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

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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.

Osaka: Start At The Beginning

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imageToday begins a new journey as the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run formerly commences. By way of introduction and explanation, this is a welcome note to many, and also an apology of sorts for possibly failing expectations, as we embark on this epic quest.

The Design Forum follows behind the 10 City Bridge Run, a running stunt that wove a narrative through 10 cities where the discussion will take place.

We have to go back to the beginning to understand where we are now. The 10 City Bridge Run was in response to an alarming rate of child mortality painted by large, institutional aid agencies. In 2010, much publicity was given to highlighting the 2008 daily rate of child survival: an average of 24,000 child deaths per day calculated by UNICEF. Considerable money and attention was given to highlighting this figure. I thought that we should instead be asking what we could do going forwards rather than be too caught up in educating a figure from the past. So the 24K formed a figure which framed a distance I then decided to run in 10 cities as a stunt that would culminate in a central Design Forum.

It was an ambitious journey. Epic. Impossible. Impossible because I made these plans with none of the resources at hand.

Friends and family responded by contributing, crowdfunding an amount to start the journey. The deficit fell on myself which has not been insignificant.

In early January this year, after a prolonged and difficult journey, the 10 City Bridge Run was completed in the cold rain on a dark night in Manhattan.

Many friends have said that media was key. Why didn’t I have more media? Why didn’t I have any media support for that matter? And they are right. Partly, the reason for not pressing ‘send’ on documents to the media is because it was just me doing this journey. Yes, me. For all of my failings. I admit fearing the thought of standing before the media, injured, unfit, lacking resources, with no certainty except for a foolish Quixiotic quest to drive me forward. Understandably, the media would want to know the plan, not just the dream. And there was a plan, but unfunded. I couldn’t say with any certainty what would come next even within days before the event because of a lack of resources.

Along the journey, out of necessity I chose homelessness over accommodation in many cities. To abstain from meals rather than to eat. There was no money for such things. And that made speaking with media all the more difficult. The rawness of the journey, the fraught nature of this quest is what has made it epic, but they are also circumstances that scare people. Their natural response is to tell you to stop.

Even getting to Osaka has been part of that narrative. I could point to a date on a calendar easily enough, but how to organise something without resources? I’m now not so sure if that is difficult, or foolish, or both.

The Design Forum began today because it was a date that ensured I was in Osaka ahead of HackOsaka tomorrow. A gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs to look at applications of the Internet of Things (IoT). When I first met the Director for this gathering after I ran in Osaka last October, it seemed to be a clear and definable line in the sand to start a series of Desig. forum. I used the expression “to convene a ‘Part B’ to HackOsaka” during that conversation, although it wasn’t clear to him what I meant exactly, partly because of language and partly because of lack of resources that I was reluctant to share a plan that was closer to a dream than to reality.

Before we get too far into a conversation talking about child survival, I think it is first important to ask how are we to ‘Design the Design Forum’. The Osaka gathering is in a foreign language to my own, set in a foreign culture, and format (hackathon) that I had a hunch might best be used to discuss the issue of child survival. A hackathon is a preferred format to a traditional conference setting involving a plenary which leans on the panel of experts to frame the conversation. I loved how Bono referred to that type of plenary at Davos in 2012 by saying, in a conversation about child mortality, “we don’t need another talking shop”.

Additionally, today’s date is important because it is the start of a free, seven-week, online course hosted by Acumen Fund and IDEO called an Introduction to Human Centred Design. A free course about Design Thinking. That date for the course was a coincidence, but very welcome, and it is that course along with the Hackathon tomorrow here in Osaka which defines this first Design Forum beginning in Osaka.

The HackOsaka event won’t be discussing child survival, but will be an opportunity to ask questions about conducting an event. Not just questions of the organisers, but amongst ourselves. I intend to conduct a straw poll of people who are attending about child survival, but only in as much as to find a baseline of where the current ‘person on the street’ conversation is found.

The seven weeks concludes close to the entry date for the 2015 Fuller Challenge, and the culmination of this Design Forum will both be framing a plan for the future as well as making a submission to the Fuller Challenge. The Fuller Challenge is inspired by the life and work of Buckminster Fuller.

