Creating vs Manufacturing

You didn’t create
unless the form of the output
was unexpected.

If it was,
then you were manufacturing.

Nothing wrong with either,
but it can be frustrating
if you enter the manufacturing process,
with the desire to create
or if you enter the creative process,
with the desire to manufacture.

Problem vs Paradox

If
1 + 1 = ?
is a problem

and

“This is a lie.”
is a paradox,

a problem often implies
the method—
in this case
addition
—with which to solve
the problem,

while a paradox
does not.

If you mistake
a paradox
for a problem,
the more time you spend
applying the method
you think
will solve the problem,
the more time
you may spend
staying stuck.

What is a Product?

Product
is another word
for “outcome.”

The product of
4 and 4
is 16.

When a designer designs something
the product
from the designer’s perspective
is the outcome
of their design.

When someone buys something
the product
from their perspective
is the outcome
of their purchase.

The product
people are buying
are not always
the product
we’ve designed.

Suffering

Suffering,
signals feeling stuck
without a choice.

To be relieved of suffering,
we need to learn
a new choice.

Often times,
this requires the support
of others.

As new choices often arise
out of a surprising shift
in perspective,
it’s easier
to let others surprise us,
than to surprise us
ourselves.

May we
be such a support.

May we
reach out
for such a support.

Forty Two

There was a period in my 20s, where it was as if “Human-Centered Design” was my family name.

In other words, “Human-Centered Design” was a significant part of my identity. So much so that I felt an implicit sense of responsibility on my shoulders. To the degree that I took “Human-Centered Design” as if it were as serious as the continuation of my own family’s reputation & lineage.

Although… It wasn’t like “Human-Centered Design” behaved like Darth Vader who went “I am your father~” (You know?) So one could wonder why I had felt the way I had felt.

Well, after realizing empathy with my past self, I realized that one of the most important needs I had was to feel a sense of belonging. Without a sense of belonging, I had found it difficult to withstand the pain of loneliness and confusion.

To be clear, I wasn’t aware of this back then. At the time, my conscious thought kept claiming that I was merely trying to “(positively) change the world.” Given the popularity of the phrase “change the world” in the late 90s and early 2000s, this is as cliché as it can get. But I was sincere.

At the same time, what I also see now is that I valued the experience of contribution. I felt alive when I could see that I was contributing to someone’s life. I also see that I had a need to shed the seemingly less-than-worthy identity of a “student.” I had a need to belong to a seemingly more significant and meaningful tribe. A tribe which could bestow upon me a more worthy identity. A tribe to which a number of older pioneers also belonged. Pioneers who made me feel the love and validation that I needed, but couldn’t feel in relation to my own father. All of these lay underneath my subconscious.

This isn’t to say that I think I was wrong to have felt the way I did or to have pursued “Human-Centered Design.”

No.

In fact, I cherish and take pride in my 20s.

I did the thing that brought life into my existence. That was amazing! I also did what I believed would fulfill my unconscious needs. Did it work? Unfortunately not. But I did do my best. And that’s enough for me to cherish and take pride in my 20s.

At the same time, I do find it important to admit that I had not yet attained the requisite maturity back then to confront the eventuality of our humanity. The vulnerable existence we are, once we get to know ourselves, despite how strong and stoic we may try to come across at first. Especially since today is my 42nd birthday.

Because what we do not admit stays in our subconscious. What we do admit rises up into our conscious. And it is only at that point we can design our relationship to and interaction with them.

The need to belong and to feel like we matter is a critical component of the human condition. It is as normal as gravity. There is no shame in such admission. In fact, the earlier we admit and attempt to understand it, the more we become capable of design. The design of our thoughts and behaviors. In contrast to becoming a slave to our suppressed emotions and unfulfilled needs.

In my research, I had learned that art, despite looking like a journey of creating things, is ultimately a journey of creating relationships. Relationships from which value, meaning, language, and identity emerge. Entrepreneurship is very much the same.

