THE BLOG

Weltanschauung -- How We Think of Things Determines How We Look at Them

03/23/2014 04:45 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2014

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Our world is to a large extent ruled by money, since it is the one thing we all agree on as a measurement of performance and success. Economists look at the world as a competition for scarce resources while designers see it as an endless opportunity for creating value for people and organizations which is a completely different "Weltanschauung" - or worldview.

Economic thinking promotes a fight over a perceived pie of fixed size while design promotes enlarging the size of the pie. If one observes history, then designers seem to understand how the world works much better than do the economists.

These differences in Weltanschauung also influence how we perceive and deal with opportunities. Economic metrics, such as the Gross National Production (GNP) measure a country's economic growth. According to the GNP development in most Western countries, these figures are showing a slowdown in growth. However, we tend to forget that the GNP only measures a fraction of what is actually being created by a society. Eighty percent of transactions take place inside organizations and are thus never measured.

The Internet is free and the value of free Skype video calls, Google Searches is enormous. Remember driving to the library and spending hours looking things up, or instant file sharing and when rush delivery of documents were either mailed, FedEx'ed or courier delivered? Not to mention the free value of YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on...

The Weltanschauung of economics focuses on optimal use of resources though effectiveness and efficiency. However how does this really relate to how we want to lead our lives? Is the most important thing in life to optimize it and, if so, with regards to what? What are the values of love, friendship and watching a sunset?

As our economies increasingly move from production and service economies to creative economies, the outdated metrics we use are failing to capture the true value of what is being created. Thus, they do not reflect what a culture truly wants and cannot inform us on how to prioritize opportunities and associated resources.

Who formulates the new Weltanschauungs? Can new Weltanschauungs be unveiled through user-centered design or are they detected and formulated by lone geniuses or just by chance? General consensus does not seem to move the world forward in any measurable way. The Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and Dongdaemun Plaza in Seoul were all hated when conceived and were only later appreciated for adding immense value to the world.

Maybe user-centered design or even the wisdom of crowds cannot provide all the answers or even the questions to the important issues? There is no right or wrong Weltanschauung, only useful and un-useful ones. Perhaps they come into being through the creativity of philosophers, artists, architects, economists, and also designers. If so, what Weltanschauung or worldview might be useful when designing breakthrough innovations? Remembering that how we think of things determines how we look at them.