Is Being an Expert a Bad Thing?

A new furniture line from Knoll, Antenna Workspaces, was designed by Antenna Design duo Sigi Moeslinger and Masamichi Udagawa. Best known for hardcore industrial engineering and interactive design (they also designed New York’s subway cars), they are an unlikely pick to be designing a furniture line for a prestigious company such as Knoll.

Conventional wisdom would tell me this is a risky move. Why not hire workplace experts who have years of experience on the front lines researching furniture, designing offices and hearing firsthand what clients want? We’re the people who know all the minute details and differences among all the furniture lines out there in the market. Well, according to Benjamin Pardo, Knoll’s senior vice president of design, “I didn’t want to work with someone was more entrenched [in the industry], because they come with a set in criteria that I’m not interested in, or quite frankly someone who had done an office system before. It’s almost like asking a child to figure something out because they always come at it with a fresh understanding.”

Hmmm…interesting point, Mr. Pardo.

Regardless of any success or failure for this line of furniture, I do have to say I like the idea of Knoll and Antenna coming at this from a different creative perspective. “Antenna’s idea was to create a table system that can grow organically with the users’ needs. The system works kind of like New York’s subways: At the heart are rails, up to eight feet long, held together by cleverly design clamps. Because the rails, legs, and tabletops are separate, they can easily be refashioned into myriad work spaces–anything from desks to side-by-side “benching” work areas.”

Has our workplace expertise handicapped our ability to approach problems from a fresh perspective? Are we truly tailoring our approach to specific client needs or just rehashing old solutions and ways of thinking due to past experiences, successes, failures? There is a lot of talk these days on the value of “Design Thinking”. Personally I feel the true value of Design Thinking is not just being experts at something, but truly being able to look at things from many angles.

There is an improv game called “What Are You Doing?”, where one person mimics an action, like swinging a baseball bat. Another person asks “what are you doing”? The answer has to be something different than what you first intended. So instead of “swinging a baseball bat” you say something like “I’m chopping down a tree”. Point being: there are many possible answers to most questions. Real innovation will occur when we learn to approach problems from multiple points of view.

One Comment
  1. May 26th, 2010 - 10:20 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Plotnick, KDiop. KDiop said: RT @SomeChum Is being an expert a bad thing? http://bit.ly/aTUSdu [...]

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