The Ambiguity of Innovation

Taylor Halversen
Mar 9, 2015 · 4 min read

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, I strongly encourage it — both for personal enlightenment and to understand this post.

I, Taylor Halversen, am a “J”.

I am naturally inclined to organize and seek understanding before jumping into work. I like to sound polished and professional every time I open my mouth or hit a keyboard, to feel in control of my thoughts and voice. Before I devote my focus to time-ambiguous tasks like writing a blog post, I like to have every email sent, every item on my detailed list tackled, and a timeframe to work with.

Thomas Hawk Digital Collection, San Fransisco Museum of Art Wallpapers

The Business Innovation Factory is a “P”. In the design process, there are no answers. There are no time clocks, no punch-ins. Employees are here (and often here longer than 8 hours a day) because they want to be here — their hearts are invested in this work and that is what drives them. There is no one to impress with test scores or verbose academic language, in which I have been trained. Because there are no “right” answers, there is only exploration and experimentation with no pressure to force conclusions.

Icarus, Swarez Modern Art Ltd.

It is my job as a Citizen Experience Lab Associate at BIF to write in medias res and speak extemporaneously. It is my job to play with ideas and time, and I naturally don’t know how.

So, why am I here? Why am I putting myself in a situation where my brain hurts from the ambiguity and complexity of the problems and design process we undertake?

I believe that J’s need P’s.

There is something liberating (and disorienting) about not needing to produce answers, to play with your work and have the time to interact with ideas without consequence. This is my third go-around with BIF, and I keep coming back because there is something here that is important, something here that is worth being part of.

Although it is uncomfortable, I have done my best and most meaningful work in ambiguity. When there are no boxes to check or people to impress, you are only left with yourself — with your own thoughts, with your own voice. To be trusted with that is a scary thing, but it is a space of vulnerability that allows for genuine decision making and ever-evolving creation.

This vulnerability and creation is missing from our society. We are no longer allowed to make human errors or play with ideas. Politicians who do so are forced to resign, innovative teachers often make little professional headway, students must stay within the confines of quantifiable testing or face future-denigrating grades, and I think we are suffering because of it. In the search for perfection and stability we have become rigid and immutable, ill prepared to adapt with circumstance. It is a systemic issue, guided by fear.

We are afraid of making mistakes.

But what if there are none?

My first day at BIF, my boss told me “you do not need permission” and “you cannot break anything.” I hadn’t realized the weight that fear had on me until I felt it lift off my shoulders with those assurances. I cannot break anything.

The concept seems somewhat idealistic, but it is not. BIF lives this practice. I have had professors, colleagues and friends who live this way. And these practitioners always, without exception, create the most powerful and transformative work in their fields. Not only is their work powerful, but relationships and trust also flourish around them, opening the way for future collaboration.

I love being a J. I will always get a special joy striking through a “to do” item. Structure is great, time management is needful, but that fear of change, of ambiguity is crippling us as a community. J’s need P’s. We need to learn how to live and create fearlessly in the unknown.

Deviant Art, http://11gummerus.deviantart.com/art/Modern-art-399193314

There is a movement forming, an underlying current crying for no-mistakes innovation and change, and I am excited to be a part of it. I look forward to working with the new Citizen Experience Lab at BIF because I get to work with this question at its core: How do we innovate as a community, as a society? I am excited to open this vulnerable space with people and organizations, to help design solutions to the problems they face.

I am here to be bold, to be vulnerable. I am here to learn, experiment and share this process with those willing to take the risk.

@tshnips
http://businessinnovationfactory.com/

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BIF Speak

Stories about the power of stories in transformation, business model innovation, community, healthcare, education, and the citizen experience, from the Business Innovation Factory.

Taylor Halversen

Written by

Loves to help bridge need with action. Experience Designer at The Business Innovation Factory (@TheBIF).

BIF Speak

BIF Speak

Stories about the power of stories in transformation, business model innovation, community, healthcare, education, and the citizen experience, from the Business Innovation Factory.

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