The creative process includes the entire method by which ideas are discovered and translated into useful tools, products, and services and used in the “marketplace”.
-Matt and Gail Taylor 1981
Years ago (1972 - 1977), during my experiences with the Learning Exchange in Kansas City, I learned how to perturb group processes so that people and teams became aware of their own ability to consciously create tomorrows of their choice. It was through design. Our work at the Learning Exchange was to create programs for local school districts that were missing - yet critical - in the schools. Most of these programs were for elementary level, but some ranged through high school.
We created design teams rich in diversity - inner city teachers, kids, parents, suburban teachers, business executives, professors - and gave them the challenge to create a program that the schools would purchase. Many of the ideas came from business leaders or parents. They felt that something was missing in the schools. One example was "Economics in Action." A CEO asked the Learning Exchange to create a program that would help elementary teachers teach economics. As always, I said, "Yes, we will do this IF you provide your resources of time and money. I want your time, not a representative from your company and I want you either to fund it or help with the funding." This meant commitment, ownership, energy.
Teams rarely had much in common and often did not trust each other. In this particular case, the inner city teachers and the business leaders had little tolerance for each other. Yet through cycles and iterations of design, trust was born, a common language was created, pride and ownership in what was being created spilled forth. This team was taking an idea from conception through engineering, building and using. There were moments that I can still remember such as seeing the inner city teacher and business executive come to know that they both wanted the same thing and it was good. Eyes met, smiles broke forth; they fell in love with each other.
Trust, engagement, design, completion. This is what made the programs so rich and wanted in the school districts. Each was created from the mind and heart... not by individuals, but by a team of people, each with their own goals and vantage points and tolerance levels. A higher order was achieved.
There were but a few simple rules:
- Initial investments came from within;
- Participation was personal;
- Every time the team met, they went through an entire iteration of design and shipped product;
- Compromise was not considered;
- Environment matters;
- Laughter, play, learning by doing were allowed and celebrated.
Tomorrow Makers has built on this knowing for what is possible. We continually focus our energies on what we call Phase Transitions... points in the life cycle of a community or project where a higher order is wanted; where it is critical to bring together diverse communities to create something larger, more fit for the community.
While there are thousands of wonderful people and teams creating tomorrows, Tomorrow Makers skills, talents, and passion lay in designing with others processes and environments that help teams soar and supersede all their expectations of what is possible. We believe that if this kind of work/play/collaboration became ubiquitous, we would indeed have tomorrows we are all proud of.