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Design: Imposed Authority vs. Communication

Peter Merholz's weblog entry Design is Easy; Organizational Politics is Hard captures a fundamental issue that I have come up against on a number of occasions in my career. It is possible that we have more than enough solutions in the world, we know what needs to be done, yet our ability to effectively implement these solutions is lacking. Peter captures the issue here...

In fact, design practitioners have figured out a lot about what works, and what doesnít. For those in the design field, design is easy Ė developing solutions to problems is a pretty straightforward endeavor. The problem isnít with design or designers Ė itís with organizations whose fundamental structures prevent the good ideas from getting out.

I tend to agree that the development of solutions is a "pretty straightforward endeavour." It's very easy to write a document and business strategy on paper that creates the appearance of innovation, but it is entirely another matter to take those ideas and implement them in a sustainable and durable way that results in clear, observable benefit.

Peter describes the core problem as "organizations whose fundamental structures prevent the good ideas from getting out." In education, the fundamental structures are curriculum, instruction and assessment. Surrounding these fundamental structures are a broad range of assumptions and habits (perhaps even intellectual addictions) that are often inflexible and unreceptive to any design initiative that attempts to alter them. If the design approach is merely a modification or enhancement of existing practices, or something less than innovation, then the design ideas can be assimilated otherwise they are typically repelled.

Donna Maurer's comment in the entry focuses on the need for communication:

"So, I agree with you, but think that there is more to it than just the silos. I think that part of the answer is not trying to find better *methods* to achieve innovation, but find better ways to communicate deep learning rather than shallow rules and guidelines. Lots of us are doing it, but the guidelines have such a strong pull."
I like the phrase "ways to communicate deep learning."

It seems that the more innovative the design idea is the more it will create tension in those underlying structures of authority it attempts to alter.

Design is a form of rebellion.


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