She emphasizes that organizations are forced to plan for a future that they don't understand in a present that is influenced by vast, complex systems.
Graphic capture by Heather Willems of Image Think (large view)
As she was developing herself and her career, she worked with many leaders in the field and early on, began working with graphic recorders and facilitators. Her experience if working with clients is that if you are in the futures field, and helping groups with strategy and insight, then the visual and creative tools are essential instruments.
Whenever she goes to an event, she thinks of process, of visual process. It in not just what goes on the paper, but what goes on in the mind of the graphic recorder, what they are sensing, what the are picking up for the other people in the room.
The Future Landscape
What are the critical stories underlying all these trends, of this world that we are all moving into? No doubt, the current pace of change is moving us into a problem space that makes best practice obsolete.
Think about the most pressing issues we are facing:
- the mortgage back securities, etc.--and the effects on the entire system from housing to education.
- the complexity of childhood obesity and all the systems that affect the foodscape, media, patterns of living.
- the E Coli outbreak in California and the intersection of food, society, immigration, processing, transportation, production and consumption.
- the oil spill in the Gulf. The causes and the "solutions" they tried--stuffing mud, golfballs, rocks down a hole--all came from best practices of 1910. The Lakeview Gusher of Kern Co was 5x the Gulf spilll and gushed for 18 months.
For a problem like this, you need multiple disciplines and experts in different spaces to come together to share in new ways, to cross-pollinate and create new practices based on systems thinking.
graphic capture using an iPad by Rachel Smith (enlarge image)
At the edge of complex, chaotic problem space, we are faced with these "wild cards" or "black swan" events that are rare, extreme and always unexpected.
There are "wicked problems" or social messes that are hard to define, are system in complexity, on-going, with poor measures. These never end, because every solution leads to unintended consequences that build and compound each other, leading to another crisis.
Our old game of producing a "rule book" or "set of best practices" doesn't work. Many of the client we all work with are struggling with this challenge of the novel practice required.
Our old standard of thinking is based on simple cause and effect analysis. But with our interconnected economies and social systems, the cause and the effect become more an more divergent, disconnect and "invisible".
Here we have to discover the problem in creating a process of emergent exploration and generate new patterns, novel practices. All of this is dependent on the ability to quickly collaborate in loose networks with shared patterns.
This is the world of large corporations, local governments, long supply chains and uncertainty.
This is way there is an emergence and acceptance of new ways of thinking, of "design thinking", promoted by the likes of frog design, IDEO, Roger Martin, to reach into research, cognition, imagination and insight.
This is way there is more acceptance to methods and tools like open innovation, crowdsourcing, social media as useful to discovering the novel practice.
Companies like Innocentive are using crowdsourcing to find new problems to health, scientific and social problems. During the Gulf Oil Spill, Innocentive's site received and posted thousands of plausible solutions, including and amazing solution from an high school which proposed a oil absorbtion solution using nylon stockings and baking soda. Unfortunately, BP was not interacting with the platform of open design.
- Processes: create inspiration, learning
- Platforms: open, collaborative, attract diverse talent, combine knowledge
- Incentives: Opportunities for intrinsic reward, low thresholds for participation.
Failure needs to become seen as a verb not an identity. Saying "whoops! I failed." is very different from saying "I am a failure."
The current system is set up to inhibit collaboration. In the sciences and education, we are set up to apply for grants established to target one angle of a wicked problem. But then the grantees received the money and scatter back to their institutions, back to silos.
In Cognative Surplus, Clay Shirky writes about the desire to create and contribute as a powerful driver for people. THe trick is to create low thresholds to participate, to have one's contribute included in a larger effort.
A Sensory Transformation Creates New Visual Awareness.
Our species is constantly and rapidly evolving in terms of cognition and devices for collaboration and getting stuff done.
In futures study, for every year forward we want to project, we need to take a look at 2 years back.
If we go way back to early ancestors (Australopithecuss africanus) the "new device" story involves the freeing of our hands--and minds--through new tools, enabling conceptual thoughts.
