How committing to co-creative process is different from producing an outcome

As a designer who's deeply interested in relationships, I value thoughtful process. I am not only used to the "labor pains" that a thorough, deliberate process requires but I consider myself fortunate to experience this labor of love on a regular basis. I know from experience that intentional process always leads to the best outcomes: deep understanding and meaningful relationships. I believe these lasting solutions can only come from thoughtful processes.

These outcomes are not always the ones that many, if not most, are accustomed to pursuing. Many are used to settling for transactional exchanges and relationships, which may be easier to come by but don't get to the root of the problems we wish to solve. Many don't fully realize the unfortunate compromise they are making when they seek shortcuts on the journey to birthing something new. 

We all short change ourselves when we rush to the destination without pausing to take in the field of flowers and the radiant sunset. We get caught in seeking a singular tree, a symbol of power, and we miss the lovely forest. Sometimes we trick ourselves by merely pulling over to the side of the road while our minds remain fixed on the horizon. We say we'll execute a process only because we want to reach a certain outcome. We ask for others to help us but only in the way we ask them to.

The different purposes of focusing creative work on process or product - and the type of visual that I think is best for each

The different purposes of focusing creative work on process or product - and the type of visual that I think is best for each

Naturally, there are times when the destination is what matters most. Sometimes we need to rush to the hospital, we need to quickly catch the bus or mailman, or we need to cease trying on dresses and just get our shoes on and get out the door. At these times, shortcuts are indeed helpful.

But there are plenty more times when we don't really know where we are going, how we are going to get there, who's coming with us, and what we need to bring or look for. The ambiguity is uncomfortable, perhaps even frightening. This journey is a leap of faith that asks us to trust ourselves and our comrades, to trust that not only will we arrive safely, but the adventure will be spectacular.

So many of the obstacles we face, as individuals, organizations, and nations, will not be solved by doing what we've done before. The outcome we need may not be one we're currently familiar with. We can't keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.

We can waste our energies chasing fixes and filling apparent deficits, or we can use our energies to generate insight and kindness and mutual progress. We can focus frustratedly on the ends or we can learn to enjoy the means.

Instead of seeking certain outcomes, we can commit to a process of discovery. We can be willing to experience the transformation we truly desire. And we can do it together. That way it's less scary and more fun. 

When I start sketching or creating anything from scratch, I never truly know where my designs may lead. I begin anyway, trusting that it is that very openness that will unleash fresh ideas and novel solutions. I take my collaborators with me every step of the way, and we hold each others' hands as we walk through the darkness, torches in hand, waiting and hoping to stumble on hidden treasure. 

I've been through the wilderness many times and by now know without a doubt that we are sure to find such treasure so long as we stay open, alert and together. We will gasp with relief, with surprise, and with delight as we arrive at beauties that we never even dreamed of.

Our experience tells us that our culture's preoccupation with maximizing productivity has cost us all in our health, our environment, and even our economy. Instead of feeling powerless to change the massive systems that perpetuate this philosophy, we can make choices today in our own lives to instead put people first, to commit to co-creating our shared future through trust and ongoing discovery.