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Designing a Better World in the New Year

Posted by Plish on January 13, 2014

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

― Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

The Life Influence Continuum - Click to see full size

Click To See Full Size

A New Year – New Beginnings in the Life Influence Continuum

Each person

A unique combination of genes

Growing in family that grows

Surrounded by friends (sometimes more, other times less)

At work

In society

Touching others

Being touched

Love and Trauma

Changing the now (and future generations!)

What are we designing?

Humans become Light through the touching of souls

Yet we limit embraces (Do we fear the Unique?)

Impoverishing the Continuum(s) –

Still, the Singularity calls…

~~~

What is the name of the Stream we swim?

Chaos? Where all is chance buffeting of semi-conscious molecules?

Time?  With Einstein’s pavers beneath oblivious feet?

Shadow?  We Dancing Projections of something beyond?

Hate? Tar and stenches of sulphur, inescapable…?

Love? Crystal aromas of joy, refracting soul Light – lifting, empowering…?

The Stream awaits its name –

live wisely…

~~~

People often say that Christmas isn’t about the gifts.

I disagree.

Christmas is about gifts.

It is ultimately about a gift of giving Self.

It is a Gift that can keep on giving – every day, every minute, every second…

Everyone can share that Gift…

Start today!

~~~

 

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Posted in children, Co-Creation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, Parents, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Resources and Tips to Improve Communication and (Your) Healthcare Quality

Posted by Plish on September 28, 2011

…Communication is two-sided – vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it… demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated. – Roger Sessions

The Joint Commission says over 70 percent of sentinel events — sentinel events are unexpected outcomes, death or injuries — over 70 percent are due to breakdown in communication, That’s a huge deal. – Sorrel King, Founder of Josie King Foundation

We know that when patients and clinicians communicate well, care is better. But in today’s fast-paced health care system, good communication isn’t always the norm. This campaign reminds us all that effective communication between patients and their health care team is important and that it is possible – even when time is limited. –  AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.

Communication – real, deep communication- seems difficult enough when two people are healthy and  have all the time in the world to share.

Now put those two people in a doctor’s office, make one a doctor and the other sick and communication becomes even more difficult.  And, if the quality of communication goes down, the quality of healthcare is not too far behind.

To help keep the level of communication high, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has begun an initiative to foster more effective communication between patients and clinicians. One aspect of the initiative emphasizes the importance of asking questions.  People ask all types of questions when buying a cellphone, why not when dealing with their health?  The AHRQ provides videos of both patients and clinicians, highlighting the importance of asking questions and being prepared for the doctor visit.

With regards to being prepared for the doc  visit, Dr. Oz provides a great one-sheet (it’s pictured at the beginning of this blog entry – click on it to get a copy) that helps women if they think they may have ovarian cancer.  What about if you have other problems?

Write the symptoms down- draw pictures showing where it hurts! Make your own list of problems and things to ask.

“The process of drawing is, before all else, the process of putting the visual intelligence into action, the very mechanics of visual thought. Unlike painting and sculpture it is the process by which the artist makes clear to himself, and not to the spectator, what he is doing. It is a soliloquy before it becomes communication. – Michael Ayrton

Ayerton’s quote is very apropos.  When we write and draw, we make things clear to ourselves. When things are clear we are able to articulate them better to others, and this improves the quality of communication- that is, if someone is listening.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. – Robert McCloskey

Listening is more than understanding what the other person is saying.  Listening, truly listening,  affirms the one speaking.  When we listen to others, those people feel valued for who they are; it builds trust.  It shows that we respect those people, that we value their stories, their dreams, where they’re going and where they’ve been.

With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing. – Catherine de Hueck Doherty

…Listening…

…Healing…

Maybe it’s not that innovative, but  it’s what healthcare is all about, isn’t it?

*****Postscript*****

I have an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon tomorrow, the 28th, and while in the shower thought of a couple of things that I hadn’t before with regards to how my leg is healing.  I’ve written it all down in my phone so I don’t miss anything in the morning (I wrote this blog on the evening of the 27th).  It’s actually a relief not having to expend energy forcing myself to remember what to say tomorrow.

