March 26, 2010

Simpler, Yet More Nuanced

Many end users are looking for more open light-filled environments that are healthy and somehow inspiring to the creative people who drive their business growth.  A variety of different settings rather than a monolithic single solution seems to be what is necessary to support this kind of workforce.  Current and future designs need to be simpler in one way (components, basic desks and tables) but more nuanced and tunable in others.  Open environments are not without enclosure needs.

John Hellwig, design director, Teknion
quoted in Metropolis, March 2010, p. 95
Hellwig was talking about the design of work environments and their furniture, but the same concepts apply to learning and volunteering.

Individuals want learning environments that inspire them to greater personal and professional achievement.  Conferences and workshops can't be monolithic in their design or teaching approaches.  The learning components needs to be simpler and easier to access/use, and whenever possible, ones that individuals can fine-tune/customize to meet their specific needs and interests.  More open learning environments (think unconferences, Open Space, and self-directed learning) still need sufficient emphasis or structure to focus or contain individual interests that could otherwise supercede group needs and dynamics.

Volunteers want creative assignments that enable them to easily contribute to inspired results for the cause or institution they've joined.  Their opportunities to contribute can't be monolithic and limiting, but instead need to be diverse, inviting, and welcoming.  A more open environment for volunteers needs to offer reasonable enclosures (think deadlines, tasks, follow-through, etc.) that ensure results are produced in a timely manner and are consistent with larger strategic aims.

Just as workplace needs often seem contradictory, so can those of learners and volunteers.  Using design thinking can help embrace the genius of the AND and prevent succumbing to the tyranny of false OR choices that don't reflect end users' needs.

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