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January 20, 2011 / Mike Biggs

Life problems require Wisdom- but how do I apply it?. Includes Video: Barry Schwartz- Using Practical Wisdom

Problems in life are the same as problems in design, they are not problems in the proper sense at all. They are dilemmas with no actual right or wrong answer. When faced with a dilemma, a judgement needs to be made by the application of wisdom. This wisdom comes  in the form of experience, expertise, and the process in which to guide and apply.

Devising a ‘solution’ to a dilemma requires a judgement based on many quantifiable and unquantifiable factors. This can only be executed by someone with the experience and knowledge of the right process to follow. A scientific approach which ensures no particular outcome other than an appropriate judgement to the said dilemma.

In the field of design there is a tension between the vision (developed by the professional opinion of the designer) and the practical needs of the situation. This tention is where the dilemma exists, and from it comes the creation of the ‘solution’. This space is where creativity exists.  The validity of any process to be applied and of the output is judged by the designer, and it seems the reverse is true in that a Judgement (by a Judge) requires design.

So it is the Scientific Process which leads to ‘good’ or ‘right’ design, AND judgements. While Wisdom also ensures the application of ‘good’ and ‘right’ processes and design outcomes.

So what is this scientific process?

Generally speaking good design is arrived at by an iterative approach. Using the experience of the designer, and working within the space between that vision and the practical considerations of the situation. This tension-gap exists whether designing a product or designing a legal solution to a criminal act. Basically the same process is at play, the application of a process to the existing situation and a (or multiple) potential solutions in the form of a vision held by the professional (a designer or a judge).  Luckily this process has been articulated by Michael Hewitt-Gleeson of the School of Thinking already. The process is SDNT [start, do, notice, think]

On further investigation, this is actually just the creation of a hypothesis, subsequent testing, and repeat. However, such a simple, effective, and un-ending process is often not looked upon favourably in issues of business, law, and, life where we worship the idea of an ultimate rightness. The key to understanding and effective use of SDNT is to realise that it is an iterative process and may be repeated over and over within a dilemma, and used at multiple points within the ‘problem’ solving process.

This tool [SDNT] will be expanded upon in detail in coming posts, however for this article it is sufficient to say that there IS a process, but it is just that, not a prescriptive solution to a set problem which can be looked up in a catalogue. I should also note that the DO component could not be actioned in a legal justice situation, however some version of playing out the events could be used, for example a deep roleplay which would enact the situations to follow and provide an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.

So what is the answer to a dilemma? As said by many in the User Experience field, ‘It depends’. And it does.


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