Skip to main content

Designing is an Infinite Game


There is a growing interest within governments, business and militaries in design and
designing. Of course, design takes many forms when embedded in these contexts
depending on the influences from divergent ideas about designing and the concomitant
innovators of the ideas.

I have had the honor to be invited to introduce design—advanced design and systemic
design—to people in several of these organizations—particularly military—over the
past few months. I have come to appreciate the challenges facing champions of design
within governmental agencies and military organizations. They are self-tasked with
making a case for a new strategy and for demonstrating the value of using such a
strategy when confronting challenges of immense complexity and consequence.

Through my experiences with people working within these systems I have become more
familiar with the norms guiding their professional lives—I have come to appreciate that
design is a fundamentally different strategic approach to action and change when
compared to the normative approaches presently in place. For example, ‘training’ is the
predominant approach to building competence for action and ‘war gaming’ is a
predominant approach to preparation for action within the military. The question is what
is the nature of the 'game' militaries and governments assume they are playing? (e.g.
Simon Sinec’s video ). Are they entrained in the mindset of finite game players or
infinite game players?

Extracting from James Carse's book; Finite and Infinite Games:

• A finite game is a game that has fixed rules and boundaries, that is played for the
purpose of winning and thereby ending the game.

• An infinite game has no fixed rules or boundaries. In an infinite game, you play
with the boundaries and the purpose is to continue to be part of the game.

• Finite players try to control the game, predict everything that will happen, and set
the outcome in advance.

• Infinite players enjoy being surprised. Continuously running into something one
didn't know ...

• To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be
educated.

It appears that the assumption by many is that conflicts and wars are finite games with
endings that produce clear winners and losers. Designing, on the other hand, allows
people to strategically engage in infinite games where there are no right or wrong
moves—only creative or prudent moves taken consistently over time.

The question for those interested in introducing design into organizational cultures that
are designed to play finite games is how would changing to an infinite game strategy
—designing—better serve the needs for safety, security and peace? Or in the case of
business—which uses 'war' metaphors often—how can design help their bottom line?

The US has been involved in many finite games of war over the past few decades and
has not decisively won the peace and security desired—paid for in blood and treasure.
Design, as an infinite game strategy, is worth a try. People are coming to appreciate
that maybe conflicts and wars are not games—finite games—at all. Design is a way to
not continue to ‘play the game’ but to be persistently engaged in renewal, adaption and

advancement whether in conflict, states of readiness or peace.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Center for Systemic Design draft prospectus

    PROSPECTUS Center for Advanced Systemic Designing Introduction  Our futures can be approached in four ways: 1) drifting—adapting to whatever happens,  2) colliding—reacting and enduring,  3) retreating—backing away from undesirable states or conditions, or   4) advancing—navigating into desirable states-of-affairs. The norm nowadays is to drift, collide or retreat into the future. The fourth approach, the proactive approach, is the more apt response given the complex challenges and rising expectations that are the new norm for the foreseeable future.  The fourth approach depends on the agency of individuals who have the capacity to handle the challenge of securing desired outcomes in indeterminate situations on behalf of concomitant stakeholders and clients. They achieve this by serving—design agency—as members of design teams and design cohorts. These systemic designers are skilled polymaths who have the ability to create assemblies of essential elements into coherent whole system

Design, Wicked Problems & Throwness

Horst Rittel is one of the seminal residents in my 'Berkeley Bubble'. Recently a friend and colleague sent me an article about ‘double-wickedproblems’ . I have become ever more aware of the increasing number of references to ‘wicked problems’ in all forms of media that seem to have missed Rittel’s deeper insights . This brought up the concern I have about the use and miss-use of the term ‘wicked problem’.  The term ‘wicked problem’, first introduced by Rittel in West Churchman’s seminars at Berkeley, was in reference to his conceptualization of the impossible challenge of dealing with significant social issues using traditional, rational, ‘problem solving’ methods. In most cases what are miss-diangnosed as ‘wicked problems’ are actually complex or complicated problems that can be simplified or broken into smaller 'tame' problems allowing for a straight forward 'problem solving' approach to be taken. This approach is believed by many to be capable

'sketch-note feedback' from keynote

  This is a sketch-note done of a recent keynote of mine. It is an invaluable form of feedback for a presenter. It shows what someone else heard from the presentation, how topics were related and what concepts were foreground and what were background — all from the perspective of an attentive listener. This is an invaluable service. Much more valuable than just a transcript of critical reviews. The sketch-note author in this instance is Manisha Laroia — Thank you Manisha.