Project #1

Design as change

Change is the root of designing - but how can designers approach the resistance to change that follows new solutions to complex problems?

Design is about making change. To drag forward one of the most used quote on the definition of design “To design is to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” – Herbert Simon. Change is the root of designing. Creating a new product, brand or service is about creating change in the lives of the people. From a existing one to a preferred one.

And with the evolvement of the design field, more complex problems are being approached by designers and design consultants such as business, organization and cities. Making designers and design consultants create change in bigger and more complex systems between people.  Regardless of how you approach design you are creating change in people’s lives. If you are a product developer, graphic designer or business developer, people are being affected directly or indirectly by the designed solution. This comes as a result of your design because, the root of the design… is to make change. One of the great aspects of design is the ingrained human-centric point of development which makes the design more often than not empathic for the end users life in the design.  

But one thing that the design approach does not address is that change in itself is hard and filled with resistance. This is because change impart that you move from somewhere familiar to somewhere unknown. Change is an inevitable part of all projects and organisations and the field of change management have been focused on how to deal with change and resistance to change for last couple of decades.

For my master thesis i dived into the world of change management through the great work “Colours of Change” by Léon de Caluwé and Hans Vermaak. Worth the read if you want a broad understanding of what governs change and how to deal with it. A short introduction to the work can be found here. The book describes five different approaches to understanding and dealing with change:

Great inspiration to learning about change management

Yellow - the sociopolitical

Situations where power is a strong factor in the proces. Here success is a result of alignment of the interests of key persons involved. Typically process surrounding change of partnerships, buyouts and mergers. Lots of people involved and lots reliability.

Blue - the rational

Here change is reached if there is a clear goal beforehand. A lot of planning, measuring and administration is typically a part of these kind of projects. Classic project management is most often based on this approach to what drives change.

Red - human development

Change is a product and goal of human development. Organizations grow when people grow which happens with through motivation, career development, teambuilding ect. Behaviour change is an important parameter to focus on here.

Green - learning

Also closely related to behavioural change as in the former though change is perceived as something that happens when people learn. Here the teachings and thereby change happens through feedback, structuring the communications and by the building spaces for learning. Knowledge and shared knowledge among the key actors are key to success.

White - the unplanned

Change as chaos thinking, network theories and complexity theory. This one is tricky cause control is the nemesis of progres, so planning will get you nowhere. Here letting go and acknowledging autonomitet as a catalysator for change. It is about understanding your possibilities and apply creativity.

This is a valued toolbox to understand how solutions and problems can be governed depending on what type of project you’re working on and who you’re working with. In projects with a lot of partners the tools and understandings from yellow change is great and in projects of developing a new digital solution that affects a lot of employees routines both the blue and red change understandings is important keep in mind, to secure a successfully implemented product.

I’ve have created this cheatsheet for a quick overview of the colour paradigms you can use in understanding the different applications.