The importance of Mess
A random encounter with Pradeep Sharma's (Design Management Journal) The Importance of Mess in a New Zealand design magazine a few years ago.
Mess, or now commonly referred as complexity across disciplines, stands as an alternative to the deterministic model of science where a universe unfolds like a perfect mating according to predetermine, laws, models, strategies , methodologies, etc. . This is the based of the majority of academic thinking.
“In all the years that I have been involved in product design and development as a practitioner and as an academic, I am convinced that linear, deterministic process is far too simplistic. It does not take into account any of the politics of the situation, and of the personalities, any of the knowledge based.â€? From my personal experience and ways of doing I agreed with Sharma. In considering a larger landscape beyond the specific content or function of the project, we also have to reconsidered the “civilization of practiceâ€? by these I mean all of that that is visible (the accepted academic models,research, content) and not visible(fears, expectations, personalities, budgets, politics, etc.).
He uses Waldrop's Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos characteristics of a complex adaptive system: Self-management, cooperation, feedback , and flexibility, to redefined the structures of a design firm.
1-Self management implies action without guidance from central control and recognizes that each individual reflects and influences the whole designing process.
2- Cooperative behavior groups. Individuals become active members of a group and cooperation becomes a necessity for effective action. This behavior produces higher order complexity in products that reflect the initial conditions.
3- Feedback is the main ingredient that makes self-management possible and is an automatic learning tool implemented in the design process. It helps collective and individual learn. Is is also a potentially damaging factor that can have several negative implications.
4- Flexible specialization. Individual and groups must understand their strengths and how they work most effectively to fill the void in the process. It also helps redefine and refine abilities continuously by reacting to environmental changes via feedback.
For more on complexity I would recommend Steve Johnson's Emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and an software (2001). The ants chapter fascinating as it provides a strategy based on: more is different, ignorance is useful, encourage random encounters, look for patterns in the signs, and pay attention to your neighbors. And Mark C Taylor's the moment of Complexity (2001). Two main ideas that I have found key. The importance of the image from the beginning of the argument, not as a merely illustration after the argument. And, the shift in structures from grid (Seagram's building) to network (Guggenheim in Bilbao) tolerated by the technologies of the time. From this difference I have develop visual models to establish the differences between doing and making. The two kind of processes are also presented as artful making and industrial by Rob Austin(Harvard Business School, Artful making: what managers should know about how artists works; great explanation, easy read) and Tom Friedman's Flat and Un-flat word.