Posts tagged “hypothesis”

User-Centered Government

Student Protest, Bonny Doon, CA 1987

Today is the 5th anniversary of the current US military involvement in Iraq. I heard Army Major General Mark Hertling speaking on NPR this week about helping members of Iraq’s central government figure out what people in the different provinces really want and need.

“We call it reverse helicopter governance – bringing the ministers to the provinces.”

This starts to sound a lot like the kinds of contextual research we use to inform product design. Going out and talking with users in their own environments. Seeing what people’s needs really are, rather than making assumptions.

There’s been a thorny debate in the Anthropology community about doing anthropological work in military contexts, but this is a different type of situation. Hertling is talking about facilitating Iraqi ministers to do contextual research on the people they are charged with serving as government officials.

What would it look like to take a further step, and take a design approach to creating a “user-centered government?”

One important aspect of design is a spirit of playfulness-in the sense of “serious play.” A spirit of willingness to reassess the meaning of a problem and the range of possible solutions. To prototype rapidly and try multiple approaches.

Michael Schrage, the author of Serious Play states that

“…the real value of a model or simulation may stem less from its ability to test a hypothesis than from its power to generate useful surprise.”

Ideation and design processes have been used to solve some pretty complex problems. Steve wrote last year about introducing empathy and user-centered design into government. Participatory processes and contextual inquiry have become much more prevalent in development work.

What could be done to bring more of the spirit of serious play to bear on the ways that problems like civil and international conflicts are framed and addressed?


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