It’s September, and many of us are returning energized after our holidays. This summer, all of us have been offered the possibility to open up to new things, to reshuffle ideals and objectives around the idea of vacation, to enjoy free time differently than in past summers. On a broader scale, the summer period was an occasion to diverge and embrace a totally new way of experiencing some time off.
Personally, it has been a very uncommon summer for my family. We started with nice vacation plans, then a big setback, followed by adaptation and reprocessing, then new plans, then new discoveries — all in the span of a few weeks. That’s what this blog is about: cultivating the ability to open up to the unplanned and welcome the unusual.
The unusual side of things
I started with an experiment: I googled the word “unusual”. The results showed that for many, the word “unusual” is associated with the funny and the nonfunctional, as well as the practically irrelevant.
But if you look further, “unusual” is also about novelty. An unexpected or fresh take, an unexplored solution, a non-standard angle of observation that can be used to look at something from a more unconventional (and for that reason, perhaps more uncomfortable) place.
Answering the usual, unusually
When someone asks me “How do you keep yourself busy?” I might end up in the trap of talking about my career up to this point, a pretty common answer to a common question. But if I challenged myself to move from this comfort zone to an unusual uncomfortable zone, I would take the time to answer the question differently.
I would explain that on top of what I’ve done, it’s the how and why of what I did that counts. Which experiences and changes were achieved, where the attention went to, what insights were discovered, why strategies were put in place and which tastes were left at the end.
Unusual isn’t linear
As Design Thinkers, the most common question we get at the beginning of a project is: “So, do you have a plan?” I used to be very frustrated by this question, but I’ve learned to recognize it as the human need to know where we are going (and if that place is safe).
Our unusual answer is: “Yes, we have a plan…but that plan is not linear.” Design Thinkers don’t work with input and output only. Rather, we keep the focus by diverging and converging through the process while nurturing provocative insights, reframing challenges, and supporting idea generation. We let multiple/multidisciplinary perspectives flow in, we stay open to understanding constraints and the humans behind them, we constantly look for opportunities and question all assumptions, we swim through the unusual inside projects.
Why your project needs a Design Thinker
When a Design Thinker approaches a project, that project becomes an avenue for change. Because change is normally scary, projects need to start with structure so that teams don’t panic in the beginning. But once the swimming lanes are staked out, we can change our position to help teams feel the freedom to explore new thoughts and bring in change.
The plus of having a designer in a managing position is their innate ability to always remain creative, along with the ability to funnel co-created solutions from different disciplines. Most importantly, they have the capacity to look beyond the usual — to the unusual. Unusual means constantly activating an open mindset, one where solutions are the horizon and the human point of view is the way to get there. Unusual means combining analysis with imagination to jump over project hurdles along the way.
As a professional who uses their design background to approach all issues, I would say that what makes my work and results unusual is this: a natural design sensibility and design ethic in any project challenge. If as you read this, you’re realizing that you feel up to changing direction, I’m here to help you discover a fresh, unexpected way forward. Let’s go unusual!
Images by Egor Vikhrev, Mostafa Meraji, and Sam Poullain.