Traditional approaches to the design of the simple things in our everyday life — ear-rings, clothes, shoes, furniture, homes — often involve a designer staring a a page in a notebook, drawing the object again and again till it is just right. Many simple products can be drawn and designed or made by hand by a single person focusing all their creative and intellectual-aesthetic energy on the problem till they get it just right.
Now think of a more complex artifact, maybe something like a cell-phone. Can one person — even a creative genius — actually consider all the delicate and fine features of a cell phone simultaneously? Even if they were to spend their entire lives on the question, the would likely make no progress. Rather we need multiple individuals, directing their creativity and attention at one another in order to create such a marvel of collective creativity. This requires us to build on each others ideas, to enhance them.
When design is taught in formal educational environments these days, too much emphasis is laid on individual approaches to problem solving and not enough on the kinds of behavior and orientation that can lead to collective and collaborative approaches to problem solving. Some examples of these collaborative behaviors may include, for example, white-boarding someone else’s ideas, making a list and prioritizing it, shifting to a shareable database to enter and manipulate ideas across locations.
Now, these tools of creativity that allow us to build on one another’s ideas and to draw from different experts also allows us to do one more thing: to get feedback from end-users.
The traditional approach to design begins and ends with the mind of a single creative mind. An enhanced approach binds all of us into a network of creativity that never begins and never ends and includes all of us who use a product, service or system into the creative process that can serve to improve or redesign it.