(The next installment of the Chinese version of this column, presented as always in its original Mandarin and English.)
So I have been invited to speak at this years Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference. It’s a huge honor and I am very flattered. Looking at the guest list, I find myself somewhat intimidated – everyone on there has very serious titles: CEO of Something, President of Something, Executive Chairman of Something, all…except me. I’m a designer.
A journalist asked to interview me before the event, and the first question they asked was the most pertinent: “As the only designer invited to the panel, what do you think about your presence at the forum? What are the main things you are going to talk about?”
The answer is actually quite simple, and in fact represents my hope not just for Boao but for China at this moment in time, and hopefully, without sounding too grandiose, the world in general: that design clearly has a place to play in the Big Conversations right now. These are conversations about change; about taking intractable problems and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks, about bringing disparate groups people of together and orienting them towards collective problem solving and action rather than endless discussion and debate.
As an example, we recently worked on a growing problem that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has grappled with for years – that one out of every three children in America today is overweight or obese. While the CDC deftly handles sudden health crises of global proportions (such as flu pandemics) the agency’s efforts to control more insidious “lifestyle” diseases, such as childhood obesity and related chronic illnesses, receive fewer headlines and are less familiar to the public.
The CDC expanded its efforts to support America’s youth by launching Project Carrot, a program aimed at exploring how environmental changes, health policies, and marketing/communication efforts could be better integrated to deter childhood obesity. To narrow the scope, the main emphasis was on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.
The CDC wanted to try a new problem-solving approach. They turned to us because our human-centered design methodology contrasted with the CDC’s traditional means of gathering and disseminating scientific data. They believed that IDEO’s new perspective and innovative practices would help the adults who were running Project Carrot get inside tween minds - to understand their worlds, needs, and desires - in an inclusive and non-threatening way.
We spoke with tweens and a wide range of adults, from a senior director of grocery at WalMart to an elementary school district’s “renegade lunch lady,” about healthy eating. The interviews yielded some important information, including: parents tend to care more about their children’s safety and grades in school than whether they eat vegetables; “social marketing” is now dismissed by public health sector, where officials have tried it for 30 years and it hasn’t worked; and translating the CDC’s wealth of knowledge to the language of policymakers is difficult.
After sharing these insights with the CDC, IDEO helped the organization reframe Project Carrot’s objective. The final three prototypes worked together to make food environments less “toxic” by promoting environmental, policy, and social change.
This is what I mean by design’s ability to contribute by bringing together citizens and governments; by creating mechanisms for them to speak to each other and connect, by making intangible campaign promises tangible and individuals engaged. I am hoping that Boao can provide a forum for us all to think about how we can facilitate these kinds of conversations and have everyone benefit in the process.
Another space I think design has a huge role to play in is in education, one of our fastest-growing practice areas and one that our designers are most passionate about. Building the next generation of Asian leaders is something we are excited about in all our offices in this region, and I think a great topic for a forum like Boao is: “How does this generation of leaders help enable the next?”
Education is the means by which we thrive, individually and collectively. In recent times, the growing complexity and interconnectedness of our now global society has challenged the effectiveness of traditional education systems, which were designed for the needs of the industrial era. The old model was built upon the idea that a worker’s job was to apply the basic skills they’d learned in school to specific tasks. To thrive in the 21st century, however, we need to go beyond that—and teach people how to learn, engage, and create. As Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The new model is about the constant creation of knowledge and empowering individuals to participate, communicate, and innovate.
This is the spirit that drives our Designs For Learning practice. Whether it’s about developing tools, environments, or curricula that enable more engaging learning experiences; transforming schools, programs, and organizations; or addressing systemic challenges that affect education-at-large, our human-centered methodologies and multi-disciplinary teams bring innovation solutions to education.
One goal I have for Boao is to identify people who are as passionate as we are about going on the journey of creating new types of leaders with new skills, hopefully designers in their own right, but in this case designers of our collective future.
So, we shall see. I’m excited to learn as always, to see and listen to the pulse of a event such as this. I’m assuming that my voice has something to add to the conversations, and that what I am proposing - that designing actual change, together - is a message that resonates. I’m planning on writing a series of reactions to the event in my next column, so am hoping that I am as optimistic coming out as I am going in.
这是驱动IDEO开辟“学习设计”（Designs For Learning）业务的初衷。我们凭借人为本的设计方法和跨专业的设计团队为教育领域带来了创新——无论是开发可以使学习体验更具吸引力的工具、环境或者是课程；学校、课程和组织的转型；或是解决影响整个教育体系的系统性问题。