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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Three Words That Will Alert You To Opportunities for Innovation and Growth

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2017

“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can play Pokémon for that long”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy an iPad when an Android works just as well”
“How can anyone listen to {Taylor Swift, Kanye West, etc….}?”  (This is a veiled way to say “I don’t understand.”)
I Don’t Understand…

 

Those three words represent a disconnect from people and objects. They represent a lack of understanding of how people are being served, or how their desires are (or aren’t) being met. They point to how we don’t understand how people’s aspirations may be enabled and thus they point to how we don’t understand the opportunities present.

But perhaps more importantly, those three words highlight that we haven’t taken the time to understand people. What does that say about us? We like to think of ourselves as well informed, as perhaps at The Cutting Edge, as caring human beings.  Yet, we are confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena where millions of people are fans of a product, service, or person.

There’s a lesson here regardless of what products we like, or what people we want for president, or what games we play. We need to be tuned in to what other people want. If we really want to build better communities, a better world, we need to understand each other. We need to know where people are coming from. We need to know what types of things are passionately driving people in their day-to-day lives.

Niches of (Not) Understanding

Those words, “I don’t understand…” alert us to niches.  When designing products and services, we must play in those niches . And as we’ve seen, those niches can be comprised of millions and millions of people.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to what people do. Pay attention to what people say. Understand what excites people. What makes people happy? What do people feel that they will lose if they don’t have something? What will people feel they will gain if they do have something or if they don’t?

Today the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is being sworn in. His election highlights the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who don’t understand how somebody could vote for somebody else. That means that there are millions of people that’s simply don’t understand their fellow Americans people that’s too high a number.  If we’re designing a better country, (and that’s something that everyone seemingly wants), we need to rise above caricatures and start understanding each other’s motivations and pains.  We need to really understand and not lump everyone into neat little political, racial, socio-economic, etc. silos of categorization.

Misunderstanding

Thinking we understand is perhaps even worse than not understanding at all. When we misunderstand, we risk going down the unfruitful paths.  We risk spending money, time and energy on things that won’t resonate and hence won’t succeed.    Can anyone say “Edsel“?

Listen For Those Three Words

“I don’t understand”  Use those words as a springboard to exploring the relationships, needs, and desires, of people. Those words are the key to new products, services, and even in the bigger picture, a better world.  At at the end of the day, the best thing we can say is, “I understand why…” , or “I understand how…”

Once we understand, we grow.  When we’ve grown, we can get to work designing  solutions:  better products, better services, a better world.

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Posted in culture of innovation, Design, innovation, observation, Politics, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Designing and Curating Perceptions of Vodou (Part Deux)

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2014

At the end of my last post on the Vodou Exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum, (you might want to click the link and give it a read if you want to come up to speed,) I mentioned that I’d visit the exhibition again  and see if my thoughts changed.

I did.

They didn’t.

Friday night was an event in which Chicago’s Haitian community welcomed the new exhibit with delicious verve (See Figure 1 below).  It was a great opportunity to speak with artists and others about the exhibit, to get their opinions.

Many of theirs were similar to mine.

However, I did do something different this time. I spent more time looking up at the banners, and I spent more time on the artifacts that didn’t appear to be from secret societies.  (I didn’t just look, I studied, read, worked at really trying to understand.) In the end, this lightened the experience considerably, but did it dispel the overall dark vibe of the exhibit?

No.

What will help?

My suggestions for event would be the following.