Posted in Design, Healthcare, innovation, Life Stages, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Design and Innovation in the Context of Life’s Problems

Posted by Plish on December 31, 2010

“Jacob,” asked Mr. Gold whose days dangled by a thread, “where do you find the strength to carry on in life?”

“Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it,” said Jacob. “But I do find strength in the ashes.”

“In the ashes?” asked Mr. Gold.

“Yes,” said Jacob with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance.

“You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And each of us is on a journey.

“In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food.

“But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another’s fire, what we often find are the ashes.

“And in these ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony.

“Because these ashes tell us that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on.

“And that can be enough sometimes, that can be enough.”

-Jacob the Baker, by Noah benShea

The above story, taken from the delightful book, Jacob the Baker, was written by the author to help him and his dying father through the night. The words are profound and meaningful, especially for those people who are going through difficult times.

Ahhh, difficult times…

I am only now, finally getting my new computer and business systems running again.  If not for some annoyances that pop up every now and then, I can hardly tell that a little over a week ago my CPU/motherboard melted down in the midst of deadlines and the holidays.  Before that…

Fast rewind with me for a year and, like other people,  along the way you’ll  experience family illness, accidents, pain, even death…

This laptop debacle pales in comparison to the other things that happened over the course of a year.  Yet, this technological glitch was a frustrating event that meant schedule manipulation, late, sleepless nights, and more intense days. It did nothing to foster a more peaceful approach to the holidays.

Why do I bring this all up?

People’s lives can get extraordinarily messy.  In the midst of chaos, humans naturally seek some semblance of order. During those times, more than in others,  people expect things to work – especially the little things.  When the little things don’t work, it can push our patience to the limit.  We’ve all been there.

Interestingly enough, seldom do the design of products and services take this larger context of chaos into account.  Oh, sure, products are (hopefully!) designed to be easy to use, intuitive, and  pleasing.  Designers strive for empathy with people to make sure that they really understand what people are going through in their daily lives.  But it’s difficult to design for the effect that time and stress can have on people and how they go about living day to day.

Designing a sterile package that’s easy to open in an Emergency Room is not the same as making a package easy to open in an ER where a family of  six is coming in from a head-on collision – 14 hours into a shift in which more people have been lost than saved; the head nurse’s husband asked her for a divorce that morning; another’s child got sick in daycare so he had to call his brother to pick the child up; one ER doc’s car broke down and still isn’t repaired, another nurse is home with the flu; the only food anyone consumed has been a bag of Halloween candy, multiple soft drinks, 2 energy bars, and a bag of chips; and the ER is going to be audited the next day. That’s just the last 24 hours for this crew…

“Easy to open” takes on different meanings depending upon  the extent to which people have been stressed prior to opening the package.

 Now granted, not every person is going to be swamped 24/7.  There is respite in even the most hectic lives.    But I think we’ve all seen people become blubbering messes over something that just a week earlier was accomplished without any thought or emotion.  

Think, no, dream of what our lives would be like if things were designed so that even in our most frazzled states, the use of a product or service caused us to crack a smile, or pause, breathe and savor a flickering moment of peace.   What if, designing innovation meant that during those frantic times of searching through the ashes, someone made sure that we actually found a hot, glowing ember?

May you not only find encouragement in the ashes,

may you also find glowing embers – enough for you and enough to share.

I wish all of you a safe, healthy, wonder-filled 2011 and beyond!

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Life Stages, love, Social Responsibility, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eight Insights in Design from the World of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

This past weekend I was at the Midwest Bonsai Expo at Chicago’s Botanical Garden.  While there, I had the pleasure to watch and listen to a demonstration workshop by bonsai expert Michael Hagedorn.

While it was fascinating watching him transform a tree through his thoughtful touch, it was even more interesting to listen to his insights and reflections on bonsai, bonsai design, and hence design in general.

 Here are some thoughts of his from the workshop:

1. A good tree (design) should have three aspects: A – Elegance; B- Dignity; C – Presence.   However, it is not uncommon for these three to be doled out in different proportions.

