Our economy is based on domination, not collaboration.
If we’re going to stop burning through all our resources, that will need to change.
Before making something new, a smart designer needs to answer a few questions. What is it exactly that we need? Who are the users? What conditions are we designing for? How long do we want it to last?
The answer to these questions forms the design basis–the conditions, needs, and requirements taken into account to create a facility, product, process, or organization. But figuring out which questions to ask isn’t always so easy.
Asking the right set of questions (and giving the right set of answers) can sometimes result in positive innovation and ideas that help us, as a society, to move forward while using less: Think upcycling, cradle to cradle design, and biomimicry. Innovators have successfully applied these new design limits and in some cases generated new insights that have further improved or altered design thinking.
But we can’t afford to play around: What lies before us is a herculean challenge that cannot be tackled one product or process at a time. While specific efforts are vital, they are not sufficient. The effect of years of designing society by asking the wrong questions (and giving bad answers) is cumulative and is degrading our ecosystem, society, and economy.
The real design basis that must be shifted, therefore, is our very definition of success. In a post-WWII drive to create robust economies and move people into the middle class, we accepted a design basis of success as growth and growth as throughput. The design basis of bigger being better is behind the idea of gross domestic product.
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