Charred Access


Design thinking involves iterative fails. Just how many depends on one’s persistence or, from another’s perspective, foolhardiness.


When I was a wee lad I had my share of owies and oopsies. Some were worse than others: cuts, scrapes, burns and a broken/smashed bone or two. For the most part these healed and were then forgotten. I learned from them: how to walk, run and ride a bike. The cost of learning back then was relatively cheap.

Later on, mistakes got more expensive. The artifacts, evidence seen by others of one’s fails, became more abstract and less entertaining to talk about. That time I broke my ring finger is an interesting story now. Getting that F- in a math test isn’t something I generally share with people I meet on the street. When as an adult our performance on the job is rated against that of others there are often scars to our psyche that are invisible to our peers.


Looking back on my learning the past 60 years I find that the stuff I remember [and apply] most often was enjoyable. On some level curiosity made me want to learn it. Engagement made me continue doing it, though it may have involved sweaty stinky work and lots of it, til I got it right.


It isn’t access to peers or information that encourages [my] learning. It’s the relative cost of making a mistake. The really cool stuff that has had a lifelong impact on me involved owies that are fun stories to share now. When I approach learning now I try to morph it into something that involves my whole body. I think that’s the ticket to design thinking and innovation. The more we approach it holistically and with others so that what we do is visible the better off we are in the long run. Go out and break something.

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