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A GitHub for Design Thinking

Massively parallel innovation requires an open source design repository system to branch and sync the development of models and frameworks.

Photo of Benjamin Brownell
9 15

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How can designers and innovators think better, together, helping to make their ideas more accessible and relevant?

The open source software development community provides an excellent case study and illustration. Complex, distributed development projects employ software configuration management systems based around a set of simple, powerful ideas for version control of linked components and variants. This practice is the basis for the popular GitHub platform, where anyone may access 'source files' for software projects and copy ('fork') them to work on an alternative version ('branch'), or add their own new features and fixes in order to 'merge' these improvements into the original repository.

Like programmers, innovative designers create solutions by building from prior knowledge and applications to address new challenges or improve on old results. Often, this involves the use of an effective pattern language of best practices, conventions, modular components, and shared understanding within a given field or discipline, analogous to the programming languages of software developers.

There is presently no system to link the distributed knowledge and design process of open innovation outside of niche communities and siloed web platforms.

A new, collaborative, version controlled concept mapping environment built on top of a shared, semantically structured graph database will change this. The open source metamaps.cc platform already online and in use by several open innovation communities is a big step, and we want to take it much further!

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Ben Brownell

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Photo of Aaron Wong
Team

Yes! It would be great if OpenIDEO could branch out to other networks, and share ideas with those that wouldn't be a haven't joined OpenIDEO otherwise. Have you checked out IDEO's http://www.designkit.org? 

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Photo of Benjamin Brownell
Team

IDEO's Design Kit is a very nice looking resource Aaron Wong and a great example of the kind of open source design thinking 'application' that I am imagining as part of an evolving interwoven ecosystem of tools, protocols, patterns, principles, scenarios, outcomes etc.
Design Kit has a simple taxonomic structure of Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation, woven around a set or sequence of generative questions - http://www.designkit.org/methods
We can view this as the feature set of an IDEO 'application' for human-centered design, where 'users' may chart their course through a specific design challenge using this tool for inspiration and support.
Now consider another, similar application suite such as those available at https://methodkit.com
What if anyone could easily find and use these kinds of design applications (I believe there are many out there already!), not only that but they could easily modify, extend, or mashup useful elements from several sources to create an original, innovative custom-fit solution that may then in turn be readily accessed, applied, and iterated upon by others? And to go even a step further, information about results and outcomes stay linked to the 'source code' of applications used in any given design process, building a massive contextualized library of solutions and experiential stories as well.
Make some sense?! Hope so :) Thanks for chiming in. Fun to explore these possibilities together...

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Photo of Aaron Wong
Team

I see what you mean. Method kit seems great, I just wish it was open source like github! I totally see what you mean. Personally, I think Github needs a UX overhaul, but I think a github-like, open-source, and source-connected system for OpenIDEO would be fantastic.

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Photo of Benjamin Brownell
Team

Indeed, lots of interesting challenges to consider in terms of architecture and experience within such an ecosystem (and I do mean eco_system_ as opposed to a single standalone platform). I would place special emphasis on a visually rich graph style interfaces that carry a lot of info without feeling dense.

And to the point about open sourcing specific knowledge and frameworks, I imagine that the process of demonstrating benefit to all participants will take some time just as it did in OS software movement, but this has already begun through the Creative Commons movement. Methodkit in fact has released one of their most recent kits under creative commons, see here https://methodkit.com/shop/methodkit-for-workshop-planning/

Finally, designing for a system that encourages not only attribution and reputation but actual stakeholding with a range of rewards / privileges for contributors through a range of granular licenses or offerings of customized / premium services is very much in keeping with my view of trends in the collaborative or sharing economy which can develop around healthy 'commons' such as this.

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Photo of Aaron Wong
Team

Have you heard of gamification of things? The last part you mentioned about reputation and rewards reminded me of that. It's another way of motivation by incentivising people like in a game. 

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