Confusing Information with the Form

by Andy Polaine on June 29, 2009

in General

Information from MAYAnMAYA on Vimeo.

Lovely video from design and research consultancy MAYA on the difference between information and the form we give it.

I came across this on David Sherwin’s ChangeOrder blog in a post about moving beyond words for better brainstorming, which is also and interesting article. He asks why it is so hard to break people out of their regular ideation habits. Words are one problem, but it is also an issue of corporate and company culture, even within design agencies.

The rules of brainstorming are pretty much the opposite of what a usual business culture is. Working in a company that has a traditional hierarchy encourages sniping, competitive, uncooperative, pressured and role-based behaviour. It’s the way people “fight to the top”, create “creative competition” and so on.

It’s very hard to convince people to take suspending those habits seriously if they’re not taken seriously at a company culture level and we have come to consider that the normal way of working. Companies like IDEO or Pixar spend a lot of time and effort on not working this way. It’s no surprise that they are successful in this area and why so many other companies fail to bring ‘innovation’ into their culture, despite bringing in consultants who specialise in ‘innovation training’ or whatever the latest business buzzword is. The consultants, of course, are temporary blips, outside the main culture of the company, so easily dismissed after they have gone.

Much like MAYA’s video, you have to re-think what it is and means to work together, what the purpose and idea of a company is to really change its culture. A company is the form given to a group of people working together, but it is by no means the only, nor the best, form.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 fowlead July 2, 2009 at 8:36 pm

for me this throws open the door to the information structure surpassing in importance the medium i.e. the ‘medium is the message’ idea. if the message is the same then the delivery method is secondary in importance as the information structure becomes more important to ensure the correct message is delivered and received. thanks for posting.

2 Andy Polaine July 3, 2009 at 5:36 pm

There is a distinction between information and a message, though. A message is information that has been given a form and that form makes a difference. I chatted to Simon Waterfall recently and he gave a great example: A messenger in a uniform runs into the room with a message for you. You’d probably pay attention to it and think it special. But it could be the same message as the one coming through on your phone as an SMS and you’d happily ignore it if you were doing something more important.

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