#ectel2014 – Keynote 2: Uli Weinberg “From IQ to WeQ”

Prof. Uli Weinberg during his keynote on Design Thinking at EC-TEL 2014

Prof. Uli Weinberg during his keynote on Design Thinking at EC-TEL 2014

The second keynote by Prof Uli Weinberg from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, at EC-TEL was very inspiring and also a continuation and building up on Etienne Wenger’s first keynote about communities, and working together.

I think the phrase that had a stronger impact on me was “Moving from IQ to WeQ”. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to my mind – moving from celebrating the individual intelligence towards celebrating the collective intelligence. We are indeed living in a connected world. We have become a very complex mesh of connections. Whereas a couple of decades ago, the networks were still there, they were simpler and the way we taught in our schools and for our education was just about that… keeping it simple, adhering to the hierarchy. Prof. Weinberg’s talk struck close to home as he illustrated the way schools worked and still do. In schools we celebrate individualism – ‘Hate thy neighbour’, ‘Copying is cheating’, ‘Working together means that this in not your work’, ‘Avoid failure at all costs’. These are some of the phrases we push in our education, past and present. I think the one about failure is one of the most challenging and one of the most misunderstood phrases really. If I were to tell my parents that failure should be celebrated, they would of course be shocked. But so would some of my teacher colleagues. Failure is a taboo word, one that shouldn’t be even uttered. Failure is indicative of shame – of failure. But is it? If we look at games for example, failure is crucial. In the same way it is crucial for innovation and creativity. We cannot have something new, something creative, something innovative without having undergone an iteration of failures. In games, we achieve mastery by having gone through failures and persisted. Last week I had a conversation with my 5-year old who was harping at me to download more games on the iPad as he was at a challenging level for those he had. He didn’t want to fail any more. But I explained that persistence is key. To really be on top of the challenge, one needs to try, fail, try again and again, and finally get there.

But Prof. Weinberg’s talk was not just about that. It was about getting us to understand that whatever we do it’s not just about improving the technology – it’s about solving a problem in a possibly different manner. It’s also thinking about humans and putting their needs into perspective and focusing on an interplay of human values (desirability, usability), technology (feasibility) and business (viability).

He spoke about the importance of working in multi-disciplinary teams (the more complex the better) possibly having a balanced gender, and celebrating different ways in which they do things. He describes the 3 core elements for design thinking as being:
1. Multi-disciplinary teams
2. Iterative process (to involve the full power of every person involved)
six steps: understand, observe, define point of view, ideate, prototype, test
3. If you have the teams, and are using the process then you need the space, not just virtual but also physical.
These core elements can also be referred to as the 3 P’s – PPP – People, Places, Process.
Prof. Weinberg focused on two of the major principles for design thinking:
1. Building on the ideas of others – in schools, this is labelled as cheating.
2. Fail early and often – in schools, failing is not an option. Failing is a part of a process, what you experience when you start working on your first prototype. If you don’t succeed at the first time, keep trying. [It’s also what happens in games and how the best gamers achieve their best scores]
In summary, he also spoke about the challenges in design thinking. Getting a team together is the most challenging. Schools focus on the individual power not on the power of the team! We need design thinking because we are living in a connected world.
Some questions which come to mind are:
How can I lose the power of the individual to the power of the team? How can we be connected in technology but disconnected in the mind? My personal experience working in a team, has been quite limited. And I realise the need for getting together all the abilities skills and experiences to come up with something new and creative and innovative. We structure knowledge and reality in the same way – linearly.
Therefore we need a shift in paradigm.. from lecture space to shared space & from individual reward to collaborative power
And whilst the education system is preparing us to the Brockhaus (linear model) as opposed to connected thinking we need to develop ways in which to branch out from that which we are used to.
So we need to move from IQ to WeQ; harnessing the power of the collective; moving from individual to collaborative in the way we learn and live.
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