Jon Kolko on How Learning Facilitation Skills Advances Career

In Chapter 11 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, design educator Jon Kolko answers "How is Your Creative Toolbox Changing?"  Kolko notes how his creative toolbox progressively includes "grown up" tools.  He notes these are more about talking and less about making, for example facilitation tools and those that help drive large organizational and strategic change.  He contrasts this to the design or maker skills so fundamental to his early career experiences. 

Jon Kolko is the founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.  He has authored multiple books on design, including "Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving."  Previously he has held senior roles at venture accelerator Thinktiv and frog design and was a professor of Interactive and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Kolko earned his Masters in Human Computer Interaction (MHI) and BFA in Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Erik Michielsen: How is your creative toolbox changing?

Jon Kolko: My creative toolbox is starting to have much more grownup tools in it, which usually mean things that are about talking and not things about making. And it's weird that that is true. And so, the examples that I'm thinking of are facilitation tools and tools that help drive large organizational and strategic change as opposed to tools for making things look a certain way, act a certain way, feel a certain way. This strategy, design thinking, whatever catchy name you want to use for it, has always sort of rubbed me a little bit the wrong way because I’d always felt like it wasn’t enough without the making. And so, I think I still believe that. But I'm becoming okay with using a designerly way of working to convince people of things, to get people to see my perspective, to drive an argument. And that will be the way that design plays out in policy and in law. I mean, design is going to be embedded in all of these external disciplines or fields and that’s how it's going to work. There will still be artifacts but that’s not the endgame, they’re a means to an end and I think the toolbox that I have is widened to include those. Before, frankly, I didn’t give them the time and day. I thought they were sort of fake. I still have that same concern that without making an artifact, and I'm using artifact loosely, even digital or a service is an artifact to me but without making something. You're not doing design work. You're doing something else and it's probably just argument. But I'm becoming more comfortable integrating those issues of argument a rhetoric into the toolkit that I have.