In Search of the Water

Fish by Annemarie Brown

Two fish were swimming along in the ocean and they passed an older fish. As they swam by, the older fish said, “How’s the water?” The two fish kept swimming, but as they swam, one fish turned to the other and said, “What is water?”

A large part of the design process is developing the mental awareness to deeply learn from the world around you. Before I started this process, I identified as a rather aware person. I still am, however, I’m learning to harness and expand that awareness in order to create change through design. This hasn’t been an easy process. In fact, it has been (horribly) frustrating. I’m often in class or brainstorming meetings and someone will say something obvious and I’ll have a moment of, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” Sometimes the most obvious answers are right in front of our faces, but until we learn how to see those answers, we will never know them.

This week, I had a moment of realization that has greatly opened my mind and provoked patience with the learning process. I realized that I need to listen differently. I also need to talk to more people, even if I don’t know what I need to talk to them about. I learn about the “water” through absorbing the unspoken rhythms of a space, observing the physical actions of individuals and listening to the thoughts of the community. I can then combine all of these experiences into a recipe that produces a beautiful and effective action or solution.

Conversations and interviews lead to inspiring insights and growth. I need to go into every engagement with an openness to all that is being presented, not just what I want to hear or see.

Every day, I’m gaining skills and insights to eventually see the “water” that exists around my project.

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