"Simply put, we used to think our brain was what it was — unchangeable, unalterable. We were stuck with what nature gave us. In actuality, our brains are like plastic. We can alter neurochemistry to change beliefs, thoughts processes, emotions, etc. You are the architect of your brain." (Robert Montenegro)
KEY TAKEAWAY: The brain is like plastic, flexible, moldable and ever-changing. Repeated and intentional action and attention can lead to new neural pathways, which eventually lead to new habits, a "redesigned mindset" and a new you. This is what we teach you at ReSet Studio: to use design and and the power of neuroplasticity to redesign your thinking.
One of the core concepts that influenced my work at ReSet is neuroplasticity. I remember my feeling when I first learned of it was of complete empowerment. Nature is on our side, as I always suspected, and the fact that it gave the brain the ability to re-arrange itself through life experiences, is a proof of that. This infographic is a great place to get a simple overview of neuroplasticity and its power. In a nutshell, neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain's abillity to reorganize itself in response to inner and outer environmental conditions throughout life. Ken Wilber offers a great, and short explanation in this audio.
In one hand, you have design, which helps us uncover our most powerful "whys" and "whats" - and on the other, you have neuroplasticity, which gives us the ever-elusive yet most powerful "how". For example, here's a scenario: a client struggles to define herself as a leader, looking to find her "leader identity" but unsure where to start. Enter design and its many strategies and tools, to help her dig deep, uncover her values and design herself as a leader. Now, this newfound (or newly-designed) identity needs certain mindsets, certain habits, to support it, otherwise it won't stick. That's where neuroscience and neuroplasticity enters the process. Through very simple techniques for rewiring the brain, borrowed from neuroscience, she can create the conditions - inner and outer - to redesign her thinking to support this new powerful identity, for good.
KEY TAKEAWAY: If you are a lawyer who devises a negotiation strategy or a contract for a client, a parent who plans the family vacation, a CEO who needs to re-invent her company, a musician creating a score for a film...you are, essentially, hoping to created situations that are preferable to the ones currently existing, so take comfort in the fact that you are designer already.
Herbert A. Simon is one of my favorite thinkers of the 20th century, and wrote one of my favorite books of all time, "The Sciences of the Artificial", which focuses primarily in artificial intelligence. How's this relevant to design? Well, when I first started flirting with world of design (about 5 years ago), I went back to the 1950s and 1960s, to identify who were the "design thinkers" of that time. Primary because I figured they must've been really good, as that was a time when there was so much technological progress - urbanization and space exploration, to name a two important ones. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to design alone ("The Science of Design: Creating the Artificial") and the quote below, which completely transformed me, with-in and with-out, possibly marked a turning point of my life: after reading it, I just "knew" that design, as Herbert and other classic design thinkers though of it, would be central to anything I did in my life forever thereafter. It was around this time that my vision for ReSet started to take shape.
By the way, don't be thrown off by the word "artificial". As you read the book, it becomes evident that Herbert refers to design as the science of the "artificial" because, in his view design, unlike natural sciences, for example, is concerned with the creation of that which doesn't yet exist, and therefore, "artificial" (e.g., artificial intelligence). He places design at the heart of what he sees as the the interface of inner (natural, existing) and outer (artificial, or not-yet existing) worlds (or, in the case of machines, "inner" is the machine's hardware and "outer" is the output that the machine creates).
Ultimately, the process of design is, in his view, what makes the harmony between these two "worlds" possible.
The book is packed with gems, but I leave you with one of my favorite excerpts from the chapter on design below...
"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes remedies for a sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state. Design, so construed, is the core of all professional training; it is the principal mark that distinguishes the professions from the sciences. Schools of engineering, as well as schools of architecture, business, education, law, and medicine, are all centrally concerned with the process of design...The natural sciences are concerned with how things are...Design, on the other hand, is concerned with how things ought to be, with devising artifacts to attain goals."
KEY TAKEAWAYS: Life, and the impact of our work in the world, are determined by the questions we ask, not the answers we give. The better the questions we ask, the better our life will be.
“How can design change the world?”
Thankfully, the world is full of incredibly smart people — designers, strategists, makers, teachers, social entrepreneurs — all of whom are answering this question right now, in varying and often, beautiful and breathtaking ways. ReSet is my own way of answering it.
I created ReSet to help people develop the three superpowers that I believe design thinkers have: creativity, courage and insight. I believe that these superpowers can really transform the world.
What I learned, by working with design thinkers, and by studying and teaching design thinking, is that design thinkers tend to exercise these powers with greater ease and confidence than most other people. So, I asked: “What if everyone could learn to think like designers do, to apply design thinking to themselves, and develop these superpowers too?” I decided that I was going to create something to answer that question.
I am guided by the belief that a future where everyone develops and embraces these superpowers is inescapably more humane, sustainable, coherent, rewarding and, ultimately, more beautiful and fun, than one where they do not. And I believe that by teaching people how to think like designers do I can inspire them to develop these superpowers. So, I created a platform, ReSet Studio, to bring to the world products, services and content that delight and inspire people to develop these superpowers through design thinking. So, ReSet is “powered” by design (as a process and a mindset) and by concepts borrowed from neuroscience (such as neuroplasticity). This means that these disciplines permeate almost everything that we do at ReSet. But, in reality, we seek inspiration in any discipline, technology, theory and strategy that can help humans develop these superpowers.
So, the question that started ReSet was quite simple: How can design change the world? My journey to answer this question was long, and not without failures and setbacks along the way, but it led me to the most fundamental premise behind ReSet: our world will not change until the people in it do, so ReSet is about changing the world by changing people first, by design. (This is a quite simple and fundamental premise, I recognize that, but what’s important here is not the premise itself, but the process that led me to it. Just like the answer is often less important than the question, and your destination is often less important than the journey that took you there.)
Hi, I am Laura Simão. Welcome to my corner of the web. I am a student and a teacher, in this order. I study, teach, and write about the art and science of design, of thinking and of design thinking. I empower people to redesign their thinking and ask better questions. Answering is easy, asking is hard. Here we will learn how to redesign our thinking and ask better questions, together. Ultimately though, I want to help them acquire the superpowers of creativity, courage and insight.
I started this blog to get some interesting stories and ramblings in front of anyone who resonates with ReSet and its vision and anyone who will listen, really. In it, I will share stories and ramblings on the art and science of design, thinking and design thinking.
I am Brazilian, tend to band with the misfits and geeks and root for the underdog and visionaries. I might talk abou those here too, eventually.
Thanks for stopping by.
About the Author
Hi. I am Laura Simão. I am the creator ReSet Studio, and the author of this blog. I am a developer or businesses and of people. I built my career in business development, design thinking and finance/investing. I also teach design thinking and business design at Parsons School of Design, in NYC. In my work I seek to empower people to redesign their thinking and ask better questions, to lead better lives and build better businesses. Ultimately, I want to give them superpowers. I am guided by the belief that the quality of our life, and of our world is not determined by the answers we give but by the questions we ask.
Hi, and welcome to the blog
It all starts with the question
Everyone is a Designer
The Power of Neuroplasticity