On the surface, entrepreneurship may seem like a journey of mere product and service innovation. But ultimately, entrepreneurship is a journey of innovating our relationships. Relationships to our customers, investors, board members, employees, co-founders, or even our so-called “self” and our family. These are all part of the same trail we are blazing.

I know many of you on this list are on your own journey of relational innovation. For some of you, I am also an explicit participant in your journey. So I want to take this time to tell you how proud I am of you all. Not for having achieved certain things or to have done great deeds. But for your willingness to admit what most would not dare admit. For your willingness to attempt to understand what most would not bother to understand.

Our humanity, that is.

Thank you.

I love you.

I’m proud of you.

Slim
August 19th 2019


Photo credit: Belinda Novika

Not Knowing vs Knowing Not

We often say
that the journey of innovation
is a journey of not knowing.

Sort of.

Innovation
often starts with a fragile feeling
that “there’s something here.”

It’s true.
We don’t know what that is
exactly.

But if someone asks us
“Is it this?”
We confidently answer
“No, that’s not it.”

Because, we do know
what it is not.

So yes,
the journey of innovation
may involve
numerous back-and-forths
between
“Maybe it’s this,”
and “Nope, that’s not it,”
until it becomes clear
what it was you were after
all along,
but could not express.

But no,
this does not mean
you know nothing
or that you’re crazy.

May we not let others
convince us otherwise.

p.s. Much thanks to Artist Yong Joo Kim & Dr. Paul Pangaro for inspiring this post

Being There

Several years back,
I visited a private high school.

There,
I did a workshop
where the students sketched
a blueprint of the kind of relationship
they wished to have
with their teachers
such that the teachers could more effectively
help them learn, create, grow, and mature.

The keyword they used
to sum up their sketch
was “being there.”

The students wanted teachers
who were willing to “be there” for them.

I then asked the students
to raise their hand
if they already had this kind of relationship.

2 out of ~40 students raised their hand.

After this incident,
it become a priority for me
to form this kind of relationship,
with those whom I have committed
to help learn, create, grow, and mature.

I’m grateful for this lesson
I learned
from those students.

Manipulation and Creation

Manipulation involves the desire
to move someone or something
to a place or state the manipulator envisions or expects.

This is not to judge manipulation as good/bad or right/wrong.
Through mutual agreement & rationalization,
one can differentiate between transparent vs. surreptitious,
well vs. ill-intended, manipulation.

A magic show
can be thought of as transparent manipulation.
Feeding kids hidden veges
can be thought of as well-intended manipulation.

In some sense,
the opposite of manipulation is creation.
Because creation involves the desire
to arrive
at a place or state the creator did not envision or expect.

Tolerating vs Respecting

Tolerating isn’t sustainable.
Respecting is.

There are workshops that teach listening
as a collection of techniques,
like:
Smiling.
Nodding.
Saying “mhm.”
etc.

Even if you do all of that,
if internally you’re merely tolerating the experience,
you can feel drained
You may even feel like you’re engaged in “emotional labor.”

That’s a recipe for burn-out and resentment.

Respecting
is a practice of making new value from what we perceive.

It’s not a technique,
but rather a skill that naturally emerges
from a shift in our perception.

For example,
art students,
especially those trained in the traditional crafts
learn to respect by actively perceiving value in the mundane
through drawing,
sculpting,
woodworking, etc…

Once we learn to respect,
What we perceive in the world
can energize us,
so much so that we may be so immersed in the art of respecting,
that we forget to eat.

Innovate First, then Problem Solve

Innovation does not solve problems.
It only has the potential to do so.

Say I produced an innovative vacuum cleaner,
If the problem is a dirty house,
unless someone uses the innovation repeatedly,
problem persists.

Innovation creates unexpected choices we didn’t perceive to have,
Problem solving uses existing choices to achieve an expected result.

Problem solving gets stuck
when we lack the requisite variety of choices
to achieve our expected result.

Thus,
when we’re stuck,
we need to temporarily put aside problem solving
in favor of innovation
to first increase the variety of our choices.

Sometimes innovation even helps us realize
that what we considered a problem is not,
and the problem vanishes