The Fast Company run an innovation festival each year, showcasing new thinking and ideas.
This year there was a particulalry interesting talk by design firm 'Ideo's exec, Fred Dust, who says we can solve problems by designing new ways to talk with each other. All too often, we do not listen or engage fully with the other person in the conversation – and if this is true, then how can we really be communicating effectively?
Fred argues that the introduction of the TV dinner in the early 50s was the start of the slippery slope – a process that has been exacerbated and accelerated with the introduction of new screen based technologies. How often does the average family actually sit down, talk and listen to each other? How many times have you been in a restaurant and observed a table of friends all busily engaged on their smartphones rather than interacting with each other?
The move towards an adversorial style of television interviewing, coupled with the rise of televised political debates where appearance is more important than content have both contributed to diminishing productive dialogue. If we are not listening to others, how can we appreciate their point of view or be open to change? And if we do not feel we are being heard, we simply get more frustrated and angry – and the cracks begin to emerge.
Fred has developed a new interactive form of discussing difficult topics called Creative Tensions. The idea behind this is to create scenarios where people are able to find common ground and also slows the conversation down which allows time for different viewpoints to emerge. It is based on participants showing where they stand on a topic by where they stand in the room. Whilst this technique has been used by qualitative researchers in the past, it is perhaps underused particulalry as our understading of Behavioural Economics is still developing. Using this technique to establish the starting point, and then observe what 'nudges' people to change their minds (or behaviour) could be extremely effective – particulalry as physically moving from one spot to another is perhaps a more realsitic representation of whether 'interverntions' actually do have a strong and lasting impact.