  1. Change the banners that are used for publicity.  They contain Secret Society Lwa.  Do something lighter.
  2. Tell a story with the exhibition.  Start with the misconceptions you want to dispel, the points you want to get across. Then start dispelling and telling the story of Haiti and Vodou. Explain the day to day in Haiti and where Vodou fits.  Show how it interacts with other religions – perhaps even how families often practice Catholicism and Vodou simultaneously.
  3. Build an elevated area that is behind a red curtain (or make the curtain look like a forest covered mountainside. )  Entitle that section: “Inside Vodou’s Secret Societies”.  Maybe put a small disclaimer at the beginning saying small children might be disturbed by what’s inside.  Put those Secret Society artifacts (an example of which is in Figure 2 below), behind the curtain and out of the main stream of the exhibit.  Make sure it’s not somewhere in the middle of the exhibit.  The Secret Societies are not mainstream and mixing these artifacts in with the everyday artifacts mischaracterizes what many people experience in everday Vodou.  However, Secret Societies need to be referenced in the everyday exhibits- after all, they did indeed impact Haitian life. I also believe that ‘hiding’ the Secret Society artifacts will do another thing: people will slow down.  When people are in fearful situations, they tend to move more quickly. If you want people to move slowly and observe – hide the dark stuff.
  4. Children are noticeably absent from many of the videos and explanations.  Of the Haitians I spoke with, all of them had non-intimidating memories of Vodou as a child.  They remember the brightness, the music, the activity on Holidays.  If a child can feel it, adults will too.
  5. Move explanations closer to artifacts and make them readable without having to bend neck or body.  Bring banners closer to eye level.  Create exhibits that allow the most visitors to stand straight and tall.  Haitians wanted this (and still do!) and Vodou helped them.
  6. Include more ways for people to interact and touch.  Granted, the artifacts at the exhibition are were used in Vodou and as such, are not open to touching.  But, there are other ways to help people to hear, taste, feel, smell, touch.  Drumming is key to Vodou.  Let people make virtual drums (or real ones!) Get innovative!
  7. Provide more of the beauty of Haiti! More green, more color, breezes, salt water aroma, music, you get the idea.  Vodou is about the interconnectedness of all things, life, death, sky, earth, plants, water, etc.  Set more of the context, not just socio-politically (which incidentally, this exhibition did a better job of doing.)
  8. End the exhibition showing how Haiti is growing (albeit slowly and painfully at times) and what challenges lie ahead.  Reiterate how Vodou has been a misunderstood part of the process, that Vodou comes from the heart of the Haitian culture and it’s been responsible for establishing a spirit of  (and physical!) freedom in a nation.  Show bright artwork that comes from Haitian artists, even those works from those mounted by spirits.

With the above changes, I believe the exhibit would better accomplish its goal of dispelling misconceptions of Vodou.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’d do!

Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Figure 1. Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Secret Society Lwa

Figure 2. Secret Society Lwa

Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrots

Figure 3  Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrors.  This was one of the more mellow looking mirrors

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Conveying Information, creativity, curation, Design, Education, Experience, Information Visualization, Politics, prayer, Religion, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Curation and Design Didn’t Dispel the Darkness of Vodou (Which is NOT Voodoo)

Posted by Plish on November 3, 2014

I had an opportunity to go to a Member’s Only night at Chicago’s Field Museum.  The event was in honor of the opening of a new exhibition entitled: Vodou – Sacred Powers of Haiti.

One of the highlights of the night was a discussion led by Field Museum Exhibit Project Manager, Janet Hong. On the panel were Dr. Serge Pierre Louis and Kira Tippenhauer.  Both people are Haitian born, and brought unique perspectives on Vodou (which is considered different from Voodoo, which is identified with New Orleans)

From Left to Right: Dr. Serge Pierre Louis, Kira Kira Tippenhauer, and Janet Hong.

Figure 1  From Left to Right: Dr. Serge Pierre Louis, Kira Tippenhauer, and Janet Hong.

To start the discussion, Ms. Hong asked for Dr. Serge’s and Kira’s impressions of the exhibit.  Their answers were not, judging from the reaction of Ms. Hong, what she expected.

Kira’s first word was “dark”, and she spoke the word with a hint of disappointment in her voice.  Clearly she did not want to say those words.  She struggled for more words…  Dr. Serge chimed in and agreed, and used the word “ferocious”, to which Kira agreed it was the word she’d been searching for.

Dark…Ferocious…

Those are the types of words you’d expect to hear from people who are unfamiliar with Vodou.  Those words describe my impression of the exhibit and the impressions of others I spoke to as well. Unfortunately, those were the impressions that the exhibition team was trying to dispel: “…the exhibition team made a concerted effort to eschew the image of vodou as a “scary” or “spooky” subject…seemingly-macabre motifs like skulls, bones, skeletons and weaponry are represented in a reverent light, similar to the role of decorated and candy skulls as part of Dia de los Muertos in Mexican culture. Images of Vodou as dark and death-centric stem from misrepresentations the exhibition aims to dispel.”

So, where did the exhibition go wrong?  How does something that’s supposed to dispel perceptions of darkness, perpetuate it? How does darkness permeate when Haitians live in perpetual summer, lush greenery, flowers and nature, and live life filled with joyous dance, song, and savory foods?

It’s not like the exhibit was designed in an asympathetic manner.  The exhibit was co-designed by Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, who is a PhD anthropologist and practicing Vodou priestess.  Yet, design and curation did not harmoniously weave an experience that dispelled misrepresentations of Vodou, and instead, darkness prevailed over experiential light.

Why did this happen?

The exhibition is not brightly lit. (The pictures I took below give the impression lighting was quite bright. This is a side-effect of the camera settings used because flash is not allowed)

While not necessary per se, there is scant multimedia and no interactive technology  at all.  Again, Vodou seems to be very tactile and sensory based.  Not having ways to interact in some way was a negative.

