This thoughtful article explore traditional design methods (usually rigid frameworks) and why people usually don’t follow them. The author’s analysis, inspired by Christopher Alexander Patterns and Bill Mollison’s permaculture ideas, lead them to a new framework that describes a dynamic process of immergence, crisis and emergence:
- at the start is immergence is where participants and ideas are gathered and connect,
- this is followed by a point of crisis where “dense and thick clashing of forces” occurs and this is “the true engine of change and transformation”.
- After this a point of emergence is reached where new ideas that couldn’t have been predicted before start to come out.
The dynamic interaction of these forces in time, named cultivation, creates an internal flow in the field, which is responsible for the emerging patterns and structures.
Elegant and simple, this framework provide a usuful way to create a fertile ground for design and innovation.
We also derived from our understanding that the most important thing facilitators of design processes can do, is to not control the process (e.g. by preventing it from reaching a crisis) but to enable everyone to resonate with the field and to connect with it. Immergence can be achieved by a huge variety of methods, which have to be carefully chosen and developed according to the process itself.
Moreover, we also understood why it is impossible to look beyond the point of crisis. When you enter a generative process, you just do not know the results you will get in the end. The point of transformation is a point where not only the direction of the game changes but also its rules. It is as if you were trying to look beyond the big bang: it is not possible as the rules and laws of nature itself change (and emerge) at this very point.
Every generative process displays this rhythm: sometimes it is strong and powerful as if something is shrinking to a dense nucleus and then exploding in a big bang; sometimes it is as soft and gentle as breathing in and breathing out. The beauty of it is that the side of emergence is always a relief, a fountain, a creative burst and a horizon full of unexpected opportunities and innovations.