The most thrilling presentation of the conference had to go to Sir Ken Robinson, who's talk was so funny, so serious, so poignant, and so moving, that everyone who missed it spent the rest of the day sulking, "ya, I KNOW...I heard it was amazing, OKAY?!" (And yes, he got a standing-O at the end of it.) Robinson drew parallels between the crises in natural resources with crises in human resources, referring to them as the "ecology of human resources." His central thesis revolved around the notion of creativity--applied imagination--and argued that grown-ups don't think they have it and live in mediums that don't encourage it. Hell, even discourage it. He then moved on to illustrations in the UK where children were paired with the elderly in learning how to read, and then on to...Oh, you know what? There's no way I can dare summarize or recreate what went on up there on stage, so sorry. If anyone videotaped this, post the URL in the comments. Otherwise, yes, you had to be there.
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, had the unenviable spot of following up, but did a great job addressing the topic of design thinking. He started off with a slide of an Oral-B co-molded toothbrush he worked on, juxtaposed with a not-much-worse-for-where one, found by his co-worker, washed up on the beach. (A sobering experience that helped turn his head on the responsibilities and mandates of design.) Brown showed several examples of design thinking (versus design), as well as some online resources where some "communities of purpose" are taking shape. Asking the hard (and totally transparent) question, "so, are these multiple design-thinking projects [at IDEO]indeed having a more positive impact?" He candid in his response: "We can't answer it yet, but we are starting to learn how to measure it." In a conference filled with gestures to the environmental and social impacts of our profession, this was a real-world, refreshing answer.
Roger Martin picked up on the d.think with his presentation, "Design Thinking: The Next Competitive Advantage," providing an incredibly detailed journey through the various reasons why designers and business people are, basically, from different planets. We think differently, we measure differently, we have different insecurities and criteria for success, and basically speak different languages. This was one of the more useful presentations in terms of takeaways, clearly illustrated and patiently presented to an audience that would do well to take notes. Here are 10 of 'em:
5 productive steps for designing in hostile territory
1. Take 'design-unfriendliness' as a design challenge
2. Empathize with the 'design-unfriendly elements'
3. Speak the language of reliability
4. Use analogies and stories
5. Bite off as little a piece as possible to generate proof
Leveraging Design in Business
1. Take inattention to reliability as a management challenge
2. Empathize with the 'reliability-unfriendly elements'
3. Speak the language of validity
4. Share data and reasoning, not conclusions
5. Bite off as big a piece as possible to give innovation a chance