Design principles: Jeff Leitner

Jeff Leitner, dean of flash mob-style public interest design company Insight Labs, set out his principles for curating collaborative thinking in a January 2012 Forbes interview.

As excerpted on Insight:

1. Flatten the hierarchy: “It isn’t enough for the leader to say he or she is open to new ideas; he or she must get the hell out of the way.”

2. Change the milieu: “…you can’t put people in familiar environments, lead them through familiar activities and expect new or novel results. Ultimately, we’re creatures of habit.”

3. Don’t brainstorm: “…an idea we create collectively – you say something, I add something, you challenge, I improve, etc. – is infinitely more valuable than an idea that one of us generates alone, even if the collective idea isn’t quite right. Brainstorming, as it’s generally proselytized, is a solitary activity practiced together. You don’t need collaborators for that.”

4. Ask a straightforward question: “That’s a lot harder than it sounds, both because it’s intellectually challenging and because too many folks believe their value lies in the apparent complexity of the problems they tackle.”

5. Design for collisions: “Remember, the value of collaboration is that you plus me is better than you or me. So it is essential that the leader or organizer design a process that forces participants’ ideas to bump into each other, bounce off of each other, bruise and affect each other.”

See also: What do design labs look like up close?

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