HDL Global Guest Blog: Planting Seeds for Change

Editor's note: We offered this blog as a platform to four HDL Global participants who are documenting the event for everyone to get a glimpse of how things are going down. This is one such post by Ido Mor.

The Helsinki Design Lab is inspiring its global audience to attack their most pressing, intractable challenges using a systems-oriented approach to problem solving. At the heart of discussions over the past two days, we’ve heard experts in policy and various industries emphasizing the need to focus as much on the architecture of the problem, as we do on the architecture of the solution, and to leverage a multi-disciplinary approach in the process.

Ageing populations, education, and sustainability were the subjects of a series of lively panel discussions. A common thread running throughout these topics is the fact that their problem space cannot be summarized as a puzzle, but must be considered as a mystery. The primary difference between puzzles and mysteries is that the latter offers us no reference points as to what the final outcome will look like. As such, our problem-solving toolkit for puzzles is rendered ineffective in the mystery space – though unfortunately we find that the same toolkit is often applied to both.

As policy makers, engineers, scientists, and designers, our job becomes to de-risk the options we propose. We heard repeatedly yesterday and today that the best starting point for doing this successfully is to zoom out before zooming in. This often feels counter-intuitive, especially when urgent pain points are screaming in our face, but it’s the only way we can begin to transform the systems that generated the predicaments we’re currently facing. Looking forward to more great discussions tomorrow.


I like the puzzle/mystery distinction. Perhaps part of the role of the designer in government is to first take apart the puzzles we think we've almost solved...

Christian, beginning with puzzles potentially makes sense, assuming the current puzzles are the right ones to begin with. In some cases we know them to be short-sighted. With regards to ageing, for example,  the current discourse is short-sighted, placing false boundaries for different age segments rather than planning holistically for aging as a process that begins at birth.
Problem framing, or building the architecture of the problem would be a first cut to assess whether our current puzzles are the right ones.