Human Centered Design

Learn From Failure. Reflections On Week 1: Introduction To Human Centred Design

Posted on

IMG_0940I want to give you the opportunity to come on this journey. “So many journeys, Matt…which particular journey are you describing now?”

This journey I am referring to is the entry point  to the second phase of the 10 City Bridge Run. The journey is in 10 parts, consisting of 10 Design Forums. These Design Forum won’t be necessarily singular events. For example, the first of these Design Forum commenced earlier this month, and was focused around using a hackathon in Osaka as a case study for designing the rest of the Design Forum series. But the real work to this first Design Forum is taking place across the next seven-weeks as we ‘Design the Design Foum’ with a particular focus on the culmination of the journey in Seoul this October.

It really is not the end of the journey that is being designed. We are not focused on the trimming and bow that will wrap up the experience along the way. No, this is about everything that happens to get us to that point. Including failure. Things that we try that doing work, and that we learn from to then make a second, third, fourth, and umpteenth iteration to improdve. That is part of the design process.

Last week, hundreds of thousands of people around the world commenced the IDEO/Acumen Fund free, online, seven-week course that provides an Introduction to Human Centred Design. Among those many, many thousands are a small number of people who have chose to use this opportunity as part of the ‘Design Forum 1’ of the second phase of the 10 City Bridge Run.

For those who are new to the story, the 10 City Bridge Run is an impossible journey, or at least should have been impossible, but one I completed earlier in January this year. The reason I was able to complete it, and the reason it became possible, was because of people like you who shared the struggle in small ways. The purpose of  the 10 City Bridge Run is to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

And so in this first journey, we are Designing the Design Foum. The Design Forum becomes a vehicle for this question about child survival. Most people just want the punchline: “come on already! Tell us how we can solve child survival!!” Well, I’m not sure we can ‘solve’ child survival because it is part of life, but we can help reduce child mortality and improve child survival. Our part will be a small part in a much larger effort. But let’s also dream big. Small parts can be important too.

The next series of posts will focus on what I am learning from the Introduction to Design Forum course, and to share these with people who can’t spare the time to join us, and importantly also to help guide those wonderful people who are sharing this journey together. Thank you for your time, and I hope it is a rich experience for you as well!

“Learning from failure” is one of the themes of the Introduction to Human Centred Design. Failure is something we don’t really like to focus on much. But let’s dwell a little about the lessons to come from failure. Field Marshall Sir William Slim famously once wrote that the lessons from failure (defeat) were more than those that came from victory.

Free Introduction To Human Centered Design!

Posted on

IMG_0454The commencement of the first Design Forum in Osaka aligns with a free, online, seven-week course run by the Acumen Fund and IDEO which I am inviting you to participate in to help frame the series of Design Forum. The course can be done through examining any design challenge, but I am proposing that people join to help address the question framing the 10 City Bridge Run: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

Here’s how to get involved. It’s simple, and you can do it without needing any special qualifications:

  1. Register here, or drop me a note saying you want to participate.
  2. Join or form a small group of between 2-6 people where you live, or work with me and others online for the conduct of the course. If you are forming a small group, you could meet in a coffee shop once a week. And if you are joining me online, I’ll make a schedule when we can connect by video-conference or Skype, or some other way to collaborate.
  3. Follow the course across the seven weeks exploring this question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” as together we work to ‘Design the Design Forum’.
  4. At the end of the course in early April, not only will we have framed how these Design Forum might play out culminating in Seoul in October, but you will also receive a certificate to prove to the world that you have in fact become a Designer.

Please accept the invitation, and join us to frame the Design Forum.

There is no limitation on attendance. Please forward this link to others, and please especially ask them to join with us as we look at this question of improving child survival. Thanks in advance!

Lesson Eight. Keep moving forward

Posted on Updated on

IMG_1388Three cities remain following Seoul in this running stunt. Each of those cities are critical in threading together the intellectual engagement of this question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ Glasgow, Toronto and New York are all critical cities renowned globally for their thinking.

For the time being, it would seem that those three cities are immediately out of reach. The sensible thing would be to postpone the journey until it is financially viable and less of a personal risk to myself.

Ought we to play it safe and accept what is reasonable? George Bernard Shaw would advise otherwise: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

This image of a human bridge which inspires the photo-essay in the book ‘Life Bridge’ is in part inspired by words adapted from the legendary Korean marathon world champion Son Ki-chung who broke the world-record in 1935 and won the 1936 Berlin Olympic Marathon: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion

Holding the remaining three cities in abeyance until 2015 is an option, and still allows for forward movement. But perhaps our frustration with an incomplete journey ought to inspire us to push harder to make incredible things possible now. Completing the running stunt directly from Seoul is an outcome that is not possible within my current resources, but achieving it would give an inspiring context to the Design Forum in the knowledge of a completed running stunt that the seemingly impossible is possible. This is why I am appealing for help from a select group of ‘bridge builders’.