The layout was not easy to take in.  There is a wall explaining the history of Haiti’s struggles and victories and it runs into a wall at the end.  When you finish reading you are right next to the entrance to the exhibit. (This is visible in Figure 4. below.  The ending is behind the lwa in the corner by the drapes.) You literally have to start the exhibit over again, and you’re put into the flow of those entering.

Then there’s the  upper and lower displays.  Even though everything is on one floor, it is actually split into two halves, either by accident or by design.  Sculptural works are on ground level, and beautifully decorated, brightly colored ceremonial banners, as well as many artifacts, are hung high above.  As a result, artifact descriptions are not correlated directly to their artifacts in an intuitive manner, hence there’s confusion about what description belongs with what.   The descriptions are also written with uncomfortably small letters.   It forces people to bow their heads and/or hunch their shoulders and/or bend ever so slightly to read.  This posture is uncomfortable and is also one of vulnerability, and people don’t like to be vulnerable in front of something that they don’t know, especially if it looks scary!

Forcing people to look down also had an unfortunate side effect.  Beautiful, sparkling banners that radiate light,   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts, Case Studies, Conveying Information, curation, Design, Experience, Information Visualization, Politics, Religion, Society, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“What Can I do? I’m One Person.” How About Build a Country? That’s Innovative Design!

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2014

Courtesy of History.com

Today is the 4th of July.  I sat down and re-read the Declaration of Independence.  Read it for yourself.

Brilliant Simplicity.

The Beginnings of something great and glorious.

Empathy

Introspection and Self-Knowledge

Reflection on the Human Condition

Keen understanding of the current situation in the country and the world

Knowledge of other domains, other political systems

~Courage~

This is great design!

This is Innovation!

(Reflect upon what these individuals did.  They began building a country and a way of government that the world had never seen before!)

Who are you?

What is the stuff you are made of?

Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness

The 4th of July is not about what the government did, it’s about what people did!

Start designing…

Happy Independence Day!

 

Posted in Authenticity, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Politics, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want to Harness the Power of “We”? Innovation Starts with “I”

Posted by Plish on March 3, 2014

People like to point to the fact that Thomas Edison had an entire innovation factory working for him, that innovation was a team effort.  While this is true in general, the deeper truth is that Edison was an entrepreneur.  He had to get the ball rolling.  At the beginning, the ideas were his, the dreams were his, the innovation factory was his baby.  He worked to make things happen.  Even in the context of the “We” of his facility in Menlo Park, there were commitments from each individual employed there.

Innovation starts with “I”.  It starts in the heart; it starts with an individual commitment, an individual work ethic. Before it can become a communal effort it needs to be an individual dream. Innovation has entrepreneurial roots.  When individuals come together with common goals, empowered to make dreams reality, when they’re given freedom to experiment, to be creative, to try, fail, learn and grow, when people are rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically, then “We” means something.  Until then, it’s simply a word used in the context of stirring political, and corporate, pep rallies.

Please don’t misunderstand me. “We” is powerful.  But it’s only powerful if the following criteria are met:

  1. Everyone being called, “We”, must consider themselves part of “We.” (If I say you’re part of a Tribe, you need to agree.)
  2. Anyone saying, “We”, must be acknowledged as part of “We”. (If you say you’re part of a Tribe, I need to agree.)
  3. “We” must all believe in the same goals and means to accomplish those goals.  (Each individual agrees to certain roles.)
  4. Each individual receives a reward for contributing to “We”.
  5. Each individual must be empowered to act in ways that helps accomplish the goals of “We”.
  6. “We” does not turn against the individual.  “We” respects the individual.  As such, “We” respects, and needs, diversity – especially in the context of innovation.

“We”, paradoxically, is fragile. If all 6 of the above criteria are not met, especially the first 3, there is no “We”.   Strictly speaking, we is a virtual entity – it only exists when the above 6 criteria are met.  Saying “We can do this! We can change this!” while perhaps inspiring,  provides no direction.

On the other hand, “I” does not have the pre-requisites above.  It is powerful and strong.  Yes, there may be circumstances that hinder innovation.  But, in the end, it’s about digging deep and finding a way.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

So, how do we create “We”?

Address the needs of, inspire and empower, the individual.  Let people be “I”.  Let people be authentic, let them be true to themselves.  People are social creatures, they leverage relationships naturally when given opportunities.  “We” – Tribes – form somewhat spontaneously where individuals blossom.

You are change!

Make a difference in your own life, in your family, in your community!

The ripples will build upon themselves, and the “We” that’s formed will be even more powerful.

Innovation starts with “I”.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Politics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Working For Peace (From a Thankful Place)

Posted by Plish on November 21, 2012

As we here in the United States get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that even with the disagreements we have, we can still go to sleep and not have to worry about missiles landing on our homes.  In other parts of the world, people aren’t as fortunate.

