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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good to “Go Do”

GOOD Magazine asked IDEO (a firm we worked with on the CCL GVOL initiative) to create a way to capture the ideas in a special issue on design solutions. IDEO, as always, did a creative and masterful job, overlaying a sidewalk café photograph with handwritten notes about everything in the picture – from the potted plant (“help reduce greenhouse emissions”) to the billboards (“doubled as climbing walls?”). What most caught my eye, however, was IDEO’s re-representation of the magazine name “GOOD” as “Go Do.”

For the longest time I’ve pondered the seemingly opposing ideas of being prudent vs. proactive. This is sharply contrasted in Stephen Covey’s admonition to “measure twice and cut once” and Tom Peters’ hyperactive “ready, fire! aim.”

I’ve become more partial to Peters of late, understanding that “learning by doing” is a way to be both prudent and proactive. On our GVOL project we shelved traditional market research (surveys and such) for on the ground immersions that helped us understand the lives of the people we hoped to serve. We postponed business planning (a traditional precursor to action) to push forward with rapid prototyping and experimentation as a way of understanding what works rather than presupposing what the strategy needed to be.

It seems to me the change agents in our world are not busy drafting elaborate business plans, but are out there actively trying things, learning, and adapting their approach. IDEO’s mantra of “fail often to succeed sooner” echoes the words of one of the world's greatest social innovators, Gandhi, who promoted action and acknowledged the failure that comes with it: “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching” and “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

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