Things Explain Concepts

Change is fascinating for me. How do I change. How do people change. How does the world change. Hey, I love to change! I believe most people like to change too. No? 🙂 Like getting a haircut. Going on holiday. But maybe people don’t like to be changed… When someone is pushing change on them…

So from here, I’m thinking how important is that more people get access to playing with the tools of change making. But when I say ‘change making’ it sounds so abstract. What exactly are we talking about? It feels like there is a problem with abstraction – thinking tools, mental models, frameworks, principles – are simply hard to understand (and apply it). Simply not everyone has the habits of messing around with a mental game of understanding what the jargon means and how does it connect with the real world, the action bit.

As a facilitator, when I work with entrepreneurs, communities, cultural organisations, NGOs I see how powerful it is to make abstract concrete through creative expression, how the sparks of curiosity appear when a thinking tool is converted into an experience, using metaphors, role-play and movement, and real things (go go go hands-on!). Whenever I make a workshop plan, I almost have an inner conflict, how to have both in the workshop – thinking tools and practical ways of playing with the concepts.

And with such a long intro, I want to share an example, a story how two days ago I explained a design diamond through a story of two hills.

Design Diamond as Two Hills

When creating something new it’s so comforting to know that there’s a territory, there’s a boundary, there’s a map or a box to play in. One of tools for creating something new – design diamond framework – introduces an idea of divergent and convergent thinking. In my story, I feel it’s a powerful technique for thinking. But I actually learned about this tool through a different discipline than design – first when I studied NLP and then later when I was seeing how engineers break down projects into small tasks, zoom out and zoom in, same concept applies.

Divergent and convergent thinking means the phase of zooming out and zooming in. But what does it mean?

This week I started a project “Community Dialogues” for cultural organisations spread across the country of Lithuania. The project is about using design thinking to co-create new formats of community happenings and bridge the gap between diverse groups of people in locality. It is an ambitious project.

And so, how to explain this divergent and convergent thinking here?

What is exploration for people who don’t do that every day? Hmm? Diamonds, anyone? 🙂 No. I chosen a metaphor of two hills as a frame to explain the process of exploring, ideation, prototyping and delivery. And yes of course I brought my favourite neon outfit and a set of green toys!

And so the story goes…

How to Create with 2 Hills Journey

“When you’re starting a journey of exploring/researching, remember 2 hills. Same like going for a real hike or even a holiday, there’s a bit of that feeling of fear if things will go okay, but we know how to convert it into excitement. So I invite everyone to do just that and remember that excitement about upcoming adventure. We can borrow that feeling from experiences we had.

In our project, we will need toys along the way. Same like you don’t go as you’re on a hike or holiday, you take things like a backpack, same in a journey of creating, we will need tools. We will need a bucket, a strainer, a shovel and a compass.

Typically in projects we climb one hill (of planning and completing). But this time, we will use a magic of design. It will be a longer trip. We will climb up and down. We will visit 2 hills. One hill will be about exploring and ideas. Second hill will be about testing and completing.

Going Up Hill: Exploring with a Bucket

For the first phase of exploration we will use a bucket. What is the bucket for? It needs to be filled, obviously! So in the first phase I invite you all to collect observations.

Let’s imagine we are climbing a real hill right now. The view gets bigger and bigger. What do we notice? Who do we see? All goes inside the bucket.

Going Down Hill: Framing Ideas with a Strainer

When the bucket starts to get heavy and you feel filled with observations, remember you can always go down. Maybe now is the time?

In this phase, you will need a strainer. What is the strainer for? Sorting the seeds from everything else, of course! What insights did you discover in your journey so far? Yes, not everything from the first phase is useful and that’s okay.

Picking a few seeds will help you to come up with ideas.

Going Up Hill: Testing with a Shovel

And now, we move onto the next phase. We take an idea from those few seeds and move towards the second hill. Let’s say after the first hike, you came up with an idea that a community needs a castle to be built. Because there’s an empty field down there. And you have got the bricks! What an amazing idea this is.

But what in this phase, no wonder you have a shovel. What is a shovel for? We will use a shovel to make a so-called prototype of a castle – we’ll make a sand castle. In this step, I invite you to take away an idea of making a test before building the actual thing. What do people say about the sand castle? Does it meet their needs? Here is the time to adjust our ideas and get closer to people’s needs.

Going Down Hill: Completing with a Compass

Finally, the last step is when we climb the second hill down with confidence. For this phase, I invite you to keep a compass. What is a compass for? Remember where you came from, the journey of exploration (the bucket), discovering the seeds for your idea (with a strainer) and your learnings from time with the shovel. Compass will help you to stay on track and complete your project with a sense of grounding.

Phew, that was a real story told in 6 minutes for people from cultural organisations across the country!

How was it for you reading? Does it make the design diamond or a creativity journey in general easier to relate to? Let me know. I always love playing with conceptual tools (and things!)


P.S. I recorded my first ever podcast. Yes, I am aware of the sound. This is a sand castle, too. 🙂

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