Tag Archives: design

To look forward, don’t beat a retreat⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Defining strategy is the most important work a leadership team can do. The last place they should go to do it is a retreat.

It’s January, and wherever I look online I see so many friends’ new year’s resolutions, strategies to make 2019 a little better than 2018, perhaps. And I see many wittily launch jibes about how they don’t make resolutions (“I never keep to them anyway, so why bother?”

They’ve got a point: we create resolutions at a time of forced relaxation when most of the world has shut down. The inbox is empty (or, at least, not filling up), our families surround us physically or digitally, our thoughts of work are kept at bay, still, through a fog of champagne bubbles and hangovers and bracing twilight walks. The time in which we come up with our resolutions barely resembles any other time of year. It’s no wonder that the daily cycle rides, walks or gym visits subside when the onslaught of reality begins on January 3rd.

In March a few years ago, I had been invited by a group of different schools’ Heads to a joint retreat. It was a retreat in name, at least. In reality, it was an overcharged three-day programme of administrative meetings, mutual therapy, forced fun, eating and drinking a bit too much. I was asked to walk them through an innovation process so that they could make Great Things Happen. I was given six hours during their three precious days. One of the widely-respected Heads proclaimed:

“I don’t know why we’re looking at innovation now, at this point in the year. It’s a terrible time to be thinking about doing anything in a school.”

March is indeed a hectic time in schools. Examinations for older students are looming, the last chance for some serious cramming on the horizon (by this point, many secondary schools admit that the learning is more or less suspended). Even little ones are finalising portfolios and presentations, exhibitions and performances.

But I was perturbed. As the CEOs of their organisations, strategy should be an everyday activity. Strategy is not something for which we can afford to cherrypick a slot in our calendars, something we choose to do at certain more relaxed times of the year. Strategy is definitely not something we can demote to six hours in a forced period of ‘retreat’.

Innovation is change. Change is what strategy both predicts and provokes. Strategy is where we plan.

The strategic plan itself is rendered useless fairly quickly. “Strategy’s great until you get punched in the mouth,” says Mike Tyson. “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything,” is how Dwight Eisenhower put it. Eisenhower was actually paraphrasing what a soldier had told him, and the soldier was much more precise in what kind of plans are worthless:

“Peace-time plans are of no particular value, but peace-time planning is indispensable.”

And there it is. Peaceful time plans — new year’s resolutions, strategic planning done in the quiet months of an organisation, holiday romances — are often worthless the moment the break or retreat is over. But the process of thinking things through — the planning — is vital. Why?

Peaceful time planning is vital because it lets us go through a process slowly. Think of it like training in a technique, a technique that we should be employing every day, at faster and faster speeds, so that when we’re in the thick of it in our busier ‘real’ lives we can cope with the punches coming our way.

After a deep immersive process throughout their organisation, a Design Team of students, teachers, staff and parents work through a mass of data, perceptions and stories to design simple strategy that anyone can use.

Over the past four years, my team has been involved in more strategy work with organisations than ever before. The word of mouth that drives some of the most successful organisations in the world to us for this help is invaluable, and reveals why people are seeking something different to their usual “strategic planning retreat”:

1. One, two or three days are not enough to come up with a strategic plan. Strategic planning is about the future, but to do this well you need to build on what happens today. People need some time to dive deeply into what makes their organisation tick today, and what people’s hopes and fears for the future might be. If you’re doing it properly, this deep dive immersive experience can take up to six weeks, and should involve everyone in your community contributing their perspectives. It’s a significant communications exercise to ensure everyone knows that they have the opportunity to present, share or post their perceptions of what works well, and less well, in the organisation today.

We use a strategic planning version of our NoTosh Design Thinking process to set up effective teams who can procure, encourage and manage this massive set of contributions, and then make sense of the trends that emerge from it. This kind of inclusive, immersive process is superb for providing that ‘peacetime planning’ moment for every member of the community. Even if it’s just for five minutes in the ‘war room’ or ‘project nest’, every teacher, student, parent, employee or visitor to the school can take the time to reflect, and get their memory muscle developed for planning every day. And the tools we use to synthesis all that data turn even the most ardent moan into a positive force to drive an organisation’s ambitious ideas.