I love this observation. It is no doubt influenced by his training in Japan.  How do designs (or even brands!) that you know of stack up?

2. “I should be invisible as an artist”  The tree is designed so that it stands on its own; that even though it’s been pruned and manipulated by the artist, it doesn’t look it.  It retains itself, or, “takes possession of itself,” once the designing part is over.  Think of it: after a product is released into the market place it stands on its own and grows into its own.

3. “Great people and great trees are the same.”  This is with regards to how the tree(design) ages, how it shows the scars of life and still comes through it all with Elegance, Dignity and Presence (see #1).

Some additional observations of mine:

4.  A good bonsai (design) is a result of the artist(designer) embracing the constraints.  A tree has branches, roots, soil, certain nutritional needs.  If any one constraint is ignored the result is a sickly tree (design) or worse.

5. It’s not about adding to the tree as much as it is taking away from the design and redirecting the tree to achieve Elegance, Dignity and Presence.  However…

6.  There are  wildcards like weather, those things outside of our control, that can scuttle all our bests efforts.  So all we can do is prepare the tree(design) for whatever the future may hold and hope for the best.

7. While bonsai are shown and meant to be seen from their ‘ front’,  really good bonsai (design) it seems, have something to look at from any direction.

8. Bonsai is a type for metadesign.  The self-building, synergistic, holistic, fractalesque nature of working with bonsai is beyond regular design.  Bonsai is an ongoing relationship and dialogue between the designer and the designed.

So what do you think?  Do these eight insights resonate with your own experience?  Can you think of examples that highlight or contradict them?

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Design, imagination, Life Stages, Meta-Design, nature, Nature of Creativity, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Design Thinking, Shminking…It’s About Being Human

Posted by Plish on June 8, 2010

I read this little tidbit over at Fast Company about how Design Thinking will give way to the next big thing: Hybrid Design.   I found myself having the same thoughts as those who responded to the article.  Most of those folks believed there was nothing really new being mentioned in the article other than the creation of  a new term to describe what’s already been happening for a while – a loooooong while.

So it got me thinking.

We call it “design thinking’ but a key aspect of design thinking is actually doing.   It’s about thinking by acting, or perhaps more properly, thinking through acting…

but then, maybe it’s by thinking by and through acting…

~Switch gears~

…While watching the Stanley Cup playoffs at my brother’s house, my kindergarten aged niece asked me to play a game entitled, “Invisible, Shminvisible.”

Even though my niece explained it carefully, I wasn’t able to really figure it out through listening.  So, I started playing the game with her and she and her older brother directed me.  Soon, I was a participant in the game.  It made sense.

Which brings us back to the discussion at hand.  I learned by playing and through playing.  It wasn’t about sitting down with a rule book (which I ‘m thankful for because I’m quite sure that such a book would be at least 5 – 10 pages long if penned in “instruction manual” lingo.)  It was about the wonderful process of looking, understanding and making.

So, bringing us full  circle here:

The evolution Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, children, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Life Stages, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, The Senses, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Will Technological Innovation Eliminate the Perceived Necessity for Social Change?

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2010

Conferences are great in that they make you think.

Today was no different.  While attending the Design Research Conference in Chicago today I heard references to technology being the great equalizer.   Those specific words weren’t used, but during one case study looking at the redesign of a hearing aid,  an elderly gentleman noted how when he uses current hearing aid technologies, their designs don’t disguise the fact he’s losing his hearing and in fact draw attention to it.  The result is that he feels marginalized by society.  The solution, obviously, was a better designed hearing aid that utilized really cool technology that didn’t draw attention to itself but yet made the hearer’s life easier.

First, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with utilizing technology to make the lives of the elderly easier.   But the above case study, and another mention of the ‘saving value’ of technology yesterday, got me thinking.

So, I did a Google search of “technology” and “save us” and the two phrases together bring up 934,000 hits. Apparently, I’m not the only one seeing a pattern.

Again, I’m not against technology at all, but if we rely on technology to come to the rescue of our designs, then  aren’t we missing the point?

The point is well articulated in the  following quote from here:

…(A)ll of technological optimism can be summed up in one desire: The desire not to have to change any of our current behaviors. And, yet it is our behavior that most of all needs changing.

