The future directions at Parsons, the School of Design Strategies

I could do with a little help :-)

I have been asked to participate in a workshop at Parsons New School for Design New York.

Naturally I am very honored. Specially since the other participants (so far) are Fred Dust and Ryan Jacoby from IDEO, Roger Martin from Rotman, Jannene Rae from Peer Insight, and Bob Feldman, Feldman and Partners and David Armano.

So needles to say... I could do with a little help.

The general purpose of the workshop is strategic advice, about the future directions at Parsons, the School of Design Strategies, and particularly about its undergrad business degree program, which is currently focused on Design + Management. This is not the same as Design Management, so I'm told, but more like business design or design thinking about value propositions.

I'm trying to form an opinion on this and I would love to hear what your thought are on this matter. I'm thinking out load, so forgive me for rambling.

We can discuss what a future graduate needs to have under his or her belt to be successful. This is probably very important. But I can not predict the future. For example, I have not been trained to do the work I do now. No one ever heard of service design or self organizing-online-social-networks back than... come to think of it, there was no such thing as 'online'.

So maybe its an interesting possibility to turn things upside down. Designing a program bottom up, human centered.

It's not just about what you teach, but how a school connects to peoples life's. To me a school always seemed to have a strong claim on 'learning'. As if I could only learn if I went to this building and do exactly what I was told. I felt that only when I read a book approved by school I was actually learning. It took me a long time to realize I could learn very well by myself. Even though no one would hand me a diploma for it. The diploma is definitely not what matters. Like I said, I was never trained by school for the work I do now.

Learning is something we do all the time. It doesn't start when we enter school and it doesn't stop when we leave it. One could easily argue that we learn a lot more from real life anyway. In real life we learn the essential stuff. Does what we learn at school not reflect real life? Or is it simply that we can not predict the future. But than we should stop pretending that we know what we are training our children to do when they grow up. We haven't got a clue.

The school system and what we are tought in school should be a natural part of life. Turn learning into an ongoing process without focusing us on the end. The graduation, the diploma, freedom.

A school is a service provider, and could providing a platform for ongoing conversations. Empowerment is essentially what it is all about. School should provide us with the tools to keep learning.
Don't offer short moments in time, but be organic. Don't see school as a building and some moments during the week you have to sit down and study. See it as part of the community we belong to... School is a community. We should come up with more ways to co-producing value, create a feeling of co-ownership. Turning school into a community of practice.

I'll be doing a bit more thinking! And I will tell you what results the workshop produces.

But for now I would appreciate your thoughts!!!

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Comment by Arne van Oosterom on January 20, 2011 at 9:44

We started a new initiative a New Academy For Business Design, in a way a continuation of our conversation we had right here. Would love to know what you think. Join us at

Comment by Michael J on March 27, 2010 at 13:59
My pleasure. As a Print Evangelist it's been too many years out in the cold. :-) Take a look at @PersonalNews . They are the latest incarnation of Niiu . They have an awesome new business model for print in Berlin.
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on March 27, 2010 at 13:34
Great Michael,
I'll keep you posted :-))
And thanks for pointing me to Printernet!
Comment by Michael J on March 27, 2010 at 13:27
Works for me. Consider inserting matrix codes to connet to vids and web resources. Also lulu is not the only way to print. Lots of local printers to keep the carbon footprint minimal. The Printernet is just about ready for prime time.

If you want any of My $.02 please feel free to get in touch.
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on March 27, 2010 at 12:28
Hi Everyone,
Just an idea, but I'm thinking of turning some discussion on WENOVSKI into a little 'book'. Maybe a pdf or via Lulu

This discussion is very rich and engaging. What do you think?
Comment by Rui Dias on February 22, 2010 at 12:05
Hi all!

Seems to me that the at least deciosion makers are awaking from this crisis of perception...
Transdiciplinary design... pitfalls? Thinking linearly i guess, will be the most common one.

How do you design a transdiciplinary discipline? Would be my question.. which leads me to questions like:
What is Design? Why do We Design? And why do we produce so bad "Designs"? How will this new view about "Design" cope with this questions?

Matt - have you talk with John Wood about this? He might have some ideias!
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on February 22, 2010 at 0:45

Parsons The New School for Design's Jamer Hunt, director of the new MFA program in Transdisciplinary Design, went out on the streets of New York to see what people think about this new design frontier. To learn more, visit

Comment by Matt Ward on February 14, 2010 at 20:52
Arne, Cameron - sounds like you had a really fruitful meeting. The future looks good. I'm really interested in what you feel are the current 'barriers to entry" - what's slowing Parsons down? Institutional barriers and hurdles are always present, but sometimes hard to name. I'd like to see similar developments at Goldsmiths, but it's important to know the potential pitfalls first.
Comment by Rui Dias on February 11, 2010 at 16:43
Hi all!!
Has a student of this new paradigm in science, complexity, i found it very difficult to study. I want to learn, but the knowledge all is spread out or/and hidden in scientifc comitees. Plus how can we think in a non-linear way when we are trained and educated to think linearly?

“In research clusters we have often encountered difficulties in communicating our individual points of view precisely because we each follow different paths in understanding and studying design and complexity” -Theodore Zamenopoulos and Katerina Alexiou; Linking design and complexity: a review, ECCS 2005

Anyway.. my utopia:
We need an access-free, coordinated database linking ‘everything’ by some common set of signs, which should be comprehended by everyone (if not to everyone, by each culture). ‘Democratization of Knowledge’ and a “Holistic Database” is required, because “the many are smarter than the few”. Innovation happens in the most uncommon places and situations (usually out of your comfort zone). A platform that enables you to play with knowledge as a young children plays with LEGO, building blocks that can be used without trainning or education, just using your intuition. This could be regulated with feedback loops and auto-organization of the network. From here, this set of "knowledge blocks" can be or not resilient to the "context". Imagine having acess to all the knowledge "built" from the begining of humakind, and be able to play with it as a 3 year old youngster plays with LEGOs.

For me Design Thinking is to think in a non linear way in order to make more connections. Design is my wheel to live in a better world. But for that we need information.. usefull information. There is about 20 million scientific papers. How will we "navigate" from this information pool?

I just think that before "redesign" a discipline or the contents of it, it would be usefull to "rethink" our education/information systems.
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on February 10, 2010 at 23:33
Here's a quick sketch (made on an airplane) of my 3Cs Adaptability model, to illustrate Bruce Nussbaum's article. In addition to Bruce's take on the model I like what Roger Martin said about it: "it's a model for continues learning". And isn't that what is most important in life!


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