Sorry: restrictions versus creativity

In my interest in how design can play a role for social issues, I am always proclaiming that design provides different (better) answers than most policy-makers do. Designers thinking in openness, creativity and playfulness as opposed to policy-makers thinking in restrictions, rules and punishment. The first might make it easier for people to adopt to changes and feel empowered to take action.

Now, I will not go into the issue whether all designers think this way or are creative – because I know by experience that we can all get locked in in our thinking. The challenge is to be aware when we do get locked in and use optimism to break free in order to problem-solve.

As a educator in the field of design, I have to admit that I am not always so playful and open in my teaching. I can fall into the trap of controlling too. The challenge is to find a balance between guiding – setting out the rules – students and providing freedom for them to build up independency. And of course providing the opportunity to fail and learn.

So at the start of this term, I set out a punishment to the many students showing up late for class: they could come late twice and after that it would affect their grade. It didn’t feel so good. Luckily, one of the late-comers inspired me. He said “I am sorry, next time I will buy you a card to apologise” to which I answered “Buying? You will make one!”. So now, all students showing up late for class use their creativity to say sorry and I can soon make an exhibition out of these wonderful ‘I am sorry notes’. Apparently it is so much fun, that some students want to come late now (but of course they can make ‘I am fabulously on time notes’)

babyzonnetjeSelection of ‘I am Sorry notes’ made by students

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