As leading designers of scale, you, more than anyone else, hold in your hands the answers to the most important question we all face. Namely this. Can the coming world of 10 billion people survive and flourish without consuming itself in the process. The answers if they are to be found, – and I think they will – will come from… design. Better ways to pattern our lives. There is nothing written into our nature that says that the only path to a wonderful, rich, meaningful life is to own two cars and a McMansion in the suburbs.
– Chris Anderson of TED fame in a speech to the graduating architect class of 2011 of the Harvard School of Design
TED time again. This one is about the need for us, as people, to come to grips with the fact that being wrong is not such a bad thing after all, and how thinking we are always right can have disastrous consequences.
So this is one reason, a structural reason, why we get stuck inside this feeling of rightness. I call this error blindness. Most of the time, we don’t have any kind of internal cue to let us know that we’re wrong about something, until it’s too late. But there’s a second reason that we get stuck inside this feeling as well — and this one is cultural. Think back for a moment to elementary school. You’re sitting there in class, and your teacher is handing back quiz papers, and one of them looks like this…So there you are in grade school, and you know exactly what to think about the kid who got this paper. It’s the dumb kid, the troublemaker, the one who never does his homework. So by the time you are nine years old, you’ve already learned, first of all, that people who get stuff wrong are lazy, irresponsible dimwits – and second of all, that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes.
We learn these really bad lessons really well. And a lot of us – and I suspect, especially a lot of us in this room – deal with them by just becoming perfect little A students, perfectionists, over-achievers. Right, Mr. CFO, astrophysicist, ultra-marathoner? You’re all CFO, astrophysicists, ultra-marathoners, it turns out. Okay, so fine. Except that then we freak out at the possibility that we’ve gotten something wrong. Because according to this,getting something wrong means there’s something wrong with us. So we just insist that we’re right,because it makes us feel smart and responsible and virtuous and safe.
Another great TED talk, this time by the controversial US general Stanley McChrystal. Controversy aside, he talks with typical military rigidity (very different from most talks I’ve seen) about leadership and failure.
Some quotable quotes:
Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.
The inversion of expertise: things we grew up doing aren’t what the people we are leading are doing.
Relationships are the sinew that hold the force together.
If you’re a leader the people you’ve counted on will help you up, and if you’re a leader the people who count on you need you on your feet.
Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Faire and Make magazine, on the returning popularity of making things, thanks to technologies like Arduino, 3D printers and the like.
But essentially these are people that are playing with technology. Let me say that again — playing. They don’t necessarily know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.They’re playing to discover what the technology can do, and probably to discover what they can do themselves, what their own capabilities are.