2. The strategic plan itself is worthless within weeks or months. Organisations’ needs change quicker today than they did ten years ago. A five-year strategic plan might help a leadership team feel accountable, that they’ve done their job. But continuing with it headlong, without ever changing the expectations along the way, would be foolish. I don’t know any leadership team which has actually seen through every item in a five year plan, at the exclusion of all others. Most organisations with these kinds of long-term plans have massive fatigue in their teams: initiative after initiative gets introduced as sticky plaster planning for when the original plan isn’t quite working. But no-one ever dares to ditch significant projects in a five-year plan, even when, further down the road from the point of writing the plan, they’re clearly off-target.

Instead, we invest expertise in framing a leadership team’s vision as an exciting image of the future. Individually, a leader will struggle to express a vision that doesn’t make their ass clench with slight embarrassment from being a little too much or, more likely, a bit underwhelming. But with help, it’s possible to translate a team’s individual ideas for the future of their organisation into something that is compelling and which feels like a ‘goldilocks’ vision — not too hard, not too easy, just right.

3. Most strategic plans are actually just long-term plans. They’re not strategy. Strategy should look mercifully short when laid out on a postcard. Three, four or five ‘orders’ that tell the team how to play, but which don’t lay out each and every step you expect people to take. The ideas to realise the leadership’s expression of the vision need to come from and be delivered by the people who will feel the positive impact in the end.

That level of simplicity takes a lot of effort, expertise and time. We use some of the world’s best copywriters to knock strategy into shape so that the youngest member of a team or the person with English as their third or fourth language, can all understand how they’re meant to act.

4. Good strategy is only good when we know it works. So we don’t make anything final until the leadership team have tested the strategy out with their own current big projects. Ideally, there should be some that are clearly in their last breaths, ready to be ditched because they don’t help realise the vision, and they can’t be done in a way that works with the rest of the team’s strategy. Other projects will need changed to be successful — the strategy tells the leader how they need changed. And there will be some existing projects which will move front and centre — they may take on importance they didn’t have before.

Confident organisations test strategy further. In the American School of Warsaw, they’ve been testing for eight months, and are ready now to commit to most of what they set out, with some minor changes. Other organisations just know that they’ve nailed their direction, in days, often because there was little direction before, so any direction helps people have the focus they need here and now. These teams, far from being slapdash in their approach, understand deeply how strategy is something to be revisited daily.

5. Good strategy should be revisited every day. How do you know you’re doing a good job? How do you know that what you did yesterday worked, and what you’ll continue today will realise the vision you’ve got? Success metrics should not be reduced to annual or quarterly traffic lights, percentages and Board-speak management jargon. Success of projects can be measured in so many different ways, every day. Meeting about project success every week for 30 minutes allows the average organisation 48 points of change, instead of what might be achieved with eight Board meetings. For a leadership team to meet every day for 10 minutes to talk about success, accelerates the potential to tweak and amplify success to 240 points every year.

1000 points of change over five years, or a five year plan with one process at the start to get it right? Which do you prefer? That’s a lot more opportunity to plan together, to cope with the punches to your collective jaw, to kill off ideas that aren’t working (and assure yourselves that everyone knows why). You can only do this if you’re confident that your strategy is of the people in your organisation.

6. Strategy has to be true, not a trueism. Genchi Genbutsu is the Japanese term for the kind of active observation of the organisation that we undertake in that first deep dive. A leadership cannot take itself away to a five star hotel to presuppose what might be true, and develop a strategy from that point of view. A team can’t just talk about what it sees. It’s got to look. This is Genchi Genbutsu. It literally means: get out and see for yourself. Toyota are arguably the Japanese grandmasters of this technique, led by the founder of their world-famous manufacturing system, Taiichi Ohno, and it forms part of their formal five-part strategy for working:

The best practice is to go and see the location or process where the problem exists in order to solve that problem more quickly and efficiently. To grasp problems, confirm the facts and analyse root causes.
The Toyota Production System requires a high level of management presence on the factory floor, so that if a problem exists in this area it should be first of all correctly understood before being solved.

