Interview Jonas Ridderstrale Zurück
John Thackara
1. Could you please explain in more detail which businesses are or could become a subject for design? In what way?

Many of the troubling situations in our world are the result of design decisions. Too many of them were bad design decisions, it is true—but we are not the victims of blind chance.
The parlous condition of the planet, our only home, is a good example. Eighty percent of the environmental impact of the products, services, and infrastructures around us is determined at the design stage.
Design decisions shape the processes behind the products we use, the materials and energy required to make them, the ways we operate them on a daily basis, and what happens to them when we no longer need them.
We may not have meant to do so, and we may regret the way things have turned out, but we designed our way into the situations that face us today.
Many businesses are experts on the "how" of their market - for example with a technology or distribution asset. But few companies are any good at asking the "why?" questions. Design is a "why are we doing this?" process.

2. What are the principles/laws you provide to business groups you come in contact with? Do they only listen to your ideas or do they also apply them? Could you give us a couple of examples when one of your ideas/principles applied by a business group transformed itself into reality?

I try not to tell business what to do, or think. My objective, like any teacher, is to start conversations around certain key questions that all of us face.
For example: What is the best way for a company to consider material and energy flows in all the products systems it designs?
Or: what would it mean for a company to focus on services, not on things, and refrain from flooding the world with pointless devices?
I do not have easy answers to such questions - but if we do not address them collectively, now, we will pay a high price later.

3. What is your vision about “quality time” and good time management in an organization? Do you believe today's companies succeed in using their time in a useful and productive way?

Many business leaders believe that efficiency and productivity are key measures of success. That may be true of production - but it is not a good way to organise creativity and innovation.
Quality time, for me, is empty time! - Time that is not organised in advance, and is not pre-programmed. We should design chunks of empty time into the working day - time that contains no content, at all.
People will fill up some of that that empty time with original ideas, which all businesses need.

4. As I have read in a summary of your book “In the Bubble: Designing for a Complex World” you put your belief in people's power for design and creativity, at the heart of all things, even before technology. But is not technology invented by people? Is there any risk that technology could “take its revenge” on people?

Throughout the modern age we have subordinated the interests of people to those of technology. This approach has led to the unthinking destruction of traditional cultures, and the undermining of forms of life that we judged, once, to be backward.
These days, innovation can mean respect for ways of life that already exist - but helping do things in a better way.
Being sceptical about technology does not mean rejecting it. For one thing, we don’t have an either/or choice: Broadband, smart materials, wearables, pervasive computing, connected appliances, and other stuff we don’t know about yet will continue to transform the ways we live.
The question is, how?
Means and ends have lived apart too long in discussions of innovation. Understanding why things need to change—and reflecting on how they should change—are not separate issues.
The business that confronts the "why" question, as well as the "how" question, will be the one that does best in the future.

5. What do you believe about the fast growing technology? How could it impact on people's jobs and lives in a positive and/or negative way in the near future?

I am convinced that in the next phase of development we will design a world in which we rely less on “tech” - and more on people.
We’re filling up the world with amazing devices and systems—on top of the natural and human ones that were already here—only to discover that these complex systems seem to be out of control: too complex to understand, let alone to shape, or redirect.

6. What advice you would give today's business owners or top managers in order to get the best out of their employees and to benefit to the fullest extent from their employees' talents and skills?

Give your people an interesting and meaningful challenge. For example, give your people one or two days a month of work time to go into their community to improve some aspect of daily life in practical ways. Every community has issues to deal with on health issues, food, school, energy, tourism, and travel. The challenge should involve creative solutions to practical challenges - not just "doing good". For example, look for ways of making homes more energy efficient, cutting their carbon emissions.
Many staff will respond positively if given the chance to work outside their day-to-day "silo".

7. Is there a lack of, or a search for talented people in today's companies, all around the world? How could a HR manager or head-hunter find talented people who will stay long enough in the organization in order to help the growth of that company?

There are no easy answers to this one. The most talented people, by definition, are curious and restless people - and are therefore the most likely to head off to seek new challenges.
The trick is to confront people with meaningful and exciting questions. If a question turns them on, you won't have to manage them or look for ways to keep them - they'll be too busy!
This, by the way, is why I sometimes call myself a "question designer". But I seldom design questions on my own: the best and most motivating questions emerge from a co-design process with the owners and staff.
Home About us Speakers Enquiry Contact
A-Z News & Features Topics Key Words Interviews