Leadership & Design: Future Practice

October 17, 2017

Design of anything is born out of the context and consciousness in which it was created. Across the arc of humanity’s existence, our artifacts and social structures reflect the level of collective cognitive complexity that define any given moment in history. Our march through archaic, magic, mythic and rational epochs, as well as traditional, modern and post-modern paradigms, informs everything made and unmade over the past 40,000 + years. With each succeeding moment, an inclusion of the best of our previous self AND its transcendence birthed and rebirthed humanity into ever expanding horizons of potential.


But birth can be a dangerous transition. Any mid-wife will tell you it requires skill, experience, humility and a surrender to the mystery, because anything can happen at any time. (https://www.sacredlifefilms.com/#foobox-1/1/231556463) 


Our most innovative inventions are in deed worthy accomplishments. AND the evidence of war, ecological devastation, social inequity and violence suggests that the tools we build often far exceed our capacity to use them wisely.


With so much at stake, the gap between what we are capable of making and the cognitive complexity required to predict and navigate the unforeseen consequences of our designs is ever widening.


We are all being stretched to the edge of how we currently understand and relate to an interconnected, interdependent global citizenry. What does it mean to be human in this emerging world? What is it that is dying and what is it that wants to be born? How might design participate wisely in the making and unmaking of humanity’s future? 


Perhaps now, more than ever, those tacit assets of humanity - our meaning-making, our decision-making, our spiritual and psychological knowing, our ethical choices, our social and cultural patterns - must be fully valued in order to transition successfully from what IS to what WILL BE amidst increasingly complex conditions.      


The principles of human centered design are stunning. Curiosity, empathy, ease with ambiguity and humility are deeply transformative patterns that inform mindful doing, thinking and being. And although conventional design may meaningfully realize artifact and experience for the purpose of intelligent consumption, this toolkit is insufficient to address the complexity challenges inherent in interconnected and interdependent social, political, economic and natural systems.


So what might a sufficient trans-disciplinary meta-design tool kit for generative leaders include if drawn from adult developmental theory, integral theory, theory of change, systems theory, collective intelligence, leadership science and design?


How might we use it to provide generative leadership with the capacity to zoom out far enough to see the fullness of the human story, and then zoom in close enough to meet the needs of those individual storytellers?


What leadership capacities and collaborative social technologies are required to navigate the rhizome-like networks that reflect the true ecology of all living systems, including our socially constructed ones?


How might we imagine emerging business models as we transition from extractive to contributionary economic systems?


What shared language will cultivate our expressive and receptive capacities to talk about a future that is here now?


Who do I need to become in order to fulfill meaningful contribution at the intersection between leadership and design?


I take my seat in fraternity with transition design thought leaders, researcher practitioners and facilitators to provide today’s generative leaders with everything they need to imagine, design and manifest a sustainable tomorrow. 

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