In Jeffrey Liker’s The Toyota Way we see the notion taken beyond the factory floor. Yuji Yokoya was the chief engineer for the 2004 Toyota Sienna redesign. Yokoya had never worked on a car made for the North American market, and he felt the need to practise some Genchi Genbutsu and get out to North America to gain some sense of empathy for a North American driver, and the potential purchaser of this new car. In the end, Yokoya drove a previous model Sienna throughout all 50 American states as well as all 13 provinces and territories of Canada. He got as far as the streets of Mexico.

Why was such a costly and timely roadtrip necessary? Was this the midlife crisis of a successful engineer, or a genius move to make major changes to an otherwise successful (in the Japanese market) car?

What he learned could not have been learned from any analytical data, survey or web search. Why? Because the things he observed needed observing by a Japanese Toyota engineer to make sense — they needed that empathetic, but foreign eye, to be seen afresh. For example, he discovered that roads in Canada are very different from those in the US — they have a very high central reservation designed to deal with the never-ending snowfall of winter. He learned that the winds in Mississippi are so strong at times that, if the family-sized Sienna were not designed with this in mind, it might have flipped over with the force. The most valuable lesson was perhaps to do with a tiny, non-engineering type problem: cup holders. In his native Japan people rarely eat or drink in their vehicles, while their North American counterparts were relatively settled in the habit of eating several of their daily meals within the car, on the move.

From the many design and engineering problems he spotted, Yokoya’s team developed a new Sienna for 2004, equipped with 14 cup holders and a flip tray specifically designed for your Big Mac and fries. It was their best-selling model yet.

The notion of ‘getting out there and seeing it’ might well seem like a drawback for leadership teams looking after large institutions, or entire districts, states or countries. They might feel that they can’t afford the equivalent of a 50-state road trip to get a firsthand insight. To undertake an extensive immersion, in person, ‘out there’, might not be possible for every individual leader. But it is possible when you harness your community, communicate well, form dedicated design teams to do the work with you. Toyota explain further with a reassurance for leaders:

The nature of the phrase is less about the physical act of visiting a site but more to do with a personal understanding of the full implications of any action within an environment as a whole.

The impact of changing one’s mindset, often by applying a strong sense of empathy to how others might view a situation, is powerful. Even in a workshop type situation, normally within the air-conditioned magnolia of a plush hotel or a school meeting room with no wifi (and no connection to the outside world), the mindset change put in place by considering every actor’s feelings and potential observations of the current situation is profound.

From one workshop in a business centre in Spain looking at problems in schools 500 miles away:

‘This workshop focused on people and used real examples; the process was involving.’

From a Headteacher in England:

‘The fact that everyone can take part and feels a necessity to join in means that all views, good and bad are taken into account.’

From a team in Australia looking at a perennial challenge they hadn’t (yet) overcome:

‘We loved having the time to explore ideas, good and bad, without negativity, to see things from so many perspectives.’

Just making an effort to connect with people from other perspectives transforms our thinking about what the underlying challenges we need to address might be.

This article has elements adapted from my book, How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, available in paperback, Kindle and iBooks, and in Spanish.

 

Educational reforms.⤴

from

As soon as the PISA results came out, the questions, accusations and incriminations began. Blame it on the CfE, blame it on the SNP, blame it on the boogie. I’m not going to blame anyone, there’s plenty of stuff written by plenty of people on the internet already, indeed I’m not sure the PISA results are something to aim for or worry about – Finland seems not to be too concerned – but I am going to write about working through major education reforms in my career to date.

The two major reforms which took place whilst I’ve been a teacher occurred in England and Scotland. In England, I taught through the time of the National Literacy Strategy, the National Numeracy Strategy, the QCA units, the QCA unit plans, SATS tests and OfSTED inspections every four years in a range of schools in England.  In Scotland I’ve taught throughout the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and seen at first hand via The Girl, the national assessment procedures.

