Thursday, 19 December 2013

Stages of Innovation

This graphic on the new economics foundation website caught my eye with its use of the Fibonacci spiral. My interest was further piqued by the text which seemed to refer to both a design process and whole systems intervention.

I imagined that the associated article would suggest some distribution of time and/or energy between design stages based on a Fibonacci sequence, but it doesn't refer to the graphic in the text or mention Fibonacci at all. A second look at the image reveals that what appears to be a distribution of stages between Fibonacci sized blocks moving from Prompts (5) [the factor initiating a desire for change] to Proposals (8) [Concept Design/Wild Design?], breaks down at the next block (13) which includes two stages: Prototypes and Sustaining [Maintenance/Tweaking] as does the final (21).

The stages in that final block are perhaps the most fertile as they offer another path for design which I have not seen presented in many permaculture designs. Rather than just looping back to refine and adjust a design to better meet the original needs, or cycling back around in a way that critically engages with those 'needs' and how they have been expressed (single & double loop learning). The fifth stage here Scaling encourages us to also build on our successes and thus increase our circle of influence, with the ambition that by doing so we might effect a sixth stage Systemic Change.
Not that the path actually tends towards such a direct route. As Jo Casebourne mentions in her article beneath the graphic "stages are not always sequential, feedback loops exist between stages and stages can also be thought of as overlapping spaces".

There's some rich stuff in this worthy of further thought and investigation - but what I find immediately useful to take away is 1) to build into my design thinking the question of scalability (how would this work differently at different scales) and 2) to think about how both my designs and my learning process contribute towards a collective metadesign of systemic change, how and where might they find places to positively intervene in systems I feel need to change - leverage as en extra yield?

"How do we change the structure of systems to produce more of what we want and less of that which is undesirable?"
 Donella Meadows, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System

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