• Jeff Wheeldon


Collaborative Design Strategies are incredibly multi-disciplinary. We not only facilitate collaboration between diverse perspectives, but our methods are rooted in diverse perspectives. We see our principles reflected in so many fields, philosophies, approaches, and traditions.

I try to read something every morning to kickstart my mind for the day. This morning it was Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition by John B Cobb Jr and David Ray Griffin, and I came across this passage below in a section describing evolution. A few notes before you read the passage: 1) when it refers to "enjoyment" it's really talking about a kind of actualization more than any sense of personal pleasure, though it still has a positive connotation; and 2) it's combining viewpoints of process philosophy, aesthetics, and theology, and referring to the works of Alfred North Whitehead who mostly wrote about a hundred years ago, so it's already super interdisciplinary. I'll unpack it below, so don't worry if this quote out of context doesn't make perfect sense!

Here's the passage:

The two variables involved in the degree of enjoyment are harmony and intensity. Obviously, for the experience to be enjoyable, it must be basically harmonious; the elements must not clash so strongly that discord outweighs harmony. Also, for great enjoyment there must be adequate intensity of experience. Without intensity there might be harmony, but the value enjoyed will be trivial. Intensity depends upon complexity, since intensity requires that a variety of elements be brought together into a unity of experience. To bring a variety of elements into a moment of experience means to feel these elements, to prehend them positively. Now, the more complex an actuality is, the more elements from its environment it can feel, and thereby take into itself. The simpler occasions of experience must exclude from feeling more of the potential values in the environment. This is why intensity depends upon complexity, and hence why the higher grades of enjoyment finally depend upon complexity. Furthermore, a complex actuality is possible only on the basis of an ordered environment. This is why order is promoted for the sake of increased enjoyment. - pp. 64-65

This is a philosophical description of the process of evolution, from a mid-1960's theological reflection on a mid-1930's philosophical text employing perspectives from the field of aesthetics. So what does this have to do with Collaborative Design Strategies?

Amazingly, this also describes our methodology, which is explicitly rooted in modern design methods and systems/futures thinking. Here's how:

1) We recognize the value of complexity. We know that a diversity of perspectives is essential to what makes communities thrive (or, put differently, to what maximizes enjoyment); but also that the complexities of our society have the potential to create discord. So our approach is based on bringing people together to ensure that complexity is recognized in the problem, and is part of the solution.

2) We facilitate harmony by providing an ordered environment. Our group collaboration sessions are a safe place for that diversity of perspectives to come together and create novel solutions to complex problems.

The amazing part of seeing this text this morning is not only that it reflected our already interdisciplinary approach in a completely different interdisciplinary perspective, but that it links our approach to the way that the world naturally works. Our approach works because this is the way the universe works, at least according to process thought: novelty arises within a state of order, increasing complexity and thereby increasing the possibility and/or intensity of enjoyment. In a social context, we might say that stable relationships and institutions allow us to advance our society or community together.

How's that for validation to start the day?

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