During a recent design thinking workshop facilitated by Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh, my colleagues and I were introduced to a creative process known as Morphological Forced Connections. Our challenge was to take an ambitious first conference event, Learning by Design and make it even better in 2019 through thoughtful reflection, questioning, and intentional design. The ideation process involved identifying the potential ingredients or attributes that make up a great learning event, then to force connections between these in order to tell a new story in which imaginative solutions and possibilities emerge. It’s an inspiring and challenging process.
By forcing connections between seemingly disconnected or disparate ideas, one is liberated from traditional thought processes and the resulting possibilities that emerge become truly exciting. As Ewan led us through an extemporaneous prototype using this technique, revealing a hugely ambitious vision for our event in this first iteration, I jokingly quipped, “can I resign from this planning team now?” McIntosh didn’t miss a beat, concluding his pitch with, “and we will do this despite those who think it can’t be done.”
Those words, during a day that was inspiring and thought-provoking in so many ways, have been among my biggest takeaways from the workshop. For all the ambition we have for learners, all the things we learn ourselves, we must avoid the tendency to be limited by constraints and fears, to do what we know because it’s what we know. Of course, not all things are possible, but all possibilities must be given the space to breathe, to be explored. Many great ideas are killed at the point of conception and will never make it to incubation because it is often our natural inclination to see the limitations, complexities, challenges and roadblocks to inventive thinking. This is where the transformative power of design thinking, of ideation, of forced connections becomes essential. We must tell the most compelling story we can, do our utmost to commit to this vision … and then do it despite those who think it can’t be done.