The reforms in England were massive and to a large degree micro-managed. The Government wanted improvements in literacy and numeracy and wrote strategies to make sure this happened. If there was debate around what ‘good’ literacy and numeracy should look like, I wasn’t part of (I was in my 20s though, so I knew everything anyway). The strategies were written by a group of literacy experts and then rolled out to schools in the autumn and winter to be put into place for the start of the next school year.

I recall the literacy strategy being rolled out in 2 hour staff meetings after school – I hate after school meetings, I’ve done a day of teaching, there is assessment to do and I’m tired: You’re not going to get the best out of me. These meetings were scripted by the government, the trainers read out what we needed to know and we worked through units of work which explained how the strategy worked, how we should plan, how we should teach reading,writing and spelling. We soon spotted that the answers to the trainers’ questions were usually on the next page of the document! For this training we were given a complete strategy, various unit breakdowns of our own, resources (which we needed to make up in school) and some examples of expected work. It was a slog but by September we had stuff in place and away we went with it. The lessons I taught from the strategy weren’t perfect, but there was a structure in place to help me.

Of course, your school didn’t HAVE to follow the literacy strategy, but if you didn’t and the OfSTED or local authority came a calling, your school literacy strategy had better be an improvement on the national strategy. If your SATS results weren’t up to standard then OfSTED might make an extra visit and again, you’d better be getting the national strategy in place or else (or else usually meant your HT retiring or resigning).

Once we had successfully implemented that – well actually by October of that same year – the National Numeracy Strategy was launched. If you’ve had the misfortune to chat to me about this, you’ll know I love the NNS! The Government spotted some of the problems with the literacy strategy and made some key improvements.

The NNS contained examples of questions and ideas you could use, straight out of the folder. The document, like the NLS had learning objectives for each term of each year group (meaning for differentiation there was a progression mapped out). However, the NNS was supplemented with two things I thought were brilliant.

Firstly, there was a 5 day maths course for every teacher in the UK. 5 days out of class (in a hotel at times) to discover the document, talk about it with colleagues from other schools, plan how you would implement it with your class, look at all the resources. Like the NLS it too was scripted, so the Government really were leading this change in EXACTLY the way they wanted it to go. The 5 days were back to back. A full week thinking about nothing more than numeracy. It changed my teaching approach to maths from ‘here’s the book kids’ to something I love to this day. And really it bloody well should have done, bearing in mind the cost of this to the UK taxpayer.

The other wonderful thing was the resources the NNS team made and shared. They created some wonderful teaching programs which I use to this day and they wrote the unit plans. These were highly detailed documents for each unit of work. Unit one was place value it contained 5 plans, one for each day of the week. Each plan was A4 and was pretty much a script for the lesson. There in the same folder (and latterly on CD-ROMS) were the resources (including worksheets) you needed for the lesson. Differentiated. The idea was that these plans were a start point, you changed them to suit the needs of your class. Lots of teachers did and that was great, but even if you didn’t (because you were, like so many teachers lazy ? what you delivered was good quality, written by numeracy experts, lessons. If you were new to the job it allowed you to know where to pitch an average lesson and how to piece your maths teaching together over a term. I loved them and still did out the ideas for a concept which my class find tricky to see if I’ve missed anything.

After a year or two, the Government did it again. They released the QCA topic documents. These detailed the teaching for all of the non-core subjects on a lesson by lesson basis. Again, all the information you needed to teach the lesson was contained in the folder. You adapted it, changed the order, added bits in, took bits out but the basic lessons for all your Art, DT, History, Geography, Music, Science, RME and PSE were there. Concurrent to that, the Government noticed that problem solving and investigations was not progressing as well as they wanted, so they created more problem-solving resource and ran another 5 day maths course for two teachers in each school to upskill them in teaching this. Again, resources and knowledge I still use to this day.

Looking back, it seems a great time, with resources aplenty, cash aplenty, but it was hard, hard work at times, with the pressure of OfSTED ready to pounce and the pressure of SATS scores needing to meet targets for school and local authority. For me, giving me start points close to a finished article of a lesson plan or termly plan allowed me to focus on the delivery of the lesson, moving children to their next target (of which they had many) and how I might make these at time dry lessons interesting and meaningful for the children. For teachers, new to the profession it certainly offered a proven scaffold to begin their careers. I loved the support the strategies and unit plans gave me and the time it freed up to think about the needs of the children in my care.

