Making it easier to do great work. Hacking all things stupid.

The Power of Grumpiness

How dissatisfaction can bring intense joy

I believe in the intense possibilities of amazing possibilities, opportunities
and abundance. Anything is possible! I truly believe that.

And yet, I’m often an outcast among many of my peers. Every time I raise
deep concerns about issues and wish to discuss wicked, intractable challenges…
I’m given the barest minimum of airtime — as we all do for oddball friends,
teammates and family members — and then it’s back to happy-talk, and
“let’s focus on the positive.”

I’ve always been comfortable with being different like that, but it wasn’t
until recently that I realized WHY I’m like that when so many others
are not.

It was when I read a Fast Company piece about a British designer,
Tom Dixon’s Creativity Secret? Perpetual Dissatisfaction, that I finally
figured it out….

It’s my design background and how I was taught to have empathy
for people’s struggles.
Great design is about solving problems,
including putting yourself in the audience’s/user’s shoes and to
fully understand their challenges, needs and desires.

I realized this was my true calling while I was art directing at the New York Times, my first big job after college. While showing my portfolio around
New York, I had to come to terms with realizing the my inner artist’s
voice wasn’t as strong as so many of the amazingly talented people
I worked with. My passion was for exploring and understanding and
solving problems….and then going beyond those problems to helping
people dream bigger.

Says David Kelley, who founded and heads IDEO, the premier design
thinking firm: “Designers have a passion for doing something that fits
somebody’s needs,
but that is not just a simple fix. The designer
has a dream that goes beyond what exists,
rather than fixing what exists.” This empathy/dream combination is the essence behind the design thinking movement.

Want to harness dissatisfaction to create more joy? Here are a few tips
I’ve learned from a life of design thinking as well as being voted off the island
when everyone wanted to just do the happy-talk thing…

1. Practice Disciplined Empathy Constantly. Before taking on ANY project, walk a mile in the audience’s/user’s shoes. The most successful organizational change efforts I’ve ever done began with a version of Undercover Boss, where the senior team spent time doing frontline jobs.

2. Create the Space for Diverse Thinking, Dreamers, Disruptors, and
the Highly Discerning.
Far too often, our quest for morebetterfaster
marginalizes these people because they want us to think differently. Ensure
they and their weird ideas always have the space to thrive.

3. Train Yourself in Design Thinking. A couple of freebie places to start:
IDEO U, D.School, and IBM Design Thinking.

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