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The Tomorrow Makers Journal is a collection of musings and reflections on how humankind and the rest of our living planet may find a way of escaping to a higher order.


What Do You Do With An Idea?

In the light of the great value placed upon creativity, a stranger to our planet might infer that it is rare indeed. Yet nearly all of the characteristics of the creative mind are present in young children! The child explores the environment, coins words, synthesizes phrases. S/he relishes surprises and copes with a challenge. S/he daydreams, discovers, asks questions unceasingly. Her perceptions are fresh, strictly his own."

Marilyn Ferguson, The Brain Revolution, 1973

My son, Todd, gave me a precious Mother's Day gift.  What Do You Do With An Idea is a book written for the child within each of us.  Kobi Yamada, writer, and Mae Besom, illustrator have produced a wonderful book revealing how ideas come into your life, sometimes invited, sometimes not. 

Where did it come from? Why is it here? What do you do with an idea?

It is true, at least for me, that my best ideas come to me. They do not come from me. It is true that in the beginning, they seem to settle within my head as a tiny seed.  They demand attention. 

I can act like it doesn't belong to me, I can walk away from it.  But it follows me. 

The authors unfold the story as the idea grows and demands attention and stewardship. 

But there was something magical about my idea. I had to admit, I felt better and happier when it was around.

It wanted food. It wanted to play. Actually, it wanted a lot of attention!

It grew bigger and we became friends.

And finally, the idea gets accepted and a friendship evolves...

Then, one daym something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my eyes. It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky!

I don't know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn't just a part of me was now part of everything!

And then, I realized what you do with an idea... you change the world!

A colleague and I once set out to write a book about where ideas come from. We covered our white walls with potential content. Our thoughts were filled with inspiration and ideas that showed up in this book. But, they were far more complex and convoluted.  Now reading this book, I think we missed the mark by not asking the idea for the book to lead us, to write the story. Instead we tried to time box it, control it, influence it with complex ideas.  We let the idea slip away.  But it didn't die; it found a new home, a new way to grow into something wonderful and precious!



What's in a Logo?


Tomorrow Makers has a new logo. (see above) Our first one was designed 14 years ago by Alicia Bramlett and we still love it.  The earth colors, shapes, and red thread running through it create a rich narrative.  We have had many, many complements on it.  I sometimes asked strangers what it conveyed  of Tomorrow Makers and I got back words like "beauty", "earth/nature", "parts and whole", "red thread ties together".  Pretty good!

In the beginning neither Todd nor I had any idea for what we were looking for, especially since we still appreciated the work of Alicia. But it seemed time to put out a new story and so Todd and I went to our colleague, Alfredo Carlo @ Housatonic Design Network, with a request to design something new for us.    Emails went back and forth from us to Alfredo and his teammates at Housatonic in  Bologna, Italy, for about six months as we were in no special hurry. Each iteration got us closer to what we were looking for.  Todd and I struggled with purpose.  In the beginning it was easier to tell what was not us, then to know what was us!  With extraordinary patience, Alfredo, Rayane, and Elena, and others provided rich design images and narritives as to what they represented.  Because of these, Todd and I came closer to knowing our own story.  We were able to articulate concepts that embedded natural life forms, Fibonacci concepts, the unfolding and enfolding of conversations each so much a part of our process They even incorporated Kevin Kelly's "Nine Laws of God" for how to create something out of nothing.  We saw each term as something embedded in everything we do. 

A few weeks later we received this graphic from the team:

 Click on the image to see it.

Here was our whole story! We could hardly wait to see how they would distill this very full image into a simple logo. Can you find the final design within this complex graphic?

Several weeks later we got a wonderful PDF back with our logo, how the design unfolded within the team, and a display for how the logo would play on a letterhead, business cards, brochures, web pages, and proposals. 