Once domestication gave us "fixed walls" we have the original silo story. When we as species made the shift to fixed walls, we created communal spaces, public interactions, but also private space. Once you have walls, you have a limited view on what is happening "over there". The magic of what we can't see gives rise to magic, witch craft, the evil eye, all driven by a major sensory shift.
We are experiencing a major sensory shift now. In the 80sit was computing, the 90s it was communications and connectivity, and in this coming decade we are growing our sensory capacity. The network now has access to networked, cheap, ubiquitous sensors, allowing objects to become autonomous, animated object.
GPS, video, data, location, proximity, frequency, messages, images, noise, weather, environment... we are able to quickly aggregate this layer of information that use to be invisible.
The device become the revealer of all this "magic" stuff.
Insects use stigmergy, the creation of physical markers and trails for other creatures to coordinate decisions and coordinate actions.
In this era of sensory information allows us to see into ourselves more deeply.
- Glow allows us to map and track peoples emotions in the environment and map it. Imagine being able to sense and create a map of emotions of an organization in real time.
- The Quantified Self, a project by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, are mapping the emerging space of personal tools for knowing your own mind and body.
This new sensory ecosystem of devices and data are being given visual and physical manifestation through data visualization and art. Artists and scientists are combining motion detection, color, shape, quantification, symbols and metaphor.
Interactions are being enabled in a whole new way. Each individuals can be a producer, a commentator, a creator, a collaborator instead of merely a passive consumer.
A Shift in Attention, Perspective
Kevin Kelly emphasises that the zillions of signals are unrelenting, requiring us to develop new ways to create meaning.
An Emerging Literacy for Data Visualization and Interactions
dashboards, maps, mashups, a data enriched discourse, a new visual public. What is seen, unseen?
Extended Human Capacities Remake Organizations
"Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new products, but when they adopt new behaviors.
Organization resemble their information systems. Skyscapper = file cabinet.
Supersizing the Mind, Andy Clark
Explores cognative extension.
Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky
How digital media is extending the powers of collaboration and coordination.
Our organizational structure can begin to look like the distributed networks we find all over nautre (as well as at Starbucks).
The more we can find new ways to explore and exploit these tools and methods for extensition of cognition, coordination and self-organization, the more potential we have to affect change in our existing organizations.
Grobinites for Charity grew out of a loose group of fans who have moved beyond their love for Josh Grobin to create a philanthropical organization.
Facilitating Self-Organization Creates Value
We are, as a society, in the tension between the Old World Organization, for which content is centralized, controlled, protected and monetized and the New World Organization for which content creation is open, collaborative, free.
Examples: Transition California, Innocentive, Future Melbourne
The challenge for our clients and organizations is this: How do they hold on to the value they have created, while letting go of the open process of self-organized, networked value creation?
New Stories Will Replace the Narratives of Collapsing Institutions and Systems
Our current institutions are simply not flexible enough, fast enough, to move in the amplified decentralized playspace.
"Myths struggle to catch up with our reality." - Paul Saffo
This next generation is moving away from the myth of the lone genius, the superstar entrepreneur who goes off to the high mountaintop and comes back with the prescription for collosal, foundamental change. The real power is in the invisible collective, where the hero is the cooperative network. The value is social production, not simply the product or the productivety gains.
Visual Practice 2020
Supports a solution space driven by generating novelty, by inspiration and novel practice. Reveals meaning in a new sensory world and a digital public. Facilitates super-empowered groups to form and create value. Builds narratives of interdepenced.
What is a good definition for "inspiration": when emotion and cognition come together to meet the challenge of the task at hand.
How Do You Begin?
Make the case that supporting the Old Way is under-leveraging the human capacity. Organizational structures align to the what the notion of "value creation" is. In the science and medical field we think about expert knowledge, that it requires the deep knowledge. The structure undermines the power of export knowledge when it is not able to connect. It will plateau, attrophy and die.
What Does This Mean for Viusal Practice?
- What kinds of challenges will clients face in this emerging landscape?
- What role can visual practice play in creating a digital, civic sphere?
- How can visual practice create value for hierarchies and networks?