[Design Indaba 2012] John Bielenberg is wrong
Bielenberg is also an entrepreneur, an educator and a proponent of 'thinking wrong' - somebody who sees conventional thinking as a threat to creativity and design. Often, says Bielenberg, the creative process goes something like this - get brief, boom, solution - designers become victims of their own heuristic neural pathways (learned, pre-determined behaviour). Thinking wrong disrupts that process and offers the potential for truly creative solutions.
Another Project M initiative was Free Pie, which started when a Project M student revealed her hidden talent to be making pies. In a tough economy, free pie and coffee draw people together and gives them an opportunity to have a conversation.
More recently, he partnered with Alex and Ana Bogusky (from Crispin Porter + Bogusky fame) and Rob Schuham to form COMMON, which is focused on social entrepreneurship and aims to 'replace competitive advantage with collaborative advantage', and with Greg Galle to launch FUTURE, a similar concept but that works with larger organisations and enterprises to drive positive change in the world.
Bielenberg: At the core of how humans make decisions and solve problems is a process that drives the brain to solutions that are familiar, predictable and comfortable. This may be efficient, but it doesn't necessarily produce truly creative or unique solutions.
We now live in a world that is not sustainable, that the relationship between humans and the natural world is out of balance, and that creativity and design are one of the only ways we can avoid disaster. Conventional solutions that reinforce the status quo are unacceptable and dangerous.
Thinking wrong is a process that helps you break free from the boundaries of common, everyday thinking, towards clearer, more innovative ways of thinking and doing.
Bielenberg: Yes, it is true that the scale of our global issues can be overwhelming. However, I think the important thing is to just do something positive and not worry about huge impact. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Bielenberg: The simple answer is that I just like working with others. Especially people who are amazing creative thinkers in disciplines different than my own field. Ideas can be imagined that would be unable to conceive otherwise. In addition, many projects today require a large diverse team. More like a movie crew than the lone designer genius working by himself in a studio.
Bielenberg: I don't know much about patents, but I feel that protecting ideas for profit or self-interest is generally stifling creativity and innovation. I'm much more interested in "we" than in "me." I have virtually no interest in legal issues around this issue.
Bielenberg: I've been influenced by some of the concepts presented in a book called The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque and am trying to imbed some basic core values like transparency, sustainability, collaboration and community into for-profit ventures. It's about a belief in abundant value versus scarce value.
Bielenberg: Whew! That's a tough question. However, I do believe that all enterprise must become social enterprise if we are to have any hope of a positive future. It just makes sense. The idea that generating short-term shareholder value should drive corporate decision making is an antiquated idea and businesses that cling to this model will not thrive in the future.
Bielenberg: To be honest, I'm not aware of any South African design profile in the US. So, I'm glad that Design Indaba is helping to fix this!