Hear from Bruce Mau, creator of Massive Change Network
Bruce Mau is one of five visionaries who spoke recently at the Spark Future of the Future event. We sat down with Bruce for a wide-ranging talk about the future of work, the ultimate design challenge and why exclusivity has no place in education.
With a few years of design experience from Canada's Ontario College of Art and Design, Bruce headed overseas for work. While working at a big-name design studio in the UK, Bruce questioned the way he was working. Was there a better way? "I didn’t want to work that hard for shit I didn’t believe in."
This change in thinking led him to start the Massive Change Network in Chicago.
“One of the principles of Massive Change is working on what you love. In other words, you only have one time on the planet. Use that time for something that really makes a difference. The way to do that is to put out a pure signal, to put out as precisely and clearly as possible what you want to do, so that the people who also want to do that, will find you.”
The future of work
Bruce is an advocate for communicating what he wants to do and inviting in those that share his vision for work. He believes this model is sustainable and long-lived.
“I think people actually are desperately in need and searching for a long-term perspective on life, and yet our business culture and our enterprises are really driven by short-term goals and short-term results and short-term impact. When in fact they produce often horrendous long-term effects. We have to redesign those things. We have to get to new ways of doing these things.”
One of the things standing in the way, Bruce tell us, is how the education system is structured. Once again, he sees design as the key to change:
“If you think about the educational culture today, it's mostly a monoculture. We have one solution, and we think it should be applied to everyone. For some groups of people, what we have now is perfectly right. It's built for them. But for a large body of people, it's really not right for them.
We still mostly think that the product of education is the content, but we know that, for instance, the content of a four-year technical degree is 50% outmoded by the time you graduate. So, we can't really be selling the content. The real product of education is experience.”
In most of the projects Bruce and the Massive Change Network take on, the right idea only comes at the end of exhaustive research. Sometimes, it's the research itself that leads to an experiment that sparks an idea.
“The Institute without Boundaries was an education experiment. It's a collaboration with George Brown College in Toronto, and they asked me to do an innovation in education. And I said, look, what I'd like to do is purpose-driven, entrepreneurial, experience-based team learning. A group of people come together, they don't have to already be designers, they're going to become designers in the process, and together they take on a very tough problem on a very public stage. So, in the first project, we did a twenty thousand square foot exhibition on the future of design, a book published by Phaidon, a radio programme, an educational website, et cetera, all on the future of design. What is the future of design?
"And the beauty of that problem is that no one knows the answer. I certainly don't.
"So, the idea of taking on a real tough problem in a very public way where you're going to be on stage presenting this stuff - if it's not good, you are not good.
"And what it means is that you absolutely bring your A game. You are super focused on what it's gonna take to succeed. And when students have purpose, they will break the box to learn. They will push you out of the way to get the stuff they need. And so what you're really producing is the experience of being an entrepreneurial designer. Way more than if I told you about it, you actually are doing it and you're experiencing it. And that, as a learning experience, is so much more powerful.”
Bruce Mau’s Future of the Future talk is well-timed for the structural changes we are already starting to see in the workplace.