I will discuss the education reforms since I’ve moved to Scotland in my next post. I think it’s possible I moved out of England before things took a turn for the worse, but I’m happy to hear comments from people who disagree with that thought or with things as I recall them from the late 90s and early 2000s

Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award – Maaz Nayyer⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Small -  Maaz NayyerJoin us for an opportunity to chat to an engineer who can help you as part of this year’s Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award.

This week’s engineer is Maaz Nayyer. Maaz grew up in Hull with a keen interest in Maths and Sciences at school and college. He attended the University of Leeds to study Mechanical Engineering following which he completed his Master’s level degree at the University of Sheffield. As a result of his academic achievements as well as previous experiences he also received the IMechE postgraduate scholarship at their Vision Awards Ceremony in 2013. He is now working as a graduate engineer at Doosan Babcock which provides engineering expertise to the energy industry. His work involves lots of design and calculations and also project planning and controls. He has worked on various projects involving coal and nuclear power and gas processing plants.

Sign up and join us live in Glow TV – Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award – Maaz Nayyer

If you unable to join us for the live event you can always catch up with the recording at another time – Glow TV’s Watch Again.

Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award – vlog 4⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award – join the thousands of children already registered for this exciting free competition!”

If you could be an engineer in Scotland – what would you do?

Be inspired by the Strathclyde University Prototype Team in our fourth vlog as they discuss why they chose the winning entry, how they are planning on making it and where! Hear advice from the engineers about how to start thinking about your own design and how to develop it.

Engineering creativity starts here: info@leadersaward.com
Twitter: @Leadersaward

It’s high time for designers to get out of the way of design thinking⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Design at IBM

A prospective client sent me a link to this in-depth article on IBM's design thinking revolution, where Phil Gilbert, IBM's General Manager of Design, has hired over 1000 designers into the firm, and pushed for over 8000 of its managers and staff to get 'trained' in design thinking. They have even created specific design centres across the firm, with design offices in most of its key locations, such as the one above. The goal is nothing short of beginning IBM's next phase of transformation, one of many in its 100+ year history.

However, all is not rosy. Despite achieving a monumental success relative to the status quo, 8000 'recognised' design thinkers in a corporation of over 370,000 souls is barely a dent in terms of changing practice. If NoTosh were to effect change in only 2% of the teachers with whom we work, we'd have packed up our bags long ago.

I'm not sure hiring 1000 designers in and of itself is the answer to any organisation trying to instil a different way of viewing the world. Here's why.

Since design thinking really began to be a thing, back in the early 60s, the designer him or herself has consistently been at the centre of the design process. Even though we talk of 'user-centred design', the actual ideation and production of a solution, and in many cases the synthesis and definition of the problem to be solve, too, are all tasks undertaken by skilled 'designers', rather than the people in the organisation who have the scope, brand, or 'permission' to play in that space. Once the designers leave the project, so does the design thinking. 

There is a reason d.school sees its executive courses filled with repeat customers and firms like IDEO continue to thrive - they are resolving challenges in specific examples of services or products, but not necessarily transforming the firms and organisations who had the budget and desire to solve a problem in that specific area. Solving a problem costs money. Solving a problem and teaching the client how to do it again and again costs more than just money. That might be the greatest challenge of all.

It's not just a gut feel or my word for it either. There is ample research showing this phenomenon of 'designer at centre' of the process, and the negative effects it has on finished products and services (Brown & Katz, 2011; Leifer, Plattner & Meinel, 2013).

Where the IBM story gets interesting is the number of times the word 'study' is used: four times. Those who want to think differently have to work hard at it, and look out of their existing ecosystem to see how. But the words 'teach' or 'show' or 'share'...? 0 appearances in this article, and many like it.

As long as organisations 'buy in' design expertise, it is in the designers' interest not to teach or to show. After all, where will the next gig come from? And are all designers clear on how they can work and teach their craft to the client? In our firm, we're not only well-practiced at thinking differently, both creatively and critically, but we're also beautifully amateur in so many of the industrial domains in which we choose to play. We are not experts in automotives, fashion, television or web startups. But we are expert teachers. And, with that, we are inherently sharers and showers.

