by Simon Kavanagh  From managing this:                                    To managing this:


[B. Lawson, 2006]

‘One of the essential difficulties and fascinations of designing is the need to embrace so many different kinds of thought and knowledge’ [Lawson 2006:13-14]

The realisation has arrived; that the degree of complexity of the ‘wicked’ challenges we’re facing in the world today requires multi faceted and experiential teams of people. At the KaosPilots we have stepped up our research into how best to train our students to play a significant role in the leadership of such processes, adding it to an already strong change making competency and methodology. We want to produce KaosPilots who can facilitate, nourish and create the safe spaces for these multi-disciplinary processes to take place and evolve, ensuring a high level of innovation and collaboration, where ego is left at the door, aiming at solving ‘holistically’ and authentically the need at the heart of the problems we face.

In doing this, we are exploring in many ways and through many collaborations spanning the 3 sectors and design disciplines, with the sole purpose of learning and co-creating hybrid creative and innovative processes whilst anchoring and developing the KP core disciplines of leadership, project management and process facilitation and social enterprise. One such collaboration is with Ideacouture who believe:

“What matters most in today's business climate is the design and delivery of innovation value. Meeting this goal demands the simultaneous application of design thinking, creative thinking and analytical thinking.” Ideacouture

It is true that design institutions, (generatively speaking) are waking from their long slumber, realising and acting upon the future needs of their students and their potential employers. To be a creative designer is not enough anymore. Employers are looking for that creativity, but across multiple competencies and skills including dynamic project and authentic leadership, social engagement as well as a working knowledge of soft skills. This is the reality for students, not in the future, but now. We teach these skills in abundance at the Kaospilots and want to share and expand our methodology and approach.

Three major shifts occurred in the last 2 years that have increased exponentially the opportunity and necessity of design students to graduate with a more realised and practiced skill set and talent supported by enterprise and leadership that is relevant to the needs of the world today.

The first was the economic downturn, forcing universities who have squandered so much cash in the past 10 years designing courses and faculties on a whim, to hire part-time lecturing staff out of necessity. Finally!, students are being tutored by the experts in their field, introducing them to the latest designs, trends and problems in their industries, and in the process putting an end to ‘case study brief’.

The second is the fact that the students who are graduating now are competing on a global scale, as are companies. The smart companies know who and what they need in terms of creative sustainable innovation and growth, but the current educational system is letting them down and missing the opportunity to produce more confident design students. More and more companies are outsourcing or developing their own internal programs to enhance personal and professional leadership and creativity skills as well as project and innovation management. The KP have answered this particular call with the development of a Creative Leadership program.

The third shift, if it is indeed true in practice, is the most positive. Experts now say that for the first time since the industrial revolution the mindset has overtaken the skill-set in terms of employer focus. When asked, “… which would you be more comfortable predicting, the mindset of the staff you will desire in 10 years form now, or the skill-set. In the UK, 97% said mindset”1. As companies face an uncertain future in terms of their product and service offerings & development in the next 15 years, we are doomed if design schools are simultaneously facing the same question!

Meanwhile, design colleges are trying to keep up with demand for something new, but by scrambling over each other to create the next big Master programs in everything from trans-disciplinary design to social sustainable innovation they are missing out on the support needed for the students around professional and personal leadership, management and facilitation of creative multi-disciplinary people and multiple stakeholders in the multitude of new and existing challenges that need to be solved. Skills to enable them to participate in and towards global careers and positive change. This is what we do at the Kaospilots!

The Kaospilots are positioned to strike and create from this ‘shift’ across the board. It seems that now, a lot more people are talking our language, or at least understanding it better. We are offering well developed and tried approaches to some of the challenges that companies, NGOs and the public sector are facing and that our students and the school have experience facilitating and delivering results within and across. At the kaospilots, we follow a very simple mantra, everything starts with 3 questions.

As a result, some major organisations across these sectors are looking to partner with our school and students for inspiration and innovation to solve problems related to products, services, business, organization or innovation development. Some examples of these are Unicef, to develop ‘out of the box’ solutions to their supply and demand challenges, IE school of Business in Madrid, to co-create a more social facilitation and process orientated skill-set for their social entrepreneurial MBA students, and companies such as Wolff Olins to continuously develop their creative social brand tools and methods.

What does all of this mean? Well I think the reset button has been pressed on everything and that we are now entering a time of amazing potential to alter and improve the system, especially within design education and professional growth.

We have the opportunity and the technology to bring already existing and working initiatives and institutions to a new level of cooperation across sectors, not only to create new and more sustainable solutions, but in the process create new approaches to multi-disciplinary team work, leadership, (social) enterprise and organisational development and perhaps even an “economy of happiness” Bordieu

So here is the call, what would it look like if the KP in developing these processes and facilitative skill sets could share them real time between staff and students from multiple institutions who are trying to increase their leadership and enterprising competencies. This is an invitation to design and business schools everywhere to work together with us and our students in deepening the training and methodology around solving these ‘wicked’ complicated, multi system challenges. Perhaps taking them to a new level of consciousness! Our first step in this process is to completely open-source our curriculum, content and methodology to everyone, and hope that those who hack it will feed back to the system….

1. NEW findings on the mindset / skillset shift: “Putting your mindset to work” James Reed -



  • Hansen, H. T. R. 2007:SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS as a Methodical Approach to the Development of Design Strategies for environmentally sustainable buildings. PhD thesis, Aalborg University Denmark. (chapter 7)
  • Lawson, B. 2006: How designers Think – the design process demystified. Architectural Press/Elsevier, Great Britain.
  • Schön D. 1983: The reflective practitioner – how professionals think in action. Basic Books Inc., USA
  • Trebilcock, M. 2009: Integrated Design Process: From analysis/synthesis to conjecture/analysis. Conferencepaper - PLEA 2009 conference, Canada
  • U-Theory by Otto Scharmer etc.