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PHD-DESIGN  April 2007

PHD-DESIGN April 2007

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Subject:

Re: Wicked Problems, Tame Problems

From:

GK VanPatter <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

GK VanPatter <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 Apr 2007 18:15:05 +0100

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Donít want to over complicate the picture being worked on here and I have likely missed 
numerous pieces of the thread but just want to add a view from practice by that I mean from what 
we call Design 3.0.

I noticed that much of the conversation here seems to be based on the notion of designer as 
individual and design as a single separate language but in 3.0 practice, designers are polylingual, 
meaning that they speak and synthesize multiple process languages, some visual some not so. 
Traditional design process language where challenges were often framed by others is just one of 
those languages.

In some languages like traditional design, content knowledge and process knowledge were/are 
intermixed, in other languages content is separated from process. Depending on what we are 
working on we might use one or the other. 

Some languages have many add on tools and frameworks that are useful when working on 
unframed fuzzy complex challenges, a terrain that is beyond where design has traditionally 
engaged.

Further complicating the picture is that we might have multiple players in the room during co-
creation with clients and various stakeholders, at least one is in a process role and others might 
be in content roles.

Complicating the picture further is the notion that the person in process is making a co-created 
map of the challenges (not the solutions), some of which might have nothing to do with his/her 
vertical discipline. Of course in the messy real world fuzzy challenges are not organized by 
discipline.

Complicating the picture even more is that we are not only engaged with polylingual process, we 
are simultaneously looking at challenge arrays meaning that many many challenges exist 
simultaneously. Doing sense-making not only in the information space but in the challenge space 
is what folks working in the 3.0 arena are already doing today.

In general we find that there is not a lot of awareness that process alone (separate from content 
knowledge) is a deep well to fall into, explore and master. Having deep process skills is quite 
different then abstractly knowing that process exists, or that different types of challenges exist.

In closing I will just add one other point since it often arises as a deflector: From our perspective, 
at high levels of process skills mastery there is really little difference between a problem and an 
opportunity so we tend not to go round and round with such arguments. We also recognize that 
each set of solutions creates the next round of challenges in a continuous cycle. There is no fixed 
end in the cycle.

Among the more interesting challenges in our world is how does one teach not design as a 
separate stand alone thing but rather polylingual process mastery, a skill that is particularly useful 
when engaging with folks from many backgrounds and realms of knowledge. In our own work we 
have found it to be useful to teach how to look at and understand process fundamentals found in 
most process languages. This is often more about sense-making then differencing. Due to the 
present focus of graduate design education we end up doing most of this training ourselves.

We have a saying: Happiness is a complex problem.

Hope this is useful.


GK VanPatter
Co-Founder

Humantific
StrategyLab | UnderstandingLab | InnovationLab

41 East 11th Street, 11th Floor
New York City, NY 10003
T: 212-699-6441

http://www.humantific.com 

...

Co-Founder
NextDesign Leadership Institute
New York

NextD
Design is Changing! Are You?
http://nextd.org
...

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