Principle 1 – Good design is innovative

So, as promised in the previous post, let’s dive into Dieter Rams’ principles for good design! The first one is the following:


“Good design is innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.”


In developing a practice of designing collaborative events and collaborative work, one will build an experience base of things that have worked well and things that have not worked so well or even failed. These insights are big and small. A certain event flow might have proven mightily successful, an analogy might have missed the point, a particular module of an event might have worked really well, et cetera. Once a solid experience base has been established, the pitfall is that this base will turn into a repertoire. A definitive list of the practitioners’ tools to engage in future work. This is where designs are repeated, modules are used over and over in the same form, in short, this is where innovation stops.


One of the cool things about my work is when a group of people walks out of an event and tell me ‘this was refreshing!’. I always try to create an experience that is fresh, especially when I am working with a client that I have done multiple engagements for. A key thing in collaborative work is to challenge people to venture into the unknown, to do things differently than they are used to, to break the patterns that are part of the problem they are trying to solve. Often, these very patterns are the ones that were used in creating the problem anyways. For most organizations and groups, the first reflex is to apply more of the same pattern, expecting a different outcome. This will rarely work and any way, hope is not a strategy…


So, how do you create a fresh experience over and over again? How do you recreate a mechanism in a way that it feels new and unexpected?


At the most basic level, one could look at incorporating new technology in collaborative work. This is great, technology can help make your workflow more efficient. It can even augment the experience of the people you work with. But for this post, I want to look a level deeper in terms of innovation…


Firstly, the field of collaborative work is rapidly growing. More and more people are practicing some form of this work, be it in event design, coaching, new methodologies for managing projects, there is certainly a whole world out there to tap into for inspiration. Personally, I have combined the foundation of the MG Taylor method with Open Space Methodology, Deep Democracy, Design Thinking, Agile framework and many more approaches and methods. There is no definitive way of doing this work and there is so much variety to incorporate in the work that the possibilities seem endless.


Another great way to stay innovative is to read ‘widely and weirdly’ as Gail Taylor has explained to me. Find your inspiration and insights not only within this field of work, but look outside. Way outside! There is a lot to learn in actually all fields of science. Look at physics and mathematics, psychology, philosophy, history, anthropology, the list goes on and on. The MG Taylor method is derived from a variety of science fields. But also from art, literature, architecture, movies, music. Even watching Netflix series can be an inspiring experience.

The key here is to develop the habit of looking at all of this through the lens of a practitioner of collaborative work. To me, this is one of the key habits to develop. Build a process in your system of seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling, understanding it, playing around with it and see what it could be in your work. Then try…


Oh yeah, the final remark here is to never get caught by that big furry monster called ‘fear of failure’. There is so much to find on the web on this topic, I won’t even explain. Just be ready to experiment and sometimes let things blow up in your face, learn from it, smile and move on, okay?

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