Self-Efficacy Part 1

Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capability to achieve a goal or an outcome.

The crux of being a designer is that a) you believe in your ability to notice what needs to change and b) you believe you can change them effectively.  If design was taught as a new liberal art in K-12 education, a new version of self-efficacy and social participation could be formed. By the time children become adults, mending perceived problems would be commonplace behavior. From: “Class, how could we best arrange our desks to learn well this year?” to “Our high school needs a central gathering place, let’s build a plaza,” to “Our new neighborhood needs to make some changes, let’s start a town hall meeting once a month,” and so on.

Here’s a casual way we could start this today: As we go through the day to day, let’s empower each other to move from passive permission for the world to exist as it is, to active recognition of messy problems when they surface. If it’s something small-scale you can fix right away, do it. If it needs a longer-term solution, write it down and keep it as a reference to guide future pursuits. These lists can contain broad ethical problems, that’s fine too.

If we encourage everyone to behave as design researchers, an active society of “noticers” could see and state needs for alterations to systems. Not every perceived need would have to be addressed, as some things may be outliers that only pertain to one or two individuals and thus would be best changed by those individuals. But for the problems deemed to affect larger groups or communities, the newly empowered citizenry could make the changes they see fit and shape their communities organically through the ideas and skills of that community’s stakeholders.

Doing so would reduce the societal homogenization that George Ritzer speaks about in his book, The McDonaldization of Society. Ritzer discusses the push of culture from one centralized hub (for example the McDonalds’ corporate offices) to their 31,000 franchises around the world. Local communities begin to resemble each other through this cultural push from one source.

I’m putting forth the charge to encourage everyone you know to approach the world as design researchers. Imagine everyone, full-time, engrossed with the world to such a degree that we see it clearly for all its abilities and disabilities. From that vantage point, and the self-efficacy of an empowered “designerly” mind, great new solutions will emerge and problems that once seemed permanent will be seen for the malleable structures they are.