Getting The Right Start
Beginnings matter. I’ve had the opportunity recently to observe the start of an undertaking that could have significant implications for Illinois. Rather than allowing for the possibility of an innovative, unforeseen outcome, a structure is being prematurely established that will produce, well, more of the same. Ambiguity can be difficult to tolerate. Faced with a new challenge or project, my impulse is to race toward a potential solution based on whatever incomplete knowledge I possess, rather than focus on a process to better understand the system at play. Solutions are powerful sirens promising the satisfaction of ego gratification. With the high school students I’m currently teaching about innovation and design, it’s everything I can do to keep them from jumping ahead to their answers, and maintain their focus on more deeply comprehending the ambitious challenges they’ve chosen to address. Creating the kind of resilient, holistic solutions that sustainability issues demand requires a weird combination of ego, humility and discipline. The foundation we build — starting with ourselves, and extending to how we structure projects — strongly influences, if not completely determines, outcomes. Learning to step back before racing forward, however unsettling the void, is where the best designs will almost always begin.
Peter Nicholson, Innovationist
FORESIGHT DESIGN INITIATIVE
Explaining To Learn
Everyone should teach. The younger the students, the better. Having to explain what you know, or think you do, to inquisitive youth keeps you honest. This week, I started leading a seminar on innovation and design (with
Balancing “Problems” and Benefits
My apartment flooded. The irony was impossible to ignore: for the last two months, we’ve been involved in a consulting project examining how to better coordinate storm water management efforts. Innovation begins at home? As I
Summer is my high season. Writing these paragraphs every week before work hours requires discipline. I feel constant pressure to be doing something more urgent. I’ve been producing these micro essays for so long that I take the
Empowering the Climate Generation
I’m sorry. It always seems like the first thing I should say. Next Monday, I’ll walk into a classroom filled with 18 teenagers from across the country looking to learn about sustainability. They are the unwitting
Realizing Collective Potential
Innovation begins at home. But it can’t stop there. A fellow sustainability organization recently invited me to contribute to their strategic planning process. Not one of their questions referenced collaboration. The future success of entities of any
The Feedback Imperative
It happens fairly frequently. I’ll meet someone new, or run into a colleague, and they’ll mention that they read, and generally appreciate, these weekly reflections. While edifying, such acknowledgment is not the reason I write them. But
Ponder It No Longer
I’ve been converted. Divvy bike sharing has made my life better. Having initially tried the service last fall, I noticed during the winter all the occasions I could have used it, and finally joined this spring.
The Advantage of Not Being Involved
Solutions are enticing. The longer I work on sustainable innovation projects, the more fascinated I’ve become with how we solve problems. Answers are often generated based on habitual, rarely acknowledged mental processes and incomplete
Deconstructing Our Babies
The first time was demoralizing. Years ago, in a matter of minutes, a more experienced colleague deconstructed the framework for a new project that a colleague and I had spent months developing. We left the meeting devastated.