The Means Determine The Ends?

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

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