Being faced with the harsh reality of finding a job after graduation, I've recently come to view our current economic situation as a toxic one. A "toxic economy" if you will. As Allison Hall said in a previous post, "This is not a good time for us to be emerging into the real world. In response to the country's economic situation companies are downsizing, employees have increasingly more responsibilities, and being a good candidate for a job often means having a wide skill set. It's a competitive market." Yes, competitive to say the least.
True, jobs are practically impossible to find, even though "graphic design is a relatively new field that is constantly changing with technology and innovation". But once you do find a job, the work load is extremely dense (due to cutbacks and so much work being allocated to one individual) and the pressure is on more than ever. Needless to say, thinking about all this has got me wanting to crawl in a cave and hibernate with the bears until the dark days are over.
Luckily, my outlook has become much more positive after having a discussion with one of my professors the other day. You see, historically, tough economic times have been the catalyst for innovative thinking. For example, Polaroid was formed after the Great Depression, MTV came close on the heels of the recession in the 1980′s, and Apple's iPod was developed during a sharp decline in sales of consumer electronics. If history is bound to repeat itself, I'd say the current economic downturn may not be good for everyone, but it can be a perfectly good opportunity for innovation. And when you think about it this way, suddenly design/innovation/creativity becomes the great force behind economic recovery and prosperity.
Dev Patnaik, founder and chief executive of Jump Associates, a Silicon Valley growth strategy firm (clients include Nike, Target, and Hewlett-Packard) discusses the infrastructure of innovation in "Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking." Patnaik suggests that there is a unique role that designers, with their skill-set and unique way of thinking, can play in making products, services, and experiences better. He then pushes beyond that thought to propose that something bigger is going on in the minds of successful innovators. "The secret isn't design thinking, it's "hybrid thinking ". It's the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo."
Now, he's not simply referring to multi-tasking here. True hybrid thinkers work with and between traditional areas of expertise, and are able to connect the dots between what's culturally desirable, technically feasible, and viable from a business point of view. The new face of innovation demands that we "see the world through multiple lenses and draw meaning from seemingly unrelated points of data."
Being a hybrid thinker matters now because the problems we need to solve are too complex to be handled by just one skill set. We all know that the good old days when depth in a single field trumps breadth in multiple areas are gone. I think that in order to combat this toxic economy, we as designers/innovators must think in and outside the box (as well as inspect the perimeters).