The proposed schedule for the Design Forum would engage with a broad community of partners and stakeholders for participation proposed as follows:

Proposed Schedule for Design Forum
Theme Location Date (2015)
Framing the problem: Focus on Papua New Guinea Osaka February (middle)
Port Moresby February (late)
Global context, ideation and opportunity Glasgow, London and Oxford April
Toronto May
New York May
Evaluating prototypes Sydney June
New Delhi July
Implementation, delivery and moving forward Johannesburg August
Nairobi August
Singapore September
China (TBC) October
Seoul October

The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.

Lesson Seven. We underestimate the influence of our encouragement

Lesson Nine. Expressing a silent tribute

Read all Nine Lessons here in a complete PDF attachment

Lesson Seven. We underestimate the influence of our encouragement

Posted on Updated on

IMG_1687Crowdfunding might at first appear to be an exercise in raising money, but it has far greater utility to shape a conversation, test an idea, raise awareness, and build networks.

The willingness of people to support something that is risky and uncertain shows a real spirit of generosity. Without this support, together we could not have reached this point that has enabled us to look ahead to the journey that follows.

Every dollar raised has had a meaningful impact on this initiative. 137 supporters since 2010 have together contributed less than $12,000. This has been critical to develop this idea and commence the journey to this point. Every supporter deserves an individual special note of thanks here for making this possible.

More often than not, we underestimate the influence of our encouragement. Even seemingly insignificant actions such as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook, offering advice, or just checking in with a friendly word of encouragement, are all actions that have a big impact.

This might seem trivial, but it is not. More importantly. it shows that small interventions might be among those actions that are most important which we can do through our networks to improve the delivery of child survival. What are those interventions? The Design Forum will seek to identify those meaningful interventions that can lead to lasting impact.

Please, never underestimate the power of your encouragement. For everyone who played their role to date, thank you very much. Your support has had a huge impact on me personally, and together enabled us to weave this epic journey.

Lesson Six. Take the pressure off and change the conversation

Lesson Eight. Keep moving forward

Lesson Five. Get people to ask why

Posted on Updated on

IMG_1461Why is this stunt important at all? Why not just give up if it is too difficult in the face of another setback?

The universal response is that the stunt captures people’s imagination. The fact that it is difficult and we are now facing further setbacks is part of the narrative that captures the imagination. If we were to give up now, what would that say about our conviction that change is possible to improve the delivery of child survival?

The first question people always ask when the stunt is explained is: “why?”

This is a very important question for people to ask for opening a conversation. It is a question asking for motive. Through explaining the stunt, I have opened countless conversations about improving child survival because people are drawn to ask why I am doing the runs. Admittedly, a more substantial conversation is needed to improve the delivery of child survival, and this will be achieved through the series of Design Forum.

Many conversations are with people who have never really given much thought to the issue about child survival. Other conversations have enabled engagement with a thriving community of people already engaged in addressing issues related to child survival. Through generating interest from this stunt, the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to bridge these two groups during the series of Design Forum.

Opening the conversation is critical to having impact. The photo-essay of human bridges featured in the book ‘Life Bridge’ which crowdfunding to date has helped fund will further open this conversation as a segue between the running stunt and the Design Forum which follow. But first, we have to allow people to ask why.

Lesson Four. Lead by example by learning

Lesson Six. Take the pressure off and change the conversation

Lesson Four. Lead by example by learning

Posted on Updated on

IMG_0378Leading by example is not limited to being the tough guy that gets out in front. Feedback from others has shown me that stepping out into uncertainty and beginning this journey has provided inspiration for many.

This stunt is not really about achieving impressive physical feats through running long distances. Learning to embrace vulnerability by confronting fear, uncertainty, risk, failure are the things that inspire others.

This learning is important is because it emphasises the need to embrace a ‘beginners mind’ through a ‘Human Centered Design’ thinking process which will be required during the Design Forum to be open to new possibilities in asking ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’

Learning and innovation require us to make mistakes and sometimes to fail. It is ok to fall short, as long as we are trying with the conviction to keep moving forward. Learning how to try something new is the type of leading by example that is needed for this conversation, if we are to improve the delivery of child survival.