Human Centered Design is a title that can mean a lot of things. It interests me. Always has. My desire in my field of work over decades now has clearly leaned in to the human aspects of people working and communing together more than it has leaned into the mechanical aspects. They all go together, yes. But it is the awakened energetic of connection and learning that has been my goto to create healthy and fulfilling systems.
My entry to this field of work began in earnest in the early 1990s. I was a grad student in an Organizational Behavior Program. It was a time of learning much about systems thinking, about connections, about complex systems. It was a time of learning much about expanding perception on what “value added” and “outcomes” could be.
I was lucky and grateful to continue in the field with some great mentorship. Initially that was Margaret Wheatley, teaching and guiding as she did about living systems and living systems in learning. That was Bob Stilger who taught and guided so much about kind-heartedness and open-mindedness. That was Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea teaching and guiding as they did with The Circle Way as both ways of doing and ways of being. That was Juanita Brown and David Isaacs with World Cafe, methodology for creating and growing the conversational learning. That was Toke Moeller and Monica Nissen developing and inviting evolution of The Art of Hosting body of practice. The was Harrison Owen bring Open Space Technology. I was lucky and grateful to continue with many good colleagues, we also adding to an evolving and important field — Chris Corrigan, Teresa Posakony, Caitlin Frost, Amanda Fenton, Sarah MacDougall, Kelly Foxcroft Poirier, Glen Brown, Erin Gilmore, Cameron Barr, Krista Betz, Kelly Ryan, Kevin Hiebert, Sara Rosenau, Jessica Riehl, Lawrence Kampf, Chris Chopyak, Quanita Roberson — and a bunch more!
Back in those days, the 90s, it occurs to me that a radical act in our field was to slow and deepen the connections. Rather than just racing along with production, which was such a norm — people in our field were learning to create added connection. We were learning to tend not just to doing but also to being so as to add outstanding and sustainable contributions.
People find what they want — I suppose this is true for paths of contribution. There can be difference and interesting nuance.
When I jump forward in the timeline, hundreds of events along the way with varied groups and group sizes, there is another radical act that feels poignant to me today. Not entirely new. But perhaps more centered. It comes from the reality that people in so many places — organizations, communities, families — struggle to talk to each other. Sad, right. True, though. I wonder, wonder, if we have just lost a sense of belonging. Belonging to the conflicts. Belonging to the excitements. Belonging to the loves. Belonging to the fields of mystery. Belonging to the fields of learning. Belonging to the experiments.
It seems to me — and it interests me (teaching what we most need to learn) — that centering belonging is one of the key acts of our field in this continued effort to focus on humans living human lives, making choices, living into opportunities that live below the surface and that live expanded from superficial reductions.
I’m committed to such work. In me. With others. In pockets of 2-3 people. In bigger systems of departments and teams. Bit of a “can’t not” for me. And, bit of a “can’t not” for me to join with others in such adventure.
Humans being humans.