When we think of good design our thoughts are likely to turn to beautiful, functional objects. Yet in conversation with a group of designers the other day it became apparent that design could also play a key part in shaping the provision of services and other human endeavours that rely on good relationships. One by one, bit by bit, we can each lay the foundations of a more collaborative culture that will also be a much more enjoyable place to live in.
Our wellbeing would appear to be strongly influenced by our interactions with others, indeed our evolution as a species has been shaped by our ability to co-operate. The nature of modern societies and economies means that many of our interactions often appear very transactional or of little consequence. Yet these apparently trivial encounters make up a lot of our days. If we each gave a bit more thought to designing them to be more positive, we will probably get more out of them and others are more likely to enjoy the experience of meeting us. This, in turn, might influence others to behave differently, if so it could help generate a virtuous upward spiral of cultural change in which we all benefit.
A bit more preparation, rapport building and acknowledgement of where others might be coming from might take a little extra effort at first, but in time it’s likely to become second nature. In more prosaic terms this little extra effort could be seen as an investment which could generate significant returns. These sorts of changes in behaviour may only change things at the margins but they can make all the difference – ask the British cycling team who have a Head of Marginal Gains!