Demystifying design could be a good theme of Jon’s posts. Today he looks at the relation of playfulness to innovation and the work cultural requirements in three points.
Embrace dynamic constraints.
Any design or artistic endeavor needs constraints to focus participant activities within an endless universe of possibilities. Jon’s point is that the best art accepts constraints and then selectively finds innovation by stepping outside of those constraints. Hence, accept constraints, but also accept the possibility that constraint may take on a dynamic character. Encourage a culture of functional flexibility.
Provide a Runway (Space) to Explore Deviant Ideas
Don’t allow decision processes to squash deviant ideas during design processes, even conflictual ideas.
The notion of being playful is to appreciate and encourage divergent thinking and the shifting, flexing, and removing of constraints. Play is about exploring “what-if” scenarios; that is, dream states. Our lives, jobs, and compensation are so frequently tied to rational thought that we have often forgotten how to actively dream, yet these dreams — the ability to generate ideas, outlandish or otherwise — are at the core of design innovation. Design synthesis embraces this divergent dreaming.
Encourage Flow and Autonomous Decision Making
Jon references psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow; an “automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.” I diverge with Jon on this point. I like the idea of flow, but I’m going with Hagel’s knowledge flows, not Csikszentmihalyi’s version, which I think takes us back toward magical thinking. I interpret Hagel’s flow as much more than a rational process. It is a social, emotional and unpredictable process that has some similarities with Jon’s approach. It fits the idea of playful design spaces, but doesn’t depend specifically on a hard to define altered state of consciousness, which may or may not be available when they are needed.