We’ve been creating and refining this set of tools for ten years. We use them in our own work, but we also teach others to use them in a wide variety of settings, from world-class design schools to internal training sessions. Have a read of the descriptions, and contact us if you’d like to know more.
Light, Not Liquid
We often describe information as a liquid; flowing through channels, held in containers. Yet it is neither helpful nor inviting to imagine information as a uniform, slippery substance, a cold pool into which we must plunge for answers.
Information is useful because of the differences we find in it. The separate particles and pixels of information come together to help us focus, gain new perspectives, or fire our imaginations. We should think of information as light, not liquid.
The Gallery of the Mind
Innovation can be simply seen as the connections you make that others do not. It is a creative practice, and one that can be improved.
Where do your ideas come from? How do you share them with others? Do you ever think about how others think?
You are part of endless network of thinkers. Which means how you think about information can transform how you listen, learn, think and share ideas, and make your innovation practice more successful.
Context isn’t everything, but it is everything else. Nobody ever truly thinks in isolation; we are all products of our social and material environments.
The least we can do is be aware of the factors that may colour our own thinking, and that of others.
Better still, we can seek to better understand the different contexts in which other people live, and try to imagine how they see the world.
Photonic / Organic
When we imagine information as light, we can also begin to picture how individuals and groups react to this stimuli.
The way in which information is created, combined and transmitted has been transformed. However, the way we process information, as individuals or groups, remains largely unchanged.
Our challenge then is to understand the implications of this new combination, at the individual, group, and societal levels.
The thinking systems we design for ourselves cannot afford to be static and slow.
For particles of information to freely form new ideas again and again, we must create ways of seeing patterns form and reform time and again, with ease and grace.
We call this approach Metamechanics, a system of movement, maps, loops and layers that helps us collect and use information to continually see new patterns emerge.
There is an art to running a workshop in ways that help the collective imagination create endless sparks of ingenuity.
Yet so often, the potential of precious time together goes to waste, especially when groups can’t be co-located.
Our custom method of planning and running these session adapts to any environment, and uses ‘information as light’ as a central pillar for creating flashes of inspiration.
And like a kaleidoscope, a great workshop is all in the twist…
Zenko (Japanese for ‘good fox’) is a design system we created for agile
It helps teams make good decisions about what the right thing to do is, not just the next thing. Simply put, it’s about adaptation.
The fox is a master of adaptation. It will eat largely anything, live anywhere, and happily thrive in social groups of any size. In our own ever-changing environments, adaptability is the key to success.
We cannot hold on to fixed views, but thrive on what the world gives us.
We use the Obliquiscope as an aperture setting for reality.
It works to bring your focus to bear at different layers of a scenario or situation. Depending on what you need to do, it helps you see the surroundings more clearly, or blurs them for convenience.
It helps a novice understand the basic principles of how to zoom in and out, and for an experienced practitioner it is a visual reminder to be methodical in their inquiries.
Moments of Enlightenment
Strategy is only as powerful as your knowledge of the landscape allows. This tool takes the idea of information as light to the 10,000 feet view.
Flexible enough to look at individual, team or organisational performance, it helps you see how information is received, combined, applied and actioned in a business.
By identifying the filters which block out important information and keep teams in the dark, you can quickly spot the necessary strategic steps to take.
Especially in current times, companies need more practical futuring on a regular basis, not expensive reports that are out-of-date as soon as they’re published.
Our futures thinking toolkit has been honed by five years of teaching Innovation and Future Thinking at IED in Barcelona. This tool takes the best practices from the discipline and turns them into a more holistic canvas, helping practitioners assemble different futures whilst simultaneously deconstructing the past.
Reflection is a powerful tool, but an even more interesting metaphor. As we look back, what do we see coming the other way? How does it change us? How do we act as a result?
At the beginning of 2020, I was invited to pull together a talk on 15 years worth of thinking. No doubt I went through very similar thoughts as anyone else would when set such a challenge. What do I think now? What did I think then? Which mistakes in thinking am I happy to have made? How do my ideas and beliefs look in the cold light of day? If there is a persistent vision in all of this, what is it?
The last question in particular brought sharp clarity. Every model of thinking I’ve created is related to information in its various forms, from the stark and mechanical, to the rich and semantic.
Whether it was how people created new ideas, shared them, worked out how to get there, or communicated them to the world, the North Star I’ve been following is understanding the effects of technology on how we create, share and recombine information, and then designing strategies and interventions to take best advantage of that information.
With this new perspective, I suddenly saw a spectrum of possibilities in how to make my work applicable in many more ways. I’ve spent this year so far reading, researching, and writing, focussing on a set of ten tools that can transform how people, organisations and societies start to work with the forces of the age, rather than fight against them.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing essays, examples, perspectives and more here in this central resource; more permanent than blogging, more emergent than a book.
To begin with, I’ll start with a simple illustration of each concept, and soon each will open up into a page and collection in its own right.
If you have a more pressing urgency to discuss one in particular, and may have a use case to test it against, please contact me here.
John V Willshire, 29.09.20
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