How many ideas should move from selected to implemented?
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The Institute of Design held a seminar in Chicago this week to create a discussion on the role of a design-based approach to forming public policy. The premise for the discussion was that, “the prevalent perception that ‘nothing works’ in the public policy arena, or rather, public policy itself rarely seems to be working, challenges democratic systems at their core. Coincident to this spiraling public pessimism and partisan gridlock, foundations are turning to designers with renewed hope that their skills in problem definition and resolution can make a difference and help foster success.”

The term “design” in this context is not the creation or styling of an artifact or product, but rather a formalized thinking process running from problem framing into human-based research, analysis of research findings resulting in new insights, and synthesizing the insights into new ways of approaching solution development.

Government office-holders and administrators would be well served by using a structured innovation process that is built upon the practices taught in design schools.

In the case of government policy, many programs are put together by a wide variety of stakeholders and officeholders, often resulting in a mish-mash of regulations, services, taxes and chaos. Government office-holders and administrators would be well served by using a structured innovation process that is built upon the practices taught in design schools. These approaches enable people to address complex, human problems in new ways, to see solutions in a new light, and to visualize solutions in a way that meet human needs more effectively.

According to the Institute, “policy issues address increasingly complex social problems, from priority setting, decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources, or sorting out the public vs. private responsibilities.”

Policy makers around the world should take the opportunity to talk with design leaders and educators to learn more about their approaches, and ultimately do a better job of addressing the social problems facing their constituents. With government debt loads increasing in unsustainable fashion, (think of the current Greek debt problem) countries can no longer afford to build service offerings and hope for the best.

A design-based approach is a much better alternative than business-as-usual, especially when the money starts to dry up. It is time for government leaders to lead and continue to make the world a better place for all of us.

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