It is that nuance that will help design move from the ranks of bearded, checked-shirt, boating shoe cool kids, and into any organisation that wants to effect perpetual and significant change in the way it views the world around it. If you want to outthink the limits of what's possible, the first step might be to put learning at the heart of everything you do

References:
Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.
Leifer, L., Plattner, H., & Meinel, C. (2013). Design thinking research: Building innovation eco-systems.

 

It’s high time for designers to get out of the way of design thinking⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Design at IBM

A prospective client sent me a link to this in-depth article on IBM's design thinking revolution, where Phil Gilbert, IBM's General Manager of Design, has hired over 1000 designers into the firm, and pushed for over 8000 of its managers and staff to get 'trained' in design thinking. They have even created specific design centres across the firm, with design offices in most of its key locations, such as the one above. The goal is nothing short of beginning IBM's next phase of transformation, one of many in its 100+ year history.

However, all is not rosy. Despite achieving a monumental success relative to the status quo, 8000 'recognised' design thinkers in a corporation of over 370,000 souls is barely a dent in terms of changing practice. If NoTosh were to effect change in only 2% of the teachers with whom we work, we'd have packed up our bags long ago.

I'm not sure hiring 1000 designers in and of itself is the answer to any organisation trying to instil a different way of viewing the world. Here's why.

Since design thinking really began to be a thing, back in the early 60s, the designer him or herself has consistently been at the centre of the design process. Even though we talk of 'user-centred design', the actual ideation and production of a solution, and in many cases the synthesis and definition of the problem to be solve, too, are all tasks undertaken by skilled 'designers', rather than the people in the organisation who have the scope, brand, or 'permission' to play in that space. Once the designers leave the project, so does the design thinking. 

There is a reason d.school sees its executive courses filled with repeat customers and firms like IDEO continue to thrive - they are resolving challenges in specific examples of services or products, but not necessarily transforming the firms and organisations who had the budget and desire to solve a problem in that specific area. Solving a problem costs money. Solving a problem and teaching the client how to do it again and again costs more than just money. That might be the greatest challenge of all.

It's not just a gut feel or my word for it either. There is ample research showing this phenomenon of 'designer at centre' of the process, and the negative effects it has on finished products and services (Brown & Katz, 2011; Leifer, Plattner & Meinel, 2013).

Where the IBM story gets interesting is the number of times the word 'study' is used: four times. Those who want to think differently have to work hard at it, and look out of their existing ecosystem to see how. But the words 'teach' or 'show' or 'share'...? 0 appearances in this article, and many like it.

As long as organisations 'buy in' design expertise, it is in the designers' interest not to teach or to show. After all, where will the next gig come from? And are all designers clear on how they can work and teach their craft to the client? In our firm, we're not only well-practiced at thinking differently, both creatively and critically, but we're also beautifully amateur in so many of the industrial domains in which we choose to play. We are not experts in automotives, fashion, television or web startups. But we are expert teachers. And, with that, we are inherently sharers and showers.

It is that nuance that will help design move from the ranks of bearded, checked-shirt, boating shoe cool kids, and into any organisation that wants to effect perpetual and significant change in the way it views the world around it. If you want to outthink the limits of what's possible, the first step might be to put learning at the heart of everything you do

References:
Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.
Leifer, L., Plattner, H., & Meinel, C. (2013). Design thinking research: Building innovation eco-systems.

 

The unknown unknowns – test out your ideas⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Unknown Unknowns

Not knowing what you don't know is one of the most troublesome concepts of living in an information rich time poor world. And for educators, who have been used to knowing a lot about some stuff for the past century, it proves an elusive concept in my Masters programme and in workshops that I lead around the world.

I've just kicked off teaching my second year of Charles Sturt University's subject on Designing Spaces for Learning (you can follow the course hashtag to see what we're up to 16 weeks). Without any exceptions, this concept of unknown unknowns is one of the toughest for people to get, especially when they get their heads into the research behind it, such as C-K Theory

Designing the unknown | C-K Theory Presentation from CGS Mines ParisTech on Vimeo.

