How Can We Design Ourselves Away From 'Blah' Conversations? How Can We Design Ourselves Away From 'Blah' Conversations?
How Can We Design Ourselves Away From 'Blah' Conversations?
Can you remember the last time you had an amazing conversation?
I had one the other day. It felt illuminating and productive and energized for hours. We were discussing new models for reducing waste in local food systems. And despite our varied ages and backgrounds (design, engineering, medicine, chemistry), all four of us were highly engaged. We each listened and contributed, built on each other’s ideas, challenged each other, and eventually ended by planning another time to get together to move the discussion toward action.
The day before that, in contrast, I had a very blah conversation. It was marginally related to composting and some of the various issues that community composters are experiencing in New York City. It meandered at the uncoordinated will of the participants. It didn’t seem like everyone was on the same page. People were waiting to put their two cents in instead of actually listening. And to my knowledge, no one walked away with clear actions to be taken. It was a conversation in name only, more like a series of soliloquies in rapid succession.
I imagine that everyone experiences—to varying degrees—both the highs and lows of this “art form” on a regular basis, right? So how can we design better conversations? How can we increase the likelihood of productive conversations while minimizing the ‘blah’ ones?
These are critical questions not only for those of us studying Design for Social Innovation (DSI), but for the world at large. We’re all social beings. Almost everything we do is about relationships, from career trajectories and professional opportunities to our sense of place, identity and security. And conversations are at the core of those relationships. In fact, they are the building blocks of relationships. We all rely on them routinely to achieve goals, create collective action, and seek personal and collective fulfillment. And as such, many of the complex problems that arise in social systems today require that our conversations be more productive and purposeful.
Take a school classroom, for example. In the best of circumstances, students and teachers have direct and open lines of communication. They both give and take: Teachers hope to effectively convey concepts, impart lessons and give instructions, but the best ones are also great listeners and empathizers. They help their students learn and grow by engaging them in meaningful and reflective dialogue. The teachers who had the greatest impact on me were those who could understand where I was coming from, build common ground and communicate in a way that made sense. But for each one of those conversant teachers, I had two handfuls of didactic, teach-to-the-test types who were more interested in monologue than dialogue.
I think we can do better. We need to do better. So I’d like to start a conversation about having better, more purposeful conversations.
In the comments below, let’s create a great conversation together. Our goal is to find the bright spots—the conversations that really worked, that moved you to action, left you energized, or changed the way you think. Leave a note with your best examples and, more importantly, with your reflection on why you think things worked out so well. We'll all learn more from having a great exchange with each other than we'd ever get on our own.
Images courtesy of Josh Treuhaft
This post is part of a series from MFA students in the Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts.
What if Simply Playing Soccer Could Power a Whole Village? Uncharted Play's Soccket balls ingeniously turn kinetic energy into electric current.
Next Time You're at a Pretentious Exhibition, Just Change It Güvenç Özel shows how a digital solution can augment a physical problem.
A Mosaic Shines in Philly A intimate conversation with a fixture of the Philadelphia art world.
Zaha Hadid Had a Busier Week Than You Did A posh homeware line, a math-inspired museum wing, and a blossom-shaped apartment building
London Skaters Fought Gentrification, and Won A coalition of skateboard enthusiasts just saved the birthplace of British skate culture from a future as a shopping center.
“What I Would Like to See is More Bystanders Stepping in to Take Action” The Everyday Sexism Project chronicles more than 80,000 instances of sexism around the world, and it’s making a big policy impact.
It's Not Where You're Going, It's How you Get There The future of transportation is now A look at futuristic forms of transportation that have become reality.
Inside the Minds of 11-Year Olds From Around the World A new documentary probes the special moral clarity of 11-year old children.
This Underwater Museum is Bringing a Coral Reef to Life A collaborative effort spurs a marine project off the coast of Egypt.
“French Navy” and Other Suggestions for Scotland’s New National Anthem EDM, art rock, indie ballads … let’s pretend it’s all on the table if Scotland votes for independence.
How a 17th Century Bible is Helping to Revive a Native-American Language One human language may die every 14 days, but the ancenstral tongue of M.I.T.-trained linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird won't be one of them.
Thank You For Caffeinating The dirty secret behind your favorite soft drink America’s $75 billion love affair with soft drinks has less to do with flavor than a specific, notorious ingredient.
The Daily GOOD
Get our daily dose of information and inspiration. Sign up Now ›