Leo Frishberg is a Product Design Manager at Intel with more than 40 years' experience in design. Leo co-discovered the techniques in this book in 1984 and has been applying them in practice for over 10 years in a wide variety of contexts including consumer gifts, industrial tools, software application development and emerging businesses. These techniques have been detailed in his writings for Interactions magazine and workshops he's led during CHI conferences.
Extraordinary begins with discomfort.
This book is fundamentally about being wrong.
That isn't what I (Leo) thought this book was going to be about when we set out to write it. What better example could I wish for of how easily we get things wrong?
In fact, everything we know is wrong.
Humor me for a moment and reflect on that sentence. Even after re-reading it hundreds of times, I still feel a twinge of ... anger? Self-righteousness? I hear a little voice saying: "Well that may be true for you buddy, but not for me ." And I wrote the sentence!
According to the research, that's a completely normal reaction; it has its roots so deeply buried in our evolution that there is nothing we can do about it. Every day we operate in the world based on a set of well-worn beliefs, and mostly we are successful, or so it would seem. So, surely my statement that " everything we know is wrong" is hyperbole. Or not, if you look at the world through Plato's eyes. In brief, all we know about the world comes in through our senses and is processed by our brains before being committed to memory. The whole system is fraught with potential error. In short, how well can we trust our senses, cognition, and memory?
Still, I'm more interested in the emotion around the reaction to the statement than engaging in a philosophical argument. My point is, when we read the statement " everything we know is wrong," we resist agreeing with it. And, now, humor me one more time for a moment: Read the statement again and let yourself accept it as true. It might take a few tries and a couple of deep breaths, but give it a shot.
How does that feel? If you're really engaging here, it should feel uncomfortable. Disorienting. Rudderless. (Of course, if the statement were really true, you wouldn't be able to read these sentences because you're wrong about your ability to read along with everything else. But stick with me for a second.)
To summarize: We don't like to think we're wrong, and we feel uncomfortable when we learn we're wrong.
Irrespective of how frequently we think we are wrong (maybe not about everything, but at least once in our lives-and let's hope you weren't wrong about picking up this book), the real question for us is, "What are we going to do about it?" Our focus is on applying our errors to our best advantage, use them to positive effect, and ultimately make our teams and organizations successful, not in spite of our errors, but because of them.
Let's restate the hyperbole: Everything you know about the future is wrong. That feels a little easier to admit, right? This book is written for people who are "inventing" the future: building products, services, companies, strategies, policies, or whatever, in service of a future state.
Presumptive Design (PrD) begins with the following operating assumptions:
- We are wrong (at least about the future). - We are in denial of being wrong (except perhaps about the future). - We generally don't like learning that we are wrong. (Where are those flying cars, or aerial houses ( Figure Pr.1 )?) Figure Pr.1 "Maison tournante aérienne" by Albert Robida, a nineteenth-century conception of life in the twentieth century
After reading this book, you will see how PrD eliminates the third assumption. (You'll look forward to learning from your errors and experience the surprise and joy of your discoveries.) The process helps you accept the second assumption. (Face it, we can't eliminate our denial-it really is baked into our brains-but we can at least recognize our denial.) And with respect to the first assumption, it's irrelevant. PrD works whether you