While it's vital that my Masters students read the research, to really "do their homework" I set the first week's assignment in the real world. Every student must make an actual change to their learning environment within 10 days of starting the subject, and note the impact that the change has had. Sometimes, folk lack some inspiration. Here are two great things any educator could try in their learning spaces when they get back to school, or to their office, or their library. From Inc. Magazine, these two ideas encapsulate what it means to get out those unknown unknowns:

Play Anthropologist

How do you choose the environment that's best for your team? Forget asking them and try watching them instead, suggests Kuske:

"The problem with asking is, if people don't know it's an option, they're not going to give it to you as an answer. But when you watch their behaviors, you see no one ever uses those four spots over there but the couches are always busy. Or hey, why do you leave every other day? That would give [a small business owner] a lot of clues to what's right for their particular company."

Forget One Person Equals One Desk

Think you need one desk per team member? Think again. Kuske says mobile technology has rendered this idea obsolete, which is good news for cash-strapped small-business owners--it frees up money for more creative space design.

"Part of the cost structure everyone has is they make this assumption of a desk per person, but with mobile work, when you walk into most places, how many of those desks are actually used at any given moment? Not many," he says.

In Turnstone's experience often up to 60% of desks can go.

The unknown unknowns – test out your ideas⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Unknown Unknowns

Not knowing what you don't know is one of the most troublesome concepts of living in an information rich time poor world. And for educators, who have been used to knowing a lot about some stuff for the past century, it proves an elusive concept in my Masters programme and in workshops that I lead around the world.

I've just kicked off teaching my second year of Charles Sturt University's subject on Designing Spaces for Learning (you can follow the course hashtag to see what we're up to 16 weeks). Without any exceptions, this concept of unknown unknowns is one of the toughest for people to get, especially when they get their heads into the research behind it, such as C-K Theory

Designing the unknown | C-K Theory Presentation from CGS Mines ParisTech on Vimeo.

While it's vital that my Masters students read the research, to really "do their homework" I set the first week's assignment in the real world. Every student must make an actual change to their learning environment within 10 days of starting the subject, and note the impact that the change has had. Sometimes, folk lack some inspiration. Here are two great things any educator could try in their learning spaces when they get back to school, or to their office, or their library. From Inc. Magazine, these two ideas encapsulate what it means to get out those unknown unknowns:

Play Anthropologist

How do you choose the environment that's best for your team? Forget asking them and try watching them instead, suggests Kuske:

"The problem with asking is, if people don't know it's an option, they're not going to give it to you as an answer. But when you watch their behaviors, you see no one ever uses those four spots over there but the couches are always busy. Or hey, why do you leave every other day? That would give [a small business owner] a lot of clues to what's right for their particular company."

Forget One Person Equals One Desk

Think you need one desk per team member? Think again. Kuske says mobile technology has rendered this idea obsolete, which is good news for cash-strapped small-business owners--it frees up money for more creative space design.

"Part of the cost structure everyone has is they make this assumption of a desk per person, but with mobile work, when you walk into most places, how many of those desks are actually used at any given moment? Not many," he says.

In Turnstone's experience often up to 60% of desks can go.

Crazy, stupid… innovation. The imperfect perfection of Tower Bridge #28daysofwriting⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

I've had a lovely week on holiday down in London with the family, being proper tourists. Under the dreich weather of Monday we ventured Thames-side and towards the terrifying but fun seethrough walkways of Tower Bridge. Along the side of the walkways were photographs of some of the world's great bridges, together with some of the history about how this iconic bridge came to be.

What did we learn?

This landmark, required to cope with the overwhelming population growth on either side of the river and increased river traffic to the upper parts of the Thames, was borne out of many, mostly failed, prototypes, most in the form of sketches.

