Friday, October 14, 2005

From planning to designing

Walt Disney's widow was being interviewed after the completion of Disney World in Florida. The reporter remarked, "Isn't it a shame that your husband never got to see this?" Mrs. Disney quickly corrected him. "He did see it. That is why it is here!"

"Design is treated like a religion at BMW."

"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation." - Steve Jobs

"Every Starbucks store is carefully designed to enhance the quality of everything the customers see, touch, hear, smell or taste."
"People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they're really proud of, that they'll fight for, sacrifice for, trust." - CEO Howard Schultz.

I'm not much of a visual guy, at all. I don't draw or paint, and I don't do anything very artsy at all. In high school, I just about failed out of mechanical drawing. Too much attention to detail, I think. (Which is strange considering my current vocation.) Ceramics was just an easy class to take as a senior and, no, I didn't bring any of my projects home.

But these quotes - and my experience of late - is convincing me that this idea of "design" is much, much more than the way something looks. It's more than art or color or aesthetics only. We need to turn ourselves into designers - whether it is the design of a small group Bible study, of a retreat experience, or a mission trip. Not just planners, but designers. Think about how even the simple distinction of the language used changes the whole intent of the task. We move from being mere organizers of tasks and activities to agents of change that affect people based on how an experience (not just art or architecture) impacts someone.

A few things come to mind about this in regard to students:
1 - Gathering and transit times. We should capture that time and engage students in some way related to the event. D hit this on the head after the Sept launch. An important distinction to note is that the thinking about this time has transitioned from, "How do we occupy students before things start moving?" to "What else could we do to fully engage them in this experience of blessing others?"

My Brasil leaders got it this past summer in two ways. First, they put devotional packets together for the overnight plane ride. Secondly, they had the team put together a 'mailbox' that was used throughout the rest of the trip. The team put those together during a six hour layover in the airport. Not only were these great contributions to the overall experience, they were a great use of time.

2 - A token reminder. When SPACE first started, we used to give every student something to remember the experience with. A checker piece to remind them of being strategic. A old, beatup spoon purchased from a thrift store to remind them of the homeless. These token reminders can be pieces of the experience students take with them once its over. We are going to start this again.

3 - Key people. Key people make the difference in the environment. They can either be welcoming or distant, engaging or disconnected. These key people, both leaders and students, set the pace for the environment. We must communicate this idea to our key people - that they can set the tone and be proactive about creating and shaping the event, study, etc. The design, not the plan, should be communicated to them. Instead of saying, "Here is the plan," maybe we should say, "This experience should look and smell like _____. The essence of this day is about this ____."

And we know that, in the end, the design of the experience is not just for our participants. We know that, like the last quote above, if we call people to epic movements, if we call them to be a part of changing the world, to serving strangers, to reaching out, they might just in fact be more than participants themselves - and contribute to propagating experiences for others to make an impact.

Photo: Columns and the dome inside the National Gallery of Art.

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