In the meantime, I have been wrestling with Google Hangouts which I can’t get the Hang Of so that I might provide an overview of the journey to date. That too is perhaps an auspicious start to the begin of this new epic quest. Auspicious and not ominous. Auspicious because it highlights that there are many things we don’t know. I can’t just dismiss the problem by say “I’ll do it on an Google Hangout”. I have to really know how to do it, which serves as an allegory for our journey to improve child survival.

Why this is relevant is not because it highlights my own failings, but because it is a question I asked a number of people in an open ended way about six-months ago where I indentified that the most immediate challenge to be solved was working on a framework for collaborative exchange. I actually think that Google Hangout is close to the solution to that question, except for the fact that it can’t be accessed in China. By identifying that there was never a response to that earlier question six months ago, it is not blaming the earlier conversation, but addresses the fact that to resolve issues we need to have intentional commitment to a solution. Which brings us back to the Design Forum.

Another reason for the Design Forum, and approaching it methodically through Design Thinking is that it helps to engage unspoken and undiscussible assumptions and opinions about child survival. In a Facebook exchange yesterday, two friends shared informed view of funding about which organisations are best, and also by contrast which are less effective, for improving child survival. It is a welcome contribution, but this conversation is less about funding and more about our most precious and under-utilised resource: each other. Our networks are our most under-utilised resources, especially when it comes to solving problems. Our networks are fuelled by passion and imagination, not money.

There are some less conventional part to this Design Forum. One such example is using our networks to strengthen a petition (both in wording and in numbers) which is addressed to Australia’s Foreign Minister, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, requesting her to be the official Champion for the Design Forum (which will point to the culmination of this conversation at the final event in Seoul this October). Another example is a request to Bill and Melinda Gates to suggest a reading list for us to read right now. There is no time for delay. This is not a nice to have.

If you disapprove about anything relating to the Design Forum, that’s fine, but let us know why. This is a conversation. We needn’t agree with everyone on everything all the time. Share your perspective, and as loudly as you would like, but please remember your manners too. We need your voice, and I for one know that I am not always right.

Thank you. Thank you for being part of this journey, even if it is just through the reading of this blog. We really need you to be part of this journey for the Design Forum to ask an important question asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” Bring your imagination, your enthusiasm, your criticism, your passion. But please do join us. This is an important question to address, and I suggest that the point of Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter this year which pointed to a reduction of child mortality over the next 15 years was to inspire action, not just Facebook Likes. Welcome to the conversation.

And with that, I am delighted to announce that this epic series of Design Forum has now commenced!

Some links:

Design Thinking course. Join here or leave a message below. https://novoed.com/hcd-acumen

Petition for Julie Bishop. https://www.change.org/p/the-hon-julie-bishop-mp-champion-the-global-series-of-design-forum-to-improve-child-survival

Question for Bill and Melinda Gates (and yes, you can forward this blog as well). http://youtu.be/tkrUlCm9GFs

Free Introduction To Human Centered Design!

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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!

Child Deaths Will Go Down

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IMG_0294The opening headline in this year’s Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates outlines their reasons for betting there will be greater progress in reducing child deaths (improving child survival) in the next 15 years than was the case in the last 25 years.

It is a well presented argument, and you can read it here.

This is not just going to happen with an extra sprinkle of fairy dust. As I write this, thousands upon thousands of people are working in difficult conditions in unheard-of, remote locations to help make this a reality: to improve the delivery of child survival.

This blog is about a journey called the 10 City Bridge Run which started by asking a question: “what can we practically do to make a difference?” That question matured to become “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” The question will be addressed through a conversation unfolding next month involving a series of Design Forum beginning in Osaka.

You can get involved, and it is free! So why not sign up. You don’t need to be in Osaka. There is also a free, online course to provide an introduction to Design Thinking which has been offered by Acumen Fund/IDEO which will help to frame this question. Participation is free, and you can get involved without any qualification. So why don’t you?

It is great as we prepare to engage with this question about child survival to have a document which so readily frames the issue for us. Please take a read of the first few pages of the Gates Annual Letter.

We are really going to have this conversation. And we intend to have impact. The question is, will you join us?

Sign up for the Introduction to Design Thinking here.

Sign up for the Osaka Design Forum here.

Blueprint For Change

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imageWhy bother? I mean, can’t we all just sit back and relax now? Isn’t the crisis over?

