Intervene, don’t overthink – the new mantra of systems designNovember 2, 2018 by World Economic Forum 1 CommentUN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu Cities in developing countries like Nairobi in Kenya continue to grow rapidly.This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.Author: Tim Brown, Chief Executive Officer, IDEOArchitects and urban planners of the mid-20th century believed they had the skill and the right to redesign how cities worked. Enamored with the automobile and challenged by increased urban migration, planners such as Robert Moses and architects from Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright proposed a variety of utopian schemes. Not all were built, but those that were had unforeseen consequences. High-level freeways cleaved neighborhoods, and the demolishing of traditional urban districts made way for high-rise developments that became sources of crime and misery.This “top-down” urban planning created radical change, but also resulted in cities that failed to provide for the multiple needs of the people who inhabited them. Indeed, it was the failure to take into account the needs of ordinary citizens that led to the rise of the New Urbanist movement led by Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford. Jacobs, in her groundbreaking book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, made the case for a more grassroots, human-centered approach to urban design based on building social capital through mixed-use neighborhoods.As we look to lead the development of new interconnected systems, enabled by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we would do well to learn from the mistakes of 20th-century planners and architects. Their utopian proposals were an example of both too much and too little design. Too much in that there was an assumption that the needs of all stakeholders could be understood and designed for at the outset. Too little in that designers failed to create a process or platform that could accommodate for the needs of all stakeholders over time.Instead, an approach to the successful deployment of design in systems leadership might be based on answering three questions: why design, how to design and when to design?
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