That’s the crux of the issue – behaviors.

Here we are, innovating for a better world but at the same time, by extensively using technology we tacitly agree that the world and the people around us aren’t going to change their behaviors.  So, we use technology to make it less painful for those marginalized by society so they can live in a world of people who are cold.   Something doesn’t seem right here.

Now, to be fair, we’re talking about designing devices, so the design project’s charter does not include designing a better society per se.  But, this doesn’t mean that using technology to create a buffer against the indifference of the world doesn’t raise questions like:  

If we get efficient at palliating social stigmas through technology, will we reach a cultural tipping point where the desire to improve one’s self is no longer felt as a need because everyone around us seems ok?

Is that an acceptable situation? Is this a real possibility?  What could we do to prevent it from happening if it is?

Why does  IDEO’s approach to design thinking and Tim Brown’s definition below have to include technology as a given?

“Design thinking is an approach that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods for problem solving to meet people’s needs in a technologically feasible and commercially viable way. In other words, design thinking is human-centered innovation.”

Does the definition for human centered innovation have to include the necessity of technology?

What do you think?

Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, love, Social Networking, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Tackling an Obese Nation – Making “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” a Design Competition!

Posted by Plish on April 8, 2010

I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  At first I wasn’t too keen on the show.  I didn’t like the premise: Guy from a different country comes to the US to make the US healthier as part of a reality TV show. The motive is good but it’s still Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Deep down I feel that for this to be uber-successful it needs to be called something like, “The USA’s Nutrition Revolution – Living Life!”  Revolutions belong to the people, never to one person. (Yes, I realize that one person often starts a  revolution and that others join in – yet, I think this might get more traction if  the focus were changed.  I do need to point out that it seems clear to me that Jamie isn’t in this for his own glory.  He genuinely cares about the issue of obesity, especially in children)

Well, I’ve seen a couple of episodes, and I have to say that I’m intrigued and actually enjoy watching.  I’m shocked though by what I’m seeing: Kids that can’t name basic vegetables, bureaucracies that favor cheap pre-fab food over fresh foods, parents that have given up providing their kids with healthy food.  Every episode reveals something new and not always flattering about the nutritional delivery system in this country.

It also struck me that this show/movement  could be viewed as a design project. 

What do I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, children, Contests, creativity, Design, design thinking, Education, Food, Health Concerns, innovation, Life Stages, Parents, Politics, problem solving, Social Networking, Society, Stories, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Innovations in Elder Care Demand a Different Paradigm

Posted by Plish on March 5, 2010

I’d like to have a spirited word or two with the person who popularized the concept that as adults get older they become children while their children become the parents.

This concept has warped elder care and hurt the cause of innovation in hospitals, nursing and rehab facilities around the country (and perhaps the world) as it is a classically misapplied case of: If A=B, and C=B, then A=C.

In other words:

Elderly people need help to bathe,  use the bathroom,  dress,  or eat.   Young children need help to bathe, use the bathroom,  dress, or eat.   Therefore Elderly = Children, and they should be treated as such.

WRONG!

A recent shocking study pointed out that speaking to elderly people like children actually took years off their lives!

This problem exists not only in the speech of caregivers but in the systems that are supposed to bring elderly back into society.  Take, for example, elderly going through rehab therapy.   The elderly individual, who perhaps only weeks earlier had made a meal for the family or gone hunting in the woods, is required to manipulate and stack plastic colored building blocks or pieces of felt into  certain patterns.   When that task is completed they’re congratulated with glee as if it was the first time this person ever accomplished that task.  “That was great sweetie!! Now try this one!”

Or take the elderly woman who painted  and scanned a modern Christmas card design on a computer only 6 months prior, and was  given a ‘paint-by-number’ task at a rehab facility.  For an elderly person who had never painted before this might be a significant accomplishment, but for this artist, it was a reminder of the frailty of the human person.

While physical attributes were perhaps improved through therapy, in neither case was the elderly person  elevated and treated with respect.   The system, although it had the best of intentions, did not treat the entire person and in fact may actually have contributed to future morbidity.

