Design follows worldview and worldview follows design
How we see the world influences the real or perceived needs that inform our intentions. If I see the world as a place dominated by fierce competition for limited resources, I will fight others to get my own needs met. I will live a different life, interpret experiences in a different way, and design different products, services and systems, if I see the world as a place of abundance to be shared in solidarity and collaboration within the human family and with deep care for the ecosystems functions that are the basis for this abundance. These two different perspectives lead to fundamentally different approaches to defining our real and perceived needs and to meeting these needs by either competitive or collaborative means. Design follows worldview.
It is also true that, as Winston Churchill put it, “first we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us”. The design of buildings, products, services and systems is how we shape the world around us and these designs keep influencing our lives for decades and even centuries, as we maintain or replicate past design decisions in many cases without questioning them. Most of us grew up and were educated in a culture that primarily subscribed to the perspective of scarcity and competition — ‘the narrative of separation’.
The institutions, processes and incentives that shaped our experience of the world were informed by that point of view and thus reinforced experiences of competition and relative scarcity. The education system, the economic system and the way we relate with nature and with other human beings through the products and services we produce and exchange, all reinforce experiences of scarcity and competition. The design decisions we have taken in the past are continuing to influence how we experience and interpret the world. Worldview follows design.
So transformative innovation towards a regenerative culture is both about a shift in the worldview that informs our design solutions and a shift in design practice towards products, services and systems that engender experiences of collaboration and abundance that affect how we see the world. Since the relationship between worldview and design is mutually reinforcing, we can start by intervening in either. Transformative innovation and design for a regenerative culture is about enabling people to experience and live the ‘narrative of interbeing’ as a personal and social reality.
Design intentionally shapes interactions and relationships. It can do so in ways that favour the collaborative creation and sharing of abundance, or in ways that reinforce the narrative of separation. The recent upsurge of transformative social innovation — enabled by online networks — is a good example of this. In particular, many innovations in the field of ‘collaborative consumption’ (see Chapter 2) enable people to gain economic benefit, human interaction and new friends and relationships by simply sharing access to a product or commodity that they would have previously owned and used ‘only for themselves’.
Collaborative consumption by design creates win-win-win situations. Its diverse applications give us a reinforcing experience of shared abundance, collaboration and trust. Transformative innovation for a regenerative culture will largely spread through this reciprocal relationship between design and worldview, turning the vicious circle driven by the mindset of scarcity and competition into a virtuous circle driven by the mindset of abundance, interconnection and collaboration.
[This is an excerpt of a subchapter from Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press, 2016.]
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures