Confluence Wrangler | Infographic by Oliver Damian
Confluence Wrangler | Infographic by Oliver Damian

Wrangling Transpractical Generative Confluence

By Oliver Damian

I see myself leading a learning community of practitioners from diverse fields of practice who are adept at confluent approaches that promote human-socio-bio-technological flourishing in times of accelerating complexity.

This learning community would sit at the post-industrial interstices between the traditional silos of government, private, and civic society. This aspires to be like the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge back in its heydey during 16th to 19th centuries before industrial professional specialisation of disciplines watered down the original confluent amateur approach of the society.

From the learning community, transfunctional teams can be wrangled and mobilised to observe, interpret, and deploy interventions to complex problems and situations faced by small & medium size businesses, government agencies, and non for profit clients.

Barriers

Monolithic thinking — Innovation has in the past been monopolised by industrialists during the industrial revolution, engineers after World War II, marketers and management consultants in the 60s to 80s, bankers and IT professionals from the 90s to early 00s. Now it seems that design is moving in to dominate. There has to be a quantum leap in moving away from thinking that one field has to dominate. The key is reaching a level of comfort in maintaining the tension between the different fields without letting one field dominate the conversation. And trust that out of this tension, confluent breakthroughs can emerge.

Finding product, market fit, business model — On a more practical level, I need to find a new way to market the service provided by the transfunction teams deployed from the learning community. Right now, there are in-house innovation teams in the private sector or government and innovation consultancies in management/accounting firms, and design studios. The practice I’m envisioning would not be a consultancy as such. It would be more like the Hollywood business model of creating movies. Movie actors, directors and production crew are freelancers who come together for a fixed time to make a movie then disband after the movie is finished, then are free to form new teams for the next movie. Similarly, the learning community would be the source of freelancers for transfunctional teams deployed to work on projects, who would then be free to form new teams for subsequent projects. I need to find a model that would sustain the interest of the learning community in between projects. My role would be analogous to the producer in the Hollywood model.

Enablers

Growing interest in BCII and transdisciplinarity — I can ride the wave of growing interest in industry and academia in BCII and the transdisciplinary approach to solving wicked problems. I am looking for an alternative to the term transdisciplinary as it still feels grounded on the artificial construct of a discipline created by academia. Alternatives I’ve considered are: creative confluence, confluent pragmatism, generative confluence.

Design thinking becoming a buzzword — I can also leverage my product design core degree to highlight the design thinking skills and experience I’ve picked up to get my foot in the door of potential clients - as the value of design thinking in innovation has steadily permeated the C-suites of companies and exec teams of government agencies.

Confluence Wrangler

As Confluence Wrangler, my job is to facilitate the emergence of a confluent understanding of the problem space, framing of the problem, and deployment of antifragile interventions. Antifragile interventions are safe to fail, gets better over time, likes volatility and has a larger upside than downside when hit by the unexpected.

I will use my knowhow of complexity science, and my method toolkit of probing the problem space using design research methods such as ethnography, interviews, cultural probes, personas, stakeholder mapping, and experience in running co-design workshops, gamestorming, walk-throughs prototyping, and role play to wrangle confluence.

I will have to be fluent at unmasking the methodologies and epistemological assumptions underpinning the use of these methods. I will have to be adept at moving within the spectrum of objective, constructionist, and subjective epistemologies as warranted by the contextual situation.

Confluence wrangling itself is primarily rooted in constructionist epistemology. The confluence is neither inherent in the objects nor individual subjective consciousness, rather the confluence arises in the practice itself which resides in the interplay between the practitioners and the objects of their practice, and the social interactions between them. In the same way that music is not simply an object made by the musicians and listened to by the fans, rather it’s a two way stree where music can also be said to have formed the groups that perform and appreciate the musical performance in the first place.