To innovatively change and design healthcare systems for the elderly there needs to be a change of perspective and greater empathy – empathy on the parts of nurses, doctors, therapists, and family members. 

Being elderly and being cared for is not the same as being a child being cared for.  It is an entirely different experience that demands better techniques and communication modalities that account for the fact that the elderly person is a living history, a person who simply can not do all the things they could do.  That is essentially different from working with children who never knew they could do something.

It is a simple, powerful, painful difference.

In one case there is the memory of a task, in the other there is rejoicing in new found potential.  The latter is decidingly easier to empathize with and perhaps that is why too many people opt for this perspective and treat the elderly like children. 

The former is painful and more difficult to empathize with, perhaps because it is what awaits us all in some way.

But, if we make the brave jump to truly empathize with the elderly, we rest assured that the innovations we bring to the table will not only improve the lives of those who are currently treated like children, but will one day make our lives better and allow us to experience, and live with, respect and dignity.

Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, children, cognitive studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Health Concerns, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, love, Parents, Research, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

10 Life Lessons from the NICU= 10 Lessons for Innovative Design

Posted by Plish on February 22, 2010

I came across this amazing post over at Christine Kane’s blog.

Sue Ludwig, the founder of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists, enumerates 10 lessons she learned from the patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Having done research in the NICU myself, so many of the observations resonated personally.  What really hit me though is that Sue has hit on important points that should be part of all design projects, not just in the healthcare setting but all designs that impact people.

1. Humans are constantly  ‘in process’.

2. Be open to various forms of communication: Experience what is being communicated in multiple ways, not what you’d like to perceive.

3. Environment is important!

4. ~Human touch is essential~

5. Bonding and enjoyment comes from food and social interaction.

6. Make room for the Human Spirit!

7. Comfort/Sleep/Healing – Everyone needs them.

8. Fragility and Strength are at the core of Human Beauty and independent of the size of the person.

9. Great insights like those above come from being immersed in your world, from observing and reflecting on those experiences, from being in awe of life.

10. If you forget the first eight, remember and live number nine and the rest will come to you.

Posted in Best Practices, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, idea generation, innovation, Life Stages, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lessons in Design Process from the Egyptian Pyramids

Posted by Plish on October 26, 2009

Since the ancient Egyptians didn’t technically document their design process, I decided to do some reading and tease out the process that they used to design and construct the pyramids.  What I came up with is diagrammed below.  

pyramiddesign michaelplishka2009

Click to See Full Size

Their overarching concern was obvious: build a suitable eternal home for their ruler in a limited time

These constraints (italicized in the above sentence) bounded their design/build process.  If we agree with video game developer, Dino Dini, that the definition of a design process is, ‘the management of (negotiable and non-negotiable) constraints,” then in fact the Egyptians were indeed using a design process as they were accutely active in managing some very basic constraints:

1.  Materials

2.  Workers

3.  Guiding Perspectives on the Afterlife (Providing for the needs of the dead)

4.  Manufacturing/Construction/Artistic Techniques (Technology + Art)

5.  Time

Of the above 5 constraints,  two constraints  were non-negotiable: ‘Guiding Perspectives on the Afterlife’ and ‘Time’.

Their Perspectives on the Afterlife dictated what must be contained in the tomb from foodstuffs to boats, to how the tomb was constructed. 

Time, or rather, time to the death of the ruler, was a powerful, non-negotiable constraint.  The structure basically had to be completed in time for the entombment.

These two constraints impacted the other three constraints as is clear from the archeological record.   The materials used, the technologies chosen for building aspects of the tomb, the abandonment of various aspects of the tomb and focus on other areas, the use of more or less workers, the change in architectural layout during the course of construction, all these were done in response to the non-negotiable constraints.

While managing these constraints they were basically following the User Centered Design process as spelled out in ISO 13407 and summarized below:

Courtesy of devx.com

Only they were doing it over 5000 years ago…

Posted in creativity, Design, Funding Innovation, imagination, invention, Life Stages, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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