Thank goodness we didn't stop at the first prototypes submitted to the public competition. The dual lock system would hardly have helped with the drastically increasing river traffic of the industrial revolution:

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And a system of hydraulic elevators would have failed in the other sense, not really foreseeing 2015's automotive traffic needing a quick north-south crossing:

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Some designers simply did without a bridge and went for the tunnel - perfect for traffic throughput in the longer term and not disruptive at all to the river traffic. In the end, though, it was feasibility that killed these tunnel ideas off - the runways required to descend human and horse-drawn traffic into them were so long that they ate up most of the land either side of the river:

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As the final designer was chosen, even his first drafts were off the mark on the aesthetic side:

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In the end, the rules for killing ideas and honing the kernels of interesting ideas down haven't changed since the bridge's completion in 1894 and today, as I describe them in my bookdesirability (do they want or need it?), feasibility (can we do it?) and viability (should we do it?).

The result, is an imperfect perfection that we recognise in an instant:

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The school design process is broken. Isn’t it? #28daysoflearning⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Flexible Furniture - really?

I've been shown hundreds of 'flexible learning spaces' over the years, and none of them are any more flexible than the addition of a wheel here and there might allow. In fact, if you look on Google for 'flexible learning spaces', the above panoply of wheel-laden MDF and plastic is what you discover. Now, I'm all for the wheel - a marvellous invention for which we still find a great use.

However, the humble wheel is not the basis of flexible learning.

We need to stop spending billions on school spaces, technological and physical, that respond to a brief about learning that reinforces the (mistaken) understandings about what makes great learning experiences still held by many architects and the commissioners of new learning spaces.

I'm preparing a new talk on designing spaces for learning, based on NoTosh's work in helping school innovators, leaders and architects to move beyond the current clichés of "flexible learning":

Learning space design and construction has never been a more pressing issue for schools in both state and independent/private sectors. Even those with small or no budgets are seeking to renovate and constantly improve the learning environment to better harness our growing understanding of what makes for strong learning, and the ever-changing technology options that we face.

And yet, most of our multi-million dollar decisions are based on anecdote and seeking to emulate or synthesise what others have done, with little research or questioning “why” before the budget is allocated, the masterplan produced, and the work on design begins.

In this keynote, Ewan McIntosh, founder of global creative and learning consultancy NoTosh, and Subject Coordinator at Charles Sturt University’s Designing Spaces for Learning Masters, sets the scene for what’s working, what’s not, and where the most innovative learning space design might want to head. Above all, how can our learning space help us to raise attainment and better engage learners in a more current, engaging form of learning?

The traditional process of deciding a new space is required, writing a brief, commissioning an architect to create a masterplan, involving the community in the masterplan creation and the subsequent phases of build is, frankly, the wrong one. It cannot, by definition, be user-centred. The users are involved far too late in the day. The architect needs to know the bid is worthwhile going in for. The commissioner needs to know the budget in order to write a brief which, by default, adds a constraint that, for most architects' masterplans, leads to a different set of pastel shades with which to paint the now de facto glass, steel, atrium and, yes, 'flexible' spaces for all that wheel-endowed furniture.

This fault-line strikes most design - the designer is nearly always at the centre of the process, rarely the people who will use the design. Even in so-called 'human-centred design' practice, you'll find it's the designers, not the users, who end up doing the synthesis, coming up with the ingenious ideas to 'solve their problems'. I'm a firm believer in bringing users into the design process. I don't think designerly skills are that specialist that they cannot be taught, in time, to better prepare the ground for a design.

And when you're going to spend $40-80m on a new build, that investment of time and effort is worth it, to get it right for the users' needs.

There are some examples of people getting it right, or at least righter. Dear Architect is a joyous document, written and designed by the students of one generation to build a space for the next group to come up to Walker's "The Works". By designing the brief, by doing the lion's share of the design before the architects even get sight of it, these students and teachers have gone a long way to changing their existing practice, too. Just by envisioning where they'd like to be, helps shape a move from the status quo to something new in the teaching and learning, new building or not.

The talk has a way to go to move beyond rant (like this) and into the research that I uncovered in writing the Masters course. And it has even further to go before a 16 week course can become a 20 minute punchy, inspiring talk. But the basic premise is one I'd like to bounce around with educators - is this a process, behaviour and frustration you recognise?