Time, Movement, and Position

The three factors that influence our impact

One of the most significant challenges I’ve found with engaging clients in work around designing for innovation is getting them to appreciate the distinction between creating something from scratch in a stable position and doing it while moving and adapting something else.

Anyone who’s played some form of sport knows the difference between the plan and what you actually do. Rarely — particularly in team sports — does everything go the way you expect because there are so many moving parts. While a good play is designed for motion, putting it into practice means understanding what it means.

These days motion is everywhere. Industries are being transformed, social life is changing, and the foundations of what we rely on for stability is not so stable. This isn’t to say it’s all bad or going to end poorly, but right now a lot of what we have come to rely on is uncertain, unstable, and moving. Innovation is about designing for movement more than it ever is about designing for stability.

Few ideas are so unique that they pop out into the world and disrupt everything. Most, are adaptations of something done on the fly and thus the means of assessing their impact and potential is really tied to how they move with other things.

Changing Metrics

The other issue with a design for movement is that our evaluation methods and metrics are different, too. Most comparative (e.g., pre-post/before-after) metrics assume a stop position at the start. We always need to start somewhere, but that somewhere is starting out moving rather than staying still. Without a sense of the rate of movement, position, and time of capture, we risk basing our decisions on incorrect assumptions.

Just as we perceive motion, time, and space differently while moving with other things that are moving, so does evaluation. This is something I rarely get to address because, for the client, they have a beginning of a contract and an end to it based on some beginning or end to their funding and administration.

Further, capturing this kind of baseline establishment and context-setting requires a lot of front-end energy and time and many projects are not scoped well for that. It’s all part of the pre-consultation discussions and I’m putting more energy into that each time I work with someone.

But time waits for no one, especially now - even if the metrics suggest otherwise.

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash