Consider this article a first prototype, a pebble I throw into the lake, an MVP, a string of assumption, a first attempt of framing a design challenge. Or just read it and tell me what you think.
Here’s a thought I recently had, which will be important if you want to understand what I’m trying to create. The thought might not make sense to you now, but here it is:
“The only difference between theatre and a conference is that conferences are always bad theatre, but theatre is never a conference… good or bad. What if a conference would be good theatre? ”
Oh well… I do admit… I just don’t like conferences that much. They make me feel uncomfortable, are usually too expensive, traditional and there are either too many sales pitches or just a lot of preaching to the converted on stage. And sure, I know it is great and comfortable to have all your beliefs confirmed, but it does leave one feel a little empty in the end… does it not?
But than… as mentioned above, I’m not the biggest fan of the traditional conference model.
I did however conclude from this that I should be the perfect person to develop and organize one. I might be wrong, I probably am… but a lack of knowledge or experience has never stopped me from starting something new before. And developing a design thinking conference has been on my mind for a couple of years now.
But why do it? I have a couple of reasons; first and foremost I think it is time to enrich the conversation about design thinking/ human centric innovation and give a little more depth… maybe - dare I say it - try to snatch it away from folks that only use it for marketing and sales purposes?
Design thinking is a symptom, like lean startup, agile development, service design (etc. etc.), there is a reason why these buzzwords are emerging. Do we need a new mindset, a new language, a new way of working? Maybe. Can we discover the real questions?
I’d love to create an experience that will allow people to really experience what “it is all about”. An immersive experience that will uncover and challenge your biases not just confirm them. An event that will shake you up and enrich you with new insights, not just leave you comfortable and confirmed in your beliefs. No preaching, just experimenting, experiencing, having fun and being surprised.
I mean, if a design thinking conference does not take you out of your comfort zone…. It is probably not a design thinking conference.
Now we started creating a team capable of developing something extraordinary like that.
For starters I asked Johan Heldenberg to help me develop the conference concept. Johan is an exceptional actor, theatre- and filmmaker (amongst his many achievements is an Oscar nomination for best foreign movie. Check his Wikipedia page) Johan told me that he has no experience with conferences, to which I replied that I was counting on that.
I also asked André Klukhuhn, another hero of mine and one of the leading Dutch philosophers and author of many brilliant books (André on Wikipedia). I challenged André to develop a few thought experiments for the conference.
And the teams is also joined by Tim Selders, innovation director and founder of Park. This makes me very happy, because I know Tim will make sure we stay on out toes.
More people will be added, but this is where it starts.
Now I do realize I didn’t explain the tile of this article yet; I use “Through different eyes” as the working title for the conference theme. What it means is that I want participants to experience different realities, see the world through different lenses, hear stories from people that went through a transformation, discovered something that radically changed their perception of reality, to see through different eyes in order to discover yourself.
And yes in design thinking we could call this building empathy and we use tools like journey maps and personas to help us see through different eyes, to discover new insights and opportunities. But I think we owe it to ourselves to do more than just talk about tools and methods at a conference. We have plenty of events doing that. We need to do it, experience it, live it.
There is a beautiful text underneath a bridge in Amsterdam that sums up what I’ve been trying to explain a lot more elegant: “Returning is not the same as staying”.
I invite you to join me on my journey.
The Design Thinking Conference will be held 26–27 October 2017 in Amsterdam.
If you want to be involved or just kept up to date you can send an email to info<@>designthinkingconference.com
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