On Saturday I went to a symposium in London on Narrative in Practice (14 creatives exploring how they use narrative in their work) at which the design world explored its understanding of, relationship with and use of narrative.
I went because of my passion for all things storytelling and I naively thought I may be able to interest some of the participants in the way we use narrative methods in innovation at Argenta. Instead I stepped into a strange and new world of designers and architects where their use of narrative, quotes and definitions sounded vaguely familiar. My overall feeling was that the inhabitants of this world could come and teach KM and engineering design some terrific new insights.
I don’t use this ‘other world’ metaphor lightly. I now have such a habit of inadvertently being the ‘outsider’ in such symposiums and events that I look for them explicitly. At Argenta we teach how to innovate with the following model which in De Bono terms I like to think represents participants stepping from the familiar operational world into the unfamiliar and unexpectedly magical, innovational world where metaphors, concepts and allegories come to life, which is precisely what happened to me on Saturday and why I see the benefits of attending these events.
Enough pontificating, “what did I learn at this wonderful event?”, I hear you asking.
In no particular order, Scott Burnham took us through his amazing portfolio of ‘installations’ designed to explore our “narrative relations with space”. I just loved his natural acceptance of complexity as he told us how his designs were intentionally making “suggestions in space” to encourage “people to continue the narrative”. The idea of planning how to “provoke interaction, but with no instructions, so that the organic processes of the city can take over” intrigued me. With stories of uncertainty and self organisation about the boom bench, stalker babies and the moving forest it was everything you could want in a keynote session.
A particular recounting of the 2008 Urban Play events in Amsterdam included the visually and conceptually smile inducing window zoo, fish in the sky and terrifically told story of the 300,000 pennies used to make this sentence.
Designed specifically for the joy of watching the interaction, adaptation and degradation of a work the big question was whether its beauty would be enough to keep it intact or whether greed might prevail, and I don’t think I know of a better example of a twist than the end of this story.
Read the first hand anecdotal twist to this story on Scotts own website.
Lucy McNabb took us into her strange world of selling supplies for monsters in Hoxton, East London as a cover for her Ministry of Stories.
Opened in late 2010, this is a “place for young imagination” where story creating with its associated confidence and social skills
Lots of the stories can be read on the website, my current favourite is the cookie dough man story with the twins that were born in a fat mans belly button.
Find out more and perhaps volunteer as a part time minister here.
Finally for today, another presentation at the symposium was that of Linda Florence which had its own intentionally poetic narrative.
Linda is a fabric designer and became fascinated with the idea that carpet designs are primarily to hide the wear and tear of people walking on them. So she set out to do things, as TRIZ would say “the other way round”. Inspired by the tea dance stories of her grandparents and the association with afternoon cakes she cut her fabric designs out of card to make a template and dusted the floor of the Victoria and Albert museum with icing sugar in an attempt to
“track a persons relationship with space”.
The outcome shown below can also be seen on a most entrancing video which I guess she keeps off Youtube to encourage more invites to speak at conferences and has now became her trademark. An amazing example of how the new patterns in the sugar tell their own story of the dance.
All that thought of sugar and pickled eyeballs has got me hungry so I am now off for tea. Tomorrow I will cover more inspirational installations and a surprising parallel encounter with sensemaking…