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Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains
"Miller never bothers to define all the modes, and we will consider them more below. But for now, we should just note that the entire model is based on design consulting: You try to understand the client’s problem, what he or she wants or needs. You sharpen that problem so it’s easier to solve. You think of ways to solve it. You try those solutions out to see if they work. And then once you’ve settled on something, you ask your client for feedback. By the end, you’ve created a “solution,” which is also apparently an “innovation.”

Miller also never bothers to define the liberal arts. The closest he comes is to say they are ways of “thinking that all students should be exposed to because it enhances their understanding of everything else.” Nor does he make clear what he means by the idea that Design Thinking is or could be the new liberal arts. Is it but one new art to be added to the traditional liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, and science? Or does Miller think, like Hennessy and Kelly, that all of education should be rebuilt around the DTs? Who knows.

Miller is most impressed with Design Thinking’s Empathize Mode. He writes lyrically, “Human-centered design redescribes the classical aim of education as the care and tending of the soul; its focus on empathy follows directly from Rousseau’s stress on compassion as a social virtue.” Beautiful. Interesting.

But what are we really talking about here? The d.school’s An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE says, “The Empathize Mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge.” We can use language like “empathy” to dress things up, but this is Business 101. Listen to your client; find out what he or she wants or needs.

Miller calls the Empathize Mode “ethnography,” which is deeply uncharitable — and probably offensive — to cultural anthropologists who spend their entire lives learning how to observe other people. Few, if any, anthropologists would sign onto the idea that some amateurs at a d.school “boot camp,” strolling around Stanford and gawking at strangers, constitutes ethnography. The Empathize Mode of Design Thinking is roughly as ethnographic as a marketing focus group or a crew of sleazoid consultants trying to feel out and up their clients’ desires.

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business."



In recent episode of the Design Observer podcast, Jen added further thoughts on Design Thinking. “The marketing of design thinking is completely bullshit. It’s even getting worse and worse now that [Stanford has] three-day boot camps that offer certified programs — as if anyone who enrolled in these programs can become a designer and think like a designer and work like a designer.” She also resists the idea that any single methodology “can deal with any kind of situation — not to mention the very complex society that we’re in today.”

In informal survey I conducted with individuals who either teach at or were trained at the top art, architecture, and design schools in the USA, most respondents said that they and their colleagues do not use the term Design Thinking. Most of the people pushing the DTs in higher education are at second- and third-tier universities and, ironically, aren’t innovating but rather emulating Stanford. In afew cases, respondents said they did know a colleague or two who was saying “Design Thinking” frequently, but in every case, the individuals were using the DTs either to increase their turf within the university or to extract resources from college administrators who are often willing to throw money at anything that smacks of “innovation.”

Moreover, individuals working in art, architecture, and design schools tend to be quite critical of existing DT programs. Reportedly, some schools are creating Design Thinking tracks for unpromising students who couldn’t hack it in traditional architecture or design programs — DT as “design lite.” The individuals I talked to also had strong reservations about the products coming out of Design Thinking classes. A traditional project in DT classes involves undergraduate students leading “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary” teams drawing on faculty expertise around campus to solve some problem of interest to the students. The students are not experts in anything, however, and the projects often take the form of, as one person put it, “kids trying to save the world.”

One architecture professor I interviewed had been asked to sit in on a Design Thinking course’s critique, a tradition at architecture and design schools where outside experts are brought in to offer (often tough) feedback on student projects. The professor watched a student explain her design: a technology that was meant to connect mothers with their premature babies who they cannot touch directly. The professor wondered, what is the message about learning that students get from such projects? “I guess the idea is that this work empowers the students to believe they are applying their design skills,” the professor told me. “But I couldn’t critique it as design because there was nothing to it as design. So what’s left? Is good will enough?

As others put it to me, Design Thinking gives students an unrealistic idea of design and the work that goes into creating positive change. Upending that old dictum “knowledge is power,” Design Thinkers giver their students power without knowledge, “creative confidence” without actual capabilities.

It’s also an elitist, Great White Hope vision of change that literally asks students to imagine themselves entering a situation to solve other people’s problems. Among other things, this situation often leads to significant mismatch between designers’ visions — even after practicing “empathy” — and users’ actual needs. Perhaps the most famous example is the PlayPump, a piece of merry-go-round equipment that would pump water when children used it. Designers envisioned that the PlayPump would provide water to thousands of African communities. Only kids didn’t show up, including because there was no local cultural tradition of playing with merry-go-rounds.

Unsurprisingly, Design Thinking-types were enthusiastic about the PlayPump. Tom Hulme, the design director at IDEO’s London office, created a webpage called OpenIDEO, where users could share “open source innovation.” Hulme explained that he found himself asking, “What would IDEO look like on steroids? [We might ask the same question about crack cocaine or PCP.] What would it look like when you invite everybody into everything? I set myself the challenge of . . . radical open-innovation collaboration.” OpenIDEO community users were enthusiastic about the PlayPump — even a year after the system had been debunked, suggesting inviting everyone to everything gets you people who don’t do research. One OpenIDEO user enthused that the PlayPump highlighted how “fun can be combined with real needs.”

Thom Moran, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, told me that Design Thinking brought “a whole set of values about what design’s supposed to look like,” including that everything is supposed to be “fun” and “play,” and that the focus is less on “what would work.” Moran went on, “The disappointing part for me is that I really do believe that architecture, art, and design should be thought of as being a part of the liberal arts. They provide a unique skill set for looking at and engaging the world, and being critical of it.” Like others I talked to, Moran doesn’t see this kind of critical thinking in the popular form of Design Thinking, which tends to ignore politics, environmental issues, and global economic problems.

Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”

“That’s what’s most annoying,” Moran went on. “I fundamentally believe in this stuff as a model of education. But it’s business consultants who give TED Talks who are out there selling it. It’s all anti-intellectual. That’s the problem. Architecture and design are profoundly intellectual. But for these people, it’s not a form of critical thought; it’s a form of salesmanship.”

Here’s my one caveat: it could be true that the DTs are a good way to teach design or business. I wouldn’t know. I am not a designer (or business school professor). I am struck, however, by how many designers, including Natasha Jen and Thom Moran, believe that the DTs are nonsense. In the end, I will leave this discussion up to designers. It’s their show. My concern is a different one — namely that… [more]
designthinking  innovation  ideas  2017  design  leevinsel  maintenance  repair  ideation  problemsolving  davidedgerton  willthomas  billburnett  daveevans  stanford  d.school  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  d.tech  education  schools  teaching  liberalarts  petermiller  esaleninstitute  newage  hassoplattner  johnhennessey  davidkelly  jimjones  empathy  ethnography  consulting  business  bullshit  marketing  snakeoil  criticism  criticalthinking  highereducation  highered  thomamoran  tedtalks  openideo  playpump  designimperialism  whitesaviors  post-its  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  art  architecture  complexity  simplicity  methodology  process  emptiness  universities  colleges  philipmirowski  entrepreneurship  lawrencebusch  elizabethpoppberman  nathanielcomfort  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  hucksterism  self-promotion  hype  georgeorwell  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  andréspicer  humanitariandesign  themaintainers  ma 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"



"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."



"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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