The future of design is designless

Genrich Altshuller, the author of the TRIZ approach to innovation, once gave a definition of ‘ideal solution’ of any problem. He wrote that “the ideal solution should solve the initial problem, but has to ceased to exist itself [thus avoiding creation of the subsequent problems”]. He also gave an example of such ‘ideal solution’: the door that opens when someone approaches it, let him go through, but then becomes a wall again, ‘ceasing to exist’ as a door. The picture above, of the hanging threads, may be a good approximation of such an ‘ideal door’ (although not a precise model of it, of course).

Psychotherapists are often seen as a ‘solution providers’ by their clients; wrongly, I think, because a psychotherapist should not provide a ‘solution’ to the patient’s problem (he doesn’t ‘have’ it in a first place); instead, what he can hope to do is to create conditions, a space and enablers, that would help people to find the solutions for themselves. Whether the therapist is seen as a direct agent of change or a facilitator only, the memory about the act of therapy is an interesting topic to consider. If a patient remembers a ‘helping hand’ of the therapist, was it a successful therapy?

My mentor was often saying the first accidental after-therapy encounter with the client is a good indicator of the success: “If we meet on a street some time after we finished our sessions, and my former client runs to me with the words of gratitude and applications, I always feel it’s my failure. I would much prefer they wouldn’t notice me, wouldn’t even recognize me, as if we didn’t have our sessions at all”.

The therapy would work in this case, but the therapeutic agent ceased to exist, at least is erased from the memory. (By the way, I often compare the work we do at Summ()n with psychotherapy, a futuretherapy of some sort; we don’t bring the ‘future solutions” to our clients, instead we help them to change their way of thinking about the future so that they could produce their own new ideas and ‘possible futures’).

I’ve recently encountered a very interesting book, Effortless Action: Wu-wei As Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. The author, Edward Slingerland, argues that the usual understanding the famous Daoist concept of wu-wei as ‘non-action’ is not very accurate, and that we instead have to read it as ‘effortless action’. The action happens, the result is achieved, and yet somehow no special energy/effort/device was needed.

He writes how important, and omnipresent was this concept in the early Chinese thought (and how difficult it is to grasp this ideas for the Western way of thinking, focussed on the tool/technique, and the author/hero (and now designer).

Where do all these three above snippets point to? In the spirit of this posting, and also following my own pi-approach to the story-telling, I won’t tell you, but rather invite you to explore the void of this conceptual donut yourself 🙂

ps; I can only add that I am writing this posting in the very day of the Dutch Design Week‘s opening in Eindhoven, with the largest program ever, that also includes the first wdf, “World Design Forum“. I somehow can’t imagine they are promoting ‘designless design‘ there.

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