/ Communication: The Task of the Designer / Communication: The Task of the Designer

Problem Solving or easing, speeding, and assisting communication. A mentor of mine used to say that asking the right question goes a long way to solving a problem. Applying that principle has helped me out of many a jam.

I participated in an emergency training exercise several years ago. The scenario had been run several times previously and was based on a real life emergency. A fire chief from a small town was put in charge as a bit of a joke. But when the scenario wrapped up in 15 minutes with the successful extinguishing of the fire rather than the normal three hours of a raging inferno which never was put out, nobody was laughing. As a former CN railroader when a train blocked his quickest way to the fire, he "broke the train" - disconnected the car - and rolled his fire engine through. He successfully extinguished a fire that had in real life caused the evacuation of 50,000 people, $30 million in damages and killed two fire fighters.

He saw a solution where nobody else had. Much discussed in the debrief from this exercise was the "thinking out of the box" that had allowed him to do this. Emergency planners do all that they can to come up with plans for every contingency. Yet we can't prepare for every possible contingency. What is required is a system to allow solutions to emerge.

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