INSPIRATION: Preparing for Design + Humanities Thinking

What can prepare you for a new way of thinking? Kathleen Shannon gives suggestions for opening up to new ideas.

Preparing for a day of design and humanities thinking. . .

What can prepare you for a new way of thinking? Do you need to mentally or physically prepare? Is there research available that can help shed light on your patterns of thinking and decision making? Do you need new tools or diagrams to step outside your assumptions and patterns? Or, perhaps, it’s as simple as not being accountable to your inbox for extended periods of the day. If stepping away from your desk can help, then what about the experience of stepping into someone else’s shoes? How would you begin to see your own tasks, processes, and patterns differently?

Every day we categorize people. . . lawyer, architect, librarian, sculptor, or teacher. We like to label and put them in neat files. However, how do we label their processes – that is, how they think or approach a case, building, book, slab of marble, or a student? Perhaps it is time to focus on their approach rather than their final products. It is within analyzing their various approaches that we can begin to see the common characteristics that open up new ways of thinking.

Design and humanities thinking is a new approach. It does require certain known characteristics to begin, while others will be explored and discovered in the process. For example, we talked about empathy in problem solving. When solving global world challenges of significance, you have to care and feel for the future of the world and all the living things in it. You have to be conscientious, mindful, open to new perspectives, collaborative in nature, patient, a good listener – in other words a “systems leader.”

Being aware of the world around you, means you also see the value and role you might play as part of a bigger eco-system – so you recognize hierarchy of things for survival, but you might approach the world or think in non-hierarchical terms valuing the contribution of each living thing to the overall sustainability of the system.

You have to be pretty idealistic to be so conscientious in a world of complex and challenging problems. The world can be a heavy place, and those bearing the burdens make it heavier on those solving them. So often you have to find your way to the light or you will surely find thoughtless moments.

Being idealistic like a child, also fills you with curiosity and wonder. All questions are relevant, and all are interesting. The world is full of discovery and experiences for us to explore. It might happen with the next question, or a revised question or the first, second, or third experiment – curiosity and wonder incent us forward. We never stop questioning or being inspired by the answers.

Collaboration. None of us have all the answers. Being collaborative opens the doors to new learning, possibilities, ideas, and solutions. It also can accelerate and improve outcomes. And collaboration is not always in the usual suspects, seek new collaborations when needed — in diverse fields and expertise.

So to prepare for design and humanities thinking, be open to a new approach and most important, be yourself. If you show up, we know you are at least curious – or looking for some free food (part of the eco-system).