In the Middle East, things are particularly sensitive right now.  Nevertheless, there are those that are working for peace in the midst of turmoil.  Wednesday morning (in the US), peacemakers and educators in Israel, Gaza and Palestine will gather together in a non-violent dialogue.  You can listen and be a participant by visiting the website here.

Let’s all share from our plenty.

~peace~

 

Posted in Human Rights, innovation, Politics, problem solving, Religion, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovating a Nation – Happy 4th of July!

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2012

The Original Declaration. Click to go the National Archive to learn more.

When people talk of innovations, they speak of business models, products and services.  In the United States, people forget that we areable to be an innovative society because of a great innovation in the governmental realm:

A  new type of government formed by the people, to secure their rights to, “…Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Thanks to the chutzpah of the Founding Fathers (they were speaking treason after all) we are the inheritors of one heck of an innovation.

They saw the situation, knew it needed to be changed, and did something about it. They put their lives and livelihoods on the line.  They collaborated to come up with a statement of purpose and followed up relentlessly until their dream became reality in, and through, the US Constitution.

This was innovation!

Thank you to all the following who pledged their ‘Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor’ in signing the Declaration of Independence (which you can read by clicking on the link)

Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry,  Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn South.   Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thank you to all those that have worked and fought to keep this nation and her people, free and able to be, a nation of innovation!

Happy Birthday, United States!

Posted in Design, Human Rights, innovation, Politics, Social Innovation, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Environments and Creativity – Why Not in Political Discourse?

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2011

A little over a year ago I blogged on optimizing your environment for creative output.  I also wrote about the pros and cons of open office plans.

I wanted to share this article from today’s Wall Street Journal that touches on both of the above topics.  One amazing tidbit:

…Researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

All this got me thinking about how early philosophers and politicians carried out their discussions in open air forums, surrounded by fresh air and blue sky.  They dreamed of ways of improving the world, becoming better people, and their imaginations would soar. 

We are indebted to their innovative thinking still, today.

I wonder how much more creative and effective our elected officials would be if their sessions were in an open air environment, without rows of desks and aisles, no left or right…

Their work might actually have the freedom to soar,

and we, likewise…

Posted in Architectural Design, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Politics, The Senses, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Road to Ecologically Sustainable Design and the Sacred Space Paradox

Posted by Plish on July 8, 2010

We set things apart for special use all the time.  We keep a special set of plates and silverware for special occasions.  We give those utensils and plates extra special treatment, washing them in special ways, storing them in extra safe locations,  being extra careful not to break or chip them.

On the other hand, the every day stuff we’re more careless with.  We clean the stuff using everyday cleaning methods, and if we break something, it’s okay because we can always replace it. 

There are two different mindsets at work.  In the former case we’re  elevating objects to the level of being sacred.  We’re acknowledging that these objects are special, perhaps even holy.  In the latter, there is a sense of mundaneness – we could say that the objects are profane.  (Anthropologically speaking, sacred/profane is not equal to good/evil.  Sacred/profane can be good/bad, bad/good, etc.) 

Just like we reserve a set of dinnerware for special purposes, it’s been a common practice over the course of the last century or so, for governments to set aside chunks of land and designate them as preserves, as land set aside for a special purpose, as ‘sacred’ land.  While this is usually viewed in a positive light, and it has undoubtedly saved land from misuse and abuse, it has an interesting side effect.

Just as having the dichotomy between special and everyday dinnerware creates two sets of rules in how the dinnerware gets treated, so too, creating nature preserves as separate sacred entities fosters two sets of rules in dealing with the environment.

The two rules are, “Do what you want outside the preserves  as long as you try and minimize your impact on others and the world, but inside the preserves  nothing is allowed except appreciation and minimal interference.” 

The preserves are disconnected from the greater whole and are treated as closed, ‘sacred’ systems.  The rest of the world is viewed by default, not as “sacred” per se, but as profane.  Oh sure, people try to be eco-friendly, but we’re willing to stretch the rules a little bit because after all, we’re not in the middle of a preserve like the Grand Canyon.  Admit it, when you see a cup lying in the gutter of a city it usually doesn’t create the same visceral reaction as seeing the same cup floating down a river, does it?

And that’s the problem.

While the idea of setting aside preserves is indeed noble and well intentioned, is this really what we want?  Wouldn’t it be better if every part of the world was treated as sacred space?  How might a city be different if it treated its ecosystem as sacred as opposed to excusing it by saying, “It’s a city.  It’s okay if it alters the landscape and water absorption and wind patterns.”  Instead, if everything was seen as sacred,  manufacturing and  water purification processes would be designed with the goal of putting water back into the environment at equal or better quality than what they started with!  

This phenomenon isn’t only present on the macro level.  It’s present on the micro-level as well, as hospitals operate Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, nature, Politics, Religion, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 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 »

 
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