Goodbye Comfort Zone. Welcome Design Disruption; Creative Play Is Often Discouraged in the Modern Workplace, Where It Can Be Dismissed as Counter-Productive or, Worse Still, Childish. but, through Its Pioneering Concept of Design Disruption, Northumbria University Is Proving the Merits of Constructive "Messing around". ROBERT GIBSON Reports

The Journal (Newcastle, England), April 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

Goodbye Comfort Zone. Welcome Design Disruption; Creative Play Is Often Discouraged in the Modern Workplace, Where It Can Be Dismissed as Counter-Productive or, Worse Still, Childish. but, through Its Pioneering Concept of Design Disruption, Northumbria University Is Proving the Merits of Constructive "Messing around". ROBERT GIBSON Reports


PLAY, we're told by hard-driven bosses, well-meaning teachers and authority figures, has little place in the adult world, where rigid intellect should rule the day.

Yet, time and time again, theories on creativity have centred on the idea that childlike exploration - freed from the tyranny of the inner critic - can bring us by far the most striking results.

It's a concept embraced by Northumbria University's leading edge design school, a pioneer of the socalled Design Disruption approach. Essentially, this entails working with organisations to help them tackle problems and develop new visions through methods normally associated with design.

"Design Disruption aims to break the cycle of well-informed opinions, strategies, mindsets and ways of thinking and doing that tend to remain unchallenged, be that within an individual or an organisation," said Andy Tennant, senior lecturer in design at the university.

"It encourages participants to experiment with new methods of 'seeing and doing'.

"It promotes imagination, safe 'failure' and fun, and positively reinforces participants to engage with their inherent creative capacities in order to develop richer, more varied solutions to everyday issues."

The essential methods may be fairly straightforward - sketches, creative writing and the like - but, combined, they're earning serious credibility locally, nationally and even internationally.

Northumbria, for example, has presented its work to academic conferences in Barcelona, Lugano, Gothenburg and Helsinki while, closer to home, it introduced the concept to Enterprise Educators UK, who support enterprise and entrepreneurship teaching. The university's Design Dis-ruption team has also worked corroboratively with institutions from the London School of Economics to Carers Centre Newcastle.

Among the businesses to benefit, meanwhile, has been Newcastle's Ryder Architecture which, on celebrating its 60th anniversary last year, was keen to explore its future development.

"The session started with contextual data on how the world and its population is changing, an introduction to some less conventional ways in which designers communicate ideas and processes," said associate Ian Crow.

"After a short exercise in creative writing and sketches and drawings, we addressed the primary questions: 'What will the world be like in 2043?' and 'What will Ryder be like in 2043?'.

"Breaking into groups, we devel-oped our thoughts through an analysis of information ranging from environmental and population data through to graphic and illustrative concepts of the world's future.

"Each group summarised their thinking using a range of graphic techniques."

At the end of the session, the firm discussed how the workshop could inform a future vision.

Newcastle YMCA reaped similar benefits from putting its staff through three sessions.

Using the experience to reflect upon the business, the team were able to create a mapped design process to guide them through business planning and service redesign. …

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Goodbye Comfort Zone. Welcome Design Disruption; Creative Play Is Often Discouraged in the Modern Workplace, Where It Can Be Dismissed as Counter-Productive or, Worse Still, Childish. but, through Its Pioneering Concept of Design Disruption, Northumbria University Is Proving the Merits of Constructive "Messing around". ROBERT GIBSON Reports
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