use them boldly and in mass? Typefaces we mock, what if we use those too? Can we ignore form, visual hierarchy, order and break every white-space rule we’ve adhered to and probably preached for so many years? If we do what will this expose? If we used the tools at our disposal in different ways how different would our work appear? It’s worth trying. I’d like to experience the joy from my creative spirit that Mr Rogers eludes to in his quote.
There’s no right or wrong with the ideas put forward, we’re simply considering something new and if we don’t try, or should I say play, we’ll never find out. Our adult, experienced but creative limited mind will continue to prevail.