I think the most important thing for us, besides, the image, was to know the love, and intellect that the Housatonic team invested in our need.  Now, when I see the logo I can feel the Housatonic energy behind it.  And, we are not alone. The first time Todd and I used the logo for a proposal, we were complimented first and foremost on our logo! Now, I am waiting for the printer to phone telling me that my new business cards are ready. I have not had cards for years, but I will be happy to have these to hand out. 





Libraries and Museums

Recently Tomorrow Makers facilitated an event with Simmons College with partners from Illonois and Toronto Universities, funded by the Institute of Museums and Libraries.  Fifty three participants came from all aspects of information services .... librarians, museum curators, archivists of countries and the Internet, researchers, social media, schools of design, engineering, and education.  They came to explore the future of information services and to begin to design curriculum to meet the challenges of the future. 

Throughout the three days we were together I was constantly reminded of how much this group cares about their work. This was the first time all of the various aspects of information services had come together to design together.  They were hungry to share and learn from each other. They seemed to realize the importance of working together to curate the past, present, and future of information.  It was interesting to talk to the archivists of Canada and the US. I had never given thought to this enormous and important work.  The librarians were for inclusive justice in all ways.  As librarians they exchanged thoughts on the changes being made in urban and rural libraries to move to more inclusive ways of serving their communities.  Museums are trending more toward a "hands on"and collaborative  approaches to serving visitors. 

Their three days together were for the purpose of crafting a vision of the future and within this frame, to design curriculum for students working in information services.  The outcome over the course of the year was to be the development of a white paper that would put their ideas into a written form.  I think if I was a student today, I would carefully consider a field within information services! What rich opportunities were being talked about. 

The white paper will evolve over the year. Participants presented solid ideas for what they wanted the paper to include.  They spoke of being bold, of writing something that would stand out and matter in the here and now as well as into the future. They wanted their ideas for their role in civic discourse and for lifelong learning included.  With the changes happening so fast, it was not only students needing to learn but faculty as well. Technology no longer stands beside the curriculum but is embedded in every facet of learning. 

Clearly this group was happy to be together learning from each other. Although there was no expectation or outcome to keep this group together, it seemed clear that they would find ways to continue the conversations. Many stepped up to helping with the white paper. Others formed friendships across normal boundaries. 

I was delighted to have played a part in bringing this group together. My esteem for the work of these people has always been appreciative. It reached new heights in these few days together. And, I think they found new delight and significance in their work. Suddenly, the mundane of everyday effort got buried in a hugh amount of appreciation for the parts they play in our culture ... historically, and well into the future. 


The Origin of Our Design Axioms

“Discovering you don't know something is the first step to knowing it.”
“Everyone in this room has the answer. The purpose of this intense experience is to stimulate one, several, or all of us to extract and remember what we already know.”

All of our axioms were created in 1981 while Matt and I were living in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland, a tiny community was about 3,000 feet above Boulder, Co.  MG Taylor corporation and the DesignShop process were just forming, growing out of workshops we were offering on personal planning under an organization called CHOICE (choosing healthy options in changing environments). It was through these workshops that participants began asking us to work with their businesses, government departments, and corporations.  

1981 was twenty-five years ago. The Rate of Change model was one of our earliest models. Almost all of our workshops/DesignShops began with this model.  None of our participants had ever thought about change in this way.  The idea of exponential change was quite foreign. Collaboration, Group Genius, design, paradigm shifts were other strange concepts.  Yet, we discovered that when we created an environment and a process for people to explore these ideas, to create with them, as opposed to debating them, whole new ways of thinking began to take hold. People were hungry to learn a new way; they were curious; they were scared; they were stepping into a new world.  As Matt and I were driving down those 3,000 feet from Nederland to Boulder where we had our first office, our axioms were born. They were created as a scaffolding to help participants  leave the safety of their existing mental models and begin to get hand-holds on new ways of thinking and acting.  One by one the axioms were created over a couple of months as we watched participants move from one way of thinking to another. We spoke the axioms in the car. None of them were written, or iterated; rather they just formed as we watched people do what seemed to come naturally when they were given both the freedom and structure to think and work differently. Matt and I spent time exploring the ‘fitness’ of each axiom. Did it seem innate to humans? Was it authentic and universal?

