Monday, December 06, 2010

"Wayfinding" as a Life Strategy

This is an interesting concept and series of posts from Tomorrow Makers - they are developing a newish life strategy called Wayfinding - a way of developing a "sense of curiosity and adventure… a process for seeing and sensing and coming to know."


Over the past several months, we—Gail and Todd, mother and son, partners in business, have been developing a long essay on what we call Wayfinding. We have been working together as collaborative process designers and facilitators for nearly twenty years. In this time, we have jointly designed and facilitated more conferences, workshops, sessions, happenings and other forms of convening than we can count. While we have coauthored numerous essays, white papers and letters, this may be our most substantive written collaboration to date.

As we continue to iterate, refine, illustrate and hone our writing into a form that can be independently published, we have decided to post the paper as a series of journals, welcoming your thoughts and comments to help us move and shape our ideas going forward. (Online publishing dates in parenthesis.)

I. In which we share our background and perspectives
This first section is the exception in that we have written it as two individuals. Beyond this, we’ve forged our writing into a single narrative that we believe provides a more compelling and complete picture of wayfinding that either of us could have produced on our own, or from the sum of our individual vantage points.

Gail - Seeing, feeling and engaging differently (Nov 15)
Todd - Memory, meaning and the making of impactful events (Nov 15)

II. In which we define wayfinding, past and present (Nov 15)

III. In which we tie wayfinding and this moment in time together (Nov 22)

IV. In which we speak of living our way into a new paradigm (Nov 22)

V. In which we explore wayfinding’s role in steering toward best case futures (Dec 3)

VI. In which we tell stories of wayfinding (Dec 3)

VII. In which we offer a process for the play and practice of wayfinding (Dec 10)

VIII. In which we restate guiding principles, pose questions to perturb your wayfinding practices, and offer resources for your further exploration (Dec 10)

Here is Part II of their project, an attempt to define their use of the term Wayfinding and what the idea means:

Wayfinding, part two

In which we define wayfinding, past and present

The name Wayfinding was inspired by the Polynesian seamen who set forth to find new lands. Often traveling many hundreds of miles over long periods of time, these men were brilliant at finding new routes into the unknown using signals like weather, planets, sun, moon, waves, animals, and tides. They combined and recombined elements according to their understanding of each part, bringing together - with each exploration - a new whole, a new sense of direction for safe travel. While a vision of greater opportunity attracted them, they realized their goals through incremental steps and measures. Wayfinding was the process of discerning “if this, then that” within every hour. They brought the forces of their intuitive and intellectual knowing together in seemingly mysterious ways and allowed for exploration into unknown territories. They were some of yesterday’s best discoverers of new worlds.

In modern times, wayfinding has been adopted by architects, urban planners and designers to refer to the orientation and signage within the built environment. While not in any way adverse to this usage, it is not a significant factor in our application of the term.

Our concept of wayfinding harks back to the original willingness to step into the future with a sense of curiosity and adventure… a process for seeing and sensing and coming to know. Our wayfinders use modern tools and processes but how they combine intuitive and intellectual knowledge is probably very similar.

While wayfinders of yore often kept their knowledge private, not willing to share since this kind of knowledge was power and control, a core distinction of how we use the term is that wayfinding is, by necessity, a social endeavor, sharing and collaborating openly, knowing that it is this connecting and meshing together that brings new answers, new riches.

Wayfinders step into the future and design with it, getting into a sense of flow and seeing all kinds of new and interesting information and patterns. By living in the future, by engaging with it and generating many options, they can more easily see ways forward and make linkages that guide ideas and energy. Modern wayfinders are not bent on controlling the future or being right, but rather working with the future and the abundant opportunities and ingenuity that it offers to steer it toward best case.

Living within a long now enables wayfinders to see differently and make connections that few others see. Wayfinders reach into the past and bring forward information that seemed trivial but now has new relevance and connection. Uncovering “hidden” assumptions, reading between lines, constantly course correcting, wayfinders thrive on feedback, re-creation, and collaboration. Their tools are simulations, synthesizing, storytelling, mapping and visualizing. They connect ideas through and with individuals, governments, corporations, and communities. Wayfinders are non ideological and quite willing to play with and connect outlandish ideas to those that are most revered. Wayfinding is an infinite game composed of finite games whose outcomes shape each moment in time. Wayfinders place bets on healthy outcomes and then seek ways to win the bet. 

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