Tranformation in Three Numbers

Three numbers tell a story of transformation worth listening to.

Our world is changing quickly and this week three numbers came to mind to show just how fast that’s happening and why we need to pay attention if we want to play a role is shaping this transformation.

These numbers all point to a need for methods, tools, and strategies to better understand what’s happening as it happens and making sense of it. It’s also pointing to a new turn for how we — including this blog — work with these changes to adapt and better affect the world around us, not just react to it.


On Monday, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII), a social policy research centre affiliated with Ryerson University, hosted it’s third anniversary celebration that featured a keynote address by Wired magazine Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson. The keynote was organized around 9 observations on the future of being human (a similar talk to the one below).

Among the many fascinating, disturbing, and awe-dropping insights he offered is the speed at which change is afoot and where things are going. The talk began with a look at Moore’s Law and the way it has played out to lead to where our technology is today and where it is leading us.

Computing power, particularly in the area of artificial intelligence, is already changing what we see online, what we don’t, and how societies interact with each other. These are ethical, moral, and social problems that will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. This isn’t technophobia or techno-utopianism, these are very clear and present dangers and opportunities that are colliding at a speed that we are unable to fully comprehend as humans.

Nine things — any things — that are powered by forces that are networked, learning, and self-organizing at exponential speed will have effects that need consideration, now.


Seth Godin’s most recent post points to how many words we notice on a page or billboard: 10.

That’s it. TEN.

If you get 10 words, what will those words be? Consider what this means for communication, for learning, and for our exchanges?

While daunting, this constraint presents us with a new call for bringing in different media forms into our communications. It is a call to re-think the blog, the news release, the tweet, the report, and the book. This is not getting rid of these, but re-thinking what they do and how they do it if we are to be effective.


In a wide-ranging consultation for Elections Canada last year on designing communications strategies for electors I had the chance to speak to young leaders across the country on how they learned about social issues, political parties, and democratic activities in their community. One of the most salient findings was the role that social media — particularly rich, dynamic media like videos — played in their communications and how much time marketers have to reach their audience.

Fifteen (15) is the number of seconds that marketers have to communicate their message in video form before viewers turn off. (The recommended length is under 10 seconds).

Imagine trying to communicate something so important as democratic engagement, complex political (or health or social or technological) issues in under 10 seconds. That is what we have to work with (see previous point).

Design for speed and impact

Innovation’s biggest single question is about creating something fit-for-purpose. What are we asking of our communications? Are we looking to inspire? To call to action? To inform? To distract? All of these?

No matter what the message is, the medium is changing and so is the system in which we learn and grow — whether you like it or not. We’re exposed to more information now than ever. While blogs like this are useful for those looking for more depth of writing the majority of us don’t have — or give – the time to read things in detail. Even scientists and health professionals skim journals where they once might have pored over each detail (which is part of a much larger crisis in science which requires a whole other discussion).

Designers understand what it means to adapt their creations to where people are, not just where we want them to be. (they do both).

I’ve been considering this for a long time. Regular readers will see some changes coming to the style and format as well as some new features that will hopefully make the content more accessible and relevant than ever. For those who are new to Censemaking: welcome.

For everyone, the chance to learn — in long stretches, in short bursts, and everywhere in between — the task for me is simple: design for how you learn through technology (and beyond).

Censemaking was designed as a place to explore ideas about innovation and the various interconnected aspects of innovation: design, systems science, education, behaviour change and organizational psychology, strategic foresight, and evaluation.

The increasing speed and complexity of change is a reality, but it’s not the only driver of change. Making things better not just faster is what technology can do for us if we design it right. Stay tuned to see if we get it right.

Thanks for reading.

Photo by Tim Evans on Unsplash

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