Today, the axioms might seem fairly obvious.  But the idea of everyone having part of the answer was very strange in the 80’s and most of the 90’s.  The thought of working together to get better answers than we could possibly do on our own was a ridiculous concept.  Admitting that we didn’t know something was dangerous. We had our job positions because ‘we knew the answer.’  We held our status in school because we knew or didn’t know answers.  

Once we had our set of axioms we began each session with them. We didn’t explain them. We just offered them for consideration.  And throughout each event, participants would come to us at different moments and tell us that they ‘got one’ and how delighted they were to re-member something they knew innately, but had been taught differently.  Our axioms enabled people to be bolder, more transparent, more transformative in their thinking and working. The axioms created a scaffolding, a safety net, for different ways of thinking. They weren't to be argued, or rationally understood. They were  just statements to be used in design.

When I look at my THERE, my vision of our work so many years ago,  I can see how far our cultures have come in becoming comfortable with life-long learning and being able to say I don't know.  "Let's find out ... together!" is becoming the way! The axioms created a social benchmark for me. Change can seem non-existant, or very slow. With the axioms I can look back and see how far we have really come.  And, they are still powerful, still providing meaning and insight to me and many others. 


The Power of Backcasting

It was 1977 that Draper Kauffman visited The Learning Exchange, an organization a friend and I had founded. Draper was a futurist and when visiting Kansas City someone suggested he visit the Learning Exchange. We had several hours together sharing our thoughts about how unprepared students were to think about relevant futures for themselves. Draper had been with the Rand Corporation, a futures think tank. He was horrified by the gulf between what was being taught in schools and the world that was unfolding in which students would find themselves. Over dinner with Matt (Taylor) and me, Draper got to talking about how he learned to trick the mind into opening up and allowing itself to play with the future.

Draper left the Rand Corporation and secured his doctorate in education, specifically to teach teachers how to engage the future in grades K through 12. He had a hunch and he wanted to run experiments. When working with a classroom of 5th And 6th grade teachers, he handed out as assignment that simply ask the teachers to write the rest of the story. Each handout had a paragraph beginning the story. For all, the task was to make up a story based on this vague first paragraph. Draper left the classroom and retuned about 20 minutes later. Many of the teachers were just sitting, having written very little. Others were several pages into their story. He asked them to share their experience of writing. What none of them knew was that half the teacher’s paragraphs were written in past tense, the other half in future tense. With few exceptions, teachers who had past tense had fun and wrote many paragraphs making up the story as they went along. But those writing future tense struggled imagining a story that was yet to take place. This discovery led Draper to teach his course very differently.

Draper began to teach modeling to his students. Most of them had no idea how to create models in their imagination… or how to use models in their thinking processes. To his students, the future was something left to the experts, to be proven right or wrong over time. The future was made up of facts just like in their history books, not possibilities and imagination.

And it gave Matt and me an important insight. This is how the axiom "you can't get There from Here, but you can get Here from There" originated.

When you begin to frame the future from the present, all kinds of blocks show up. The present is full of the here and now and of many reasons change is not possible. Very little of our school life is composed for facilitating imagination and foresight. It is based on learning facts and facts are only within the past, or the here and now. It is based on test scores and right or wrong. To ease the tension, Matt and I decided that the first paragraph we wrote, from which participants would use as a baseline, would insure success. It would ask participants to remember their success story.

Draper's work was an important influencer in the development of our method and process. The importance of modeling, playing with ideas, assuming success became core principles in our work.

(Draper's book, Teaching the Future, is an important book and still very relevant. It is, however almost impossible to find. Our “Curriculum for the 21st Century” was also inspired by his work.)

This morning this article on Peter Drucker showed up in my in box. Drucker was quite good at envisioning THERE and bringing it to his HERE. 

- Gail