Designing Design: The Weeble Principle


If you're an American between the ages of 5 and 50, or the parent of children within this demographic, chances are you are familiar with Weebles®, and their catchy slogan:

"Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!"

And sure enough, try as you might to knock one over, inevitably it will right itself. Well, it turns out these little guys not only provide youngsters with hours of fascination, they also provide a valuable principle for process & event designers:

Create a design that won't fall apart when it takes an unexpected hit.

In other words, the overall design should be strong enough to withstand the failure of any particular element, or module. (I realize "failure" is largely subjective. What I mean is simply that the outcome of the module did not meet your minimum expectations or intent.) This can be brought on by any number of circumstances - team dynamics, poorly written instructions, an outside disturbance, a shortage of time to name a few.

When designing your event - and in particular when thinking about sequence and how modules build on each other - play 'Spoze with them, imagining what happens if a given module falls flat. Consider ways to minimize the risk to the event as a whole, while keeping the design of the module itself as ambitious and challenging as possible.

For example, when you are engaging participants in an activity that "appears" to be far from the central topic of the event (something you must do in order to have a robust Scan), don't have everyone or every team doing the same thing.

When you are into the Focus or Act stages of an event, and a module appears to be failing in some respect - participants are staying to general with their ideas, for example, or maybe they're ignoring your instructions and taking the activity in a completely different direction - have sufficient space built into the design that real time course corrections can be made that, from the participants point of view, seamlessly incorporates whatever outcome they produce in a given module into what comes next.

The essence of the Weeble Principle is this: Any given module or element of your design may make the whole a success, but no given module or element should be capable of leading the whole to failure.

This is the third in a  series of posts, "Designing Design", which identify
design principles embedded in Tomorrow Makers processes