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President Obama Goes Optimistic.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 25, 2009

The speech by President Obama t Congress was “designerly.” How so? It was an authentic, true analysis of what ails the American people (the collective refusal to deal with deep economic and social problems over many decades). It offered a plentitude of options and solutions to the many complex problems that have no single, simple solution. Some will work. Others not. It was framed in deep cultural values and emotions (be realistic and face the facts and be pragmatic and do what needs to be done regardless of ideology). And it was optimistic, tapping into the deepest core value of America, it’s hopefullness.

Design and design thinking is a methodology that embodies all these processes and values. Which is why it can guide us into an uncertain and confusing future. Design is the pathway to transformation.

Reader Comments

David Burney

March 4, 2009 12:11 AM

Since the earliest days of his campaign, it is clear that President Obama possesses a genuine understanding of design and open source thinking. He is a gifted communicator who aligns perfectly the form/media of his messages with the content he's delivering. His principles, words and actions are in sync. When he speaks of 'bottoms up' problem solving, he 'gets' it far beyond intellectual and competitive theory arguments. I'd say that's a good set of attributes to describe the 'designer' of the future.

So, while Bush was our first MBA president, I think it's fair to claim Obama as the first, modern 'design thinking' president. I can only assume his work as a community organizer helped him realize the deep cultural underpinnings that are necessary as a platform to put collaborative innovation/tranformation to practice. But collaborative design cultures are fragile. It is hard for the chickens to collaborate with the fox. Or with his news channel. (I couldn't resist)

It's hard to overstate the obstacles that real change will face. When I worked at Red Hat (for most of the past five years) we coined the term 'colloberation' when referring to participants more interested in forcing others to 'collaborate' with their agenda than any authentic collaboration. I'm reminded of that term now as I watch the Republican leadership desperately attempting to position the new administration as arrogant, partisan and non-collaborative.

This new form of collaboration works. The open source software development community is a wonderful example of the value, speed, efficiency and competitive advantage radical collaboration can ignite. Open source demands transparency, freedom, authenticity, commitment and courage. Roger Martin's book— The Responsibility Virus— offers a great recipe for how to apply it in more traditional organizations.

We should not be fooled into thinking any of this will be easy. It will be hard work. But it certainly feels great to be optimistic again!

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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