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Them that can, do

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As of today I’m going to be lecturing in Design part-time at Hallam University in Sheffield. It’s two days a week of something that I tasted last year as an associate lecturer and I enjoyed. There are a few things that have led to this decision:

  1. Learning and being creative. Tom Stafford recommended a book to me last year, Impro. It’s about engaging people and using the techniques of improvisation to be creative. It’s a brilliant book that led me to other resources about how to get people working and thinking creatively, some of which I used in my lectures last year. I want to experiment with other strategies to try and become a good teacher, hopefully influencing some students to learn effectively in that way that some of the best teachers I had helped me to learn and think critically (thanks, Mike Smith and Prof. Adam Tickle). And I’m also fascinated by doing design, by strategies that help us to invent ways to make us act and think differently (“cultural invention“) and having admired the work of people like Anne Galloway who embrace the possibilities of new technologies in academia, this job will hopefully give me space to think about design in a way that running businesses on a day-to-day basis doesn’t.
  2. Higher Education. I tweeted a while ago that Higher Education “was screwed” and I have good reason to think that large swathes of HE are indeed screwed (applications for degrees are down this year by approximately 8% and art and design courses by double that), not only because they are becoming expensive and less relevant to employability and consequently offer less future value, but because top down approaches to innovation in large institutions is really really hard. However, I think this is possibly ┬áthe most exciting time to be in HE because of the challenges it faces. There are more opportunities to be radical at a departmental level and I’d like to be involved in radical things, things that DEMOS started to talk about in their excellent paper The Edgeless University. One thing in particular I’m keen to explore is how a student body could, with support from a University / mentors, run a business as a co-operative or social enterprise where they offer design services to clients and learn by doing. It’s raw, but I believe a potentially more risky, more exciting and more rewarding way to learn.
  3. Branching out. David Hieatt, the chap behind howies and now Hiut Denim ran a course earlier this summer about business. It had quite a profound effect on me. He talked with real conviction about the things necessary to make good businesses. This included the importance of looking after yourself and one of the many references he drew on was Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I found it liberating. And I realised that having run a couple of businesses (in Rattle and Folksy) for the last six years I had forgotten about looking after me and what I wanted. Taking this job is part of looking after me; satisfying that bit of me that wants to teach and research whilst still having a hand in the businesses.

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