Design is a living experiment

Andréa Adão
La Danse II, Henri Matisse, 1910

One day Pedro came to us with a proposal for us to start our days earlier, adjusting to the winter schedule, and documenting it. Whether it was a hesitant or lazy or curious yes, we all said yes. Moving-to-early came to be a search for healthier habits in the broadest sense you can imagine. It made us reflect on how and where we spend our capacity, and how an earlier start affects us, both individually and as a team. It gave us a process and a space for us to study patterns, ingrained habits; to better understand our priorities, improving our ways to seize them.

First, we agreed that it needed to be a shared commitment.

Second, we needed a place to document it, a shared memory of the process, and a daily reflection for a deeper understanding of the struggles’ and benefits’ nuances. Should any kind of experiment happen without keeping track of its phases, highs and lows, patterns? In our case - to give an example of a place - it meant using the daily checkins and weekly checkouts we share with each other.

Third, courage. Knowing that one’s about to open a bottomless box, exposing some guts out along with the darkest, rooted secrets, like “ups I was binge-watching all night”, which is a cute, dismissive way of saying “sorry, I completely blew my week’s capacity and schedule, and maybe/probably yours as well”. There’s also a lot of celebrating achievements, thanksgiving and gratitude.

As designers we spend our days immersed in experiments; as jacks*, it quite often means hopping in and out of the research subject role, and in between is where I fell in love with the whole concept of design.

* Jacks-of-all-trades are actually masters of some. We all have different talents, but what we share in common, is the ability to play many roles and connect experience and knowledge from multiple fields to come up with solutions. Komuhn is full of jacks.

More than anything, this daily exercise has brought me a powerful tool for committing to better and healthier habits, and at the same time promoting them within my team.

Revisiting and facing it every day has made me realise how deep one can dig in the most (seemingly) insignificant things in life.

Those we take as they come without much thought. Could those actually be the best ones for identifying patterns and from which one can take away the best learnings?

There were days when I had to decide if I even wanted to do the reflection (due to tiredness, frustration, little progress, no time to dive into it), but even when I wouldn’t, the reflection was still there. In practice, it meant developing my morning routine, understanding what would make my day right from its start, and what wouldn’t, learning how and when to use better my energy during the day, more time for reflection and meaningful breaks throughout the day, prioritising what matters the most, progressively giving up on the tasking/reaction mode, less anxiety. For me, moving-to-early ended up meaning getting ready for me, my team and our days; it became a shared space, a living experiment.

*Picture: La Danse II, Henri Matisse, 1910

Andréa Adão

What are you thinking?

Comments (4)

  1. Pedro Reis

    I remember when we first started adding these reflections to our checkins and thinking how a small addition to the script/routine made me stop and focus on the topic. In this case #movetoearly. Without it I would have more easily forgotten it, be less clear, decide nothing was needing updating. But even when I didn’t do anything towards moving (my schedule/ start of the day) to earlier now I had that to share. That was the shared expectations. An agreement. And it made me commit again. Remember its importance and why we were doing it. Also made it easier to say there was “no progress” because the shared agreement also gave me permission to fail.

    1. Pedro Reis

      Actually a “no progress” update was also progress 🙂

      1. Andréa Adão

        For me, the “no progress” update and the process of skipping the update were the most unexpected revealings of the whole experiment.
        Was like understanding better the most subtle and disguised mechanisms of the decision making processes I’m constantly ignoring and skipping throughout my daily routines, taking it for granted in such a twisted and contradictory way, as if it was as essential as insignificant, when it plays such an important role on my day.

      2. Pedro Reis

        That’s right! We’re all the time skipping steps in processes sometimes we are even unaware of. Be it because of lack of capacity, distractions, or bad feelings towards it.