When it comes to master planning and visioning, part of the challenge revolves around asking the right questions. Educators often know that change is needed, but all too often find themselves defaulting back to what they have done in the past. This is not because there is no interest in change within the education community, but it’s simply some form of the classic that’s how we have always done it sentiment. The most important job of any planner is to envision the future by championing multiple perspectives and acting as a master facilitator.
To be amazingly good at asking the right questions, one must not only listen intently, but they must also be excellent communicators. One of the most important exercises when engaging in human-centered design is the moment each designer and planner takes the time to empathetically listen to varying users’ perspectives. Empathy has even been argued to be one of the most important skills needed in today’s world. When you begin to think of the great contrarians of our world, some would argue that empathy was not one of their more affectioned traits. Galileo, Darwin, and modern contrarians such as Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Musk have often been described as work addicts who believe in an authoritative approach to design and management. They are the visionaries who tell the general public what they want before we know we really want it. As a general population, we tend to elevate, and even, romanticize those we consider to be great designers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. However, the beauty of these visionaries’ greatness lies, quite simply, in their mastery of the art of inquisitiveness.
What happens when a mastery of this art is combined with a sincere skill for empathetically listening to the needs of multiple people across many cultures, backgrounds, and age groups? Is that not the charge of all educational facility planners? The education system is in need of change. As one of our most complex problems facing society today, we are at the tipping point of actualizing a new model of learning in order to better equip the future creatives and innovators. When given an opportunity to vision with a school district or a university, how do we master the art of being inquisitive? Further, how do we facilitate change? Fast Company describes it beautifully in the 8 Habits of Curious People which advocates for the following 8 traits facility planners should take note of when engaging in a visioning session:
- Listen without judgment.
- Ask a lot of questions.
- Seek surprise.
- Be fully present.
- Be willing to be wrong (and, accept that).
- Make time for curiosity.
- Don’t be afraid to “not know.”
- Don’t let the past influence the future.
In educational facility planning, the last point is so important! As opposed to being bound to our old semantics, we must not let the past influence the future of creating a successful learning environment. To all the educational facility planners reading, may you be insatiably inquisitive just like the students you design for every day.
Image credits: DOWA-IBI Group, Teacher training session for Trillium Creek Primary School, West Linn-Wilsonville School District