In their Annual Letter published this year, Bill and Melinda Gates set the scene by betting that there would be greater progress to end extreme poverty than in the previous 15 years. And they are probably right. All indications point toward this as an outcome, and their keen interest over the last 15 years would suggest that this is actually a well-tested assumption rather than an idle wager.

Progress is good, and the message from Bill and Melinda Gates is positive. Are we out of the woods yet? Does that mean the crisis is over?

The 2014 Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter framed the issue of child mortality as one of three key areas where they sought to dispel myths that they rightly claim are held about addressing global poverty. At the beginning of the document, they wrote how they were “disgusted” by child mortality.

Other people have used equally strong language. Tony Lake the Executive Director of UNICEF described child mortality in 2012 as a “moral obscenity” and a “moral abomination”.

What does this mean for the 10 City Bridge Run, a citizen-led initiative to open a conversation asking “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” Is the war over, and we didn’t hear the news? Isn’t it all over bar the shouting? After all, Bill and Melinda Gates have spoken.

We should see the current situation as the end of a beginning, and the beginning of the end. We are now riding the waves of change. There has never been a more critical time to convene the Design Forum which will unfold this conversation about child survival than now. There is political will, institutional interest, a wealth of information, technology and the ability to communicate is better than ever, and along with increasing developments in medicine and infrastructure.

The Design Forum is not a silver bullet. And in a relative sense, together we are a minnow in an ocean of information and activity. But we are part of a much larger connected effort. And that is why this is important as a conversation. We have a real part to play, and as that conversation takes shape, it will become more obvious where we can best effect change.

The Design Forum which will commence in Osaka on 9 February is a blueprint for change for improving child survival. We are not reinventing the wheel, but drawing upon the experience and networks of others to amplify our intention. And we need your voice to help make that possible.

The Dali Lama has a quote which I like:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, then try sleeping with a mosquito.”

We are about to begin the series of Design Forum. You can join in at any time, but why not begin with us at the beginning. We are starting by asking how might we Design the Design Forum. This will be an event in Osaka to draw upon best practice, and examine how we can organise to be effective in making a difference. The first Design Firum in Osaka convenes concurrently with an Acumen Fund/IDEO free online, seven-week course which provides an introduction to Design Thinking. You can get involved. You will make a difference. So why not sign up? It is all free.

Sign up for the Introduction to Design Thinking here.

Sign up for the Osaka Design Forum here.

Looking forward to seeing you on the journey!

On Becoming A Designer

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imageThe Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run commences with getting equipped with the tools we are going to need for the journey ahead. The tools are about our networks, our creativity, and importantly engaging with those for whom this problem of child survival is a real and present issue. Additionally, one key tool is the process of Design Thinking using a framework of Human Centred Design.

Design Thinking is not new. It has been around for decades, if not centuries, but more recently it has been made more useable through the work of people like IDEO. There has been a revolution in design which focuses on the user, or the person with the problem.

The commencement of the first Design Forum 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’.

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.

That is a worthwhile achievement for 2015! 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!

A Design Icon: Bridging A Gap

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English: Bill Moggridge giving an open lecture...
English: Bill Moggridge giving an open lecture at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, June 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill Moggridge was a leading designer who significantly influenced thinking among contemporary designers. Sadly, he died last month, but not without leaving behind a legacy that speaks for itself.

Many people today have heard about the company IDEO, which Bill Moggridge co-founded. What most people would be less aware of is the impact of his contribution to ‘human-centred design’. How might we learn from each other, and other leading designers, without just looking for an obvious answer? How might we use the inspiration of people like Bill Moggridge to find a new way to find impact?

This is more than just talk. In Life Bridge, I am seeking to open a conversation asking ‘how might we use our networks to reduce child mortality?’ through running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. The run itself is a stunt, which paints a metaphor for the difficulty of the task of meeting the Millennium Development Goal 4 to Reduce Child Mortality by 2015 in a short space of three years.

A series of Design Forum will be convened in every city where I travel to explore this question. I don’t have all the answers, and I am far from an expert, but along my journey I expect to meet people a lot smarter than me who are doing amazing work. Connecting people together can we really make a difference?

Check out the schedule below, and if you have any thoughts as to how to improve on this or how you might contribute, please leave a comment below.

The shared mind is more powerful than the individual mind.

Design Forum Schedule