Circular Design: How Organizational Development and Product Lifecycles Collide in Closed Loop Systems
The lifecycle of a product is acutely parallel to the lifecycle of a company. Like all products, organizations begin with an idea, focus on the initial functionality for the consumer, and usually ignore the far more common reality of the “ending” or “recycling” phase. Our culture has come to believe the end of a product or organization shouldn’t be considered — like our relationship with trash, we push this part of ideation to the wayside, usually through fear that the end of an idea is aligned with failure, or leaning into the cultural norm of ignoring this phase to excuse our current infrastructure’s and normative (colonized) culture’s incapacity to manage this “final” stage of development.
But if we look at circular design thinking, what most people avoid for fear of letting go of an idea shifts to us seeing the opportunities to deconstruct what exists to feed what we’re creating. A well-defined path of utilizing what we’ve designed to discover how we can do better and redistribute our resources for sustainable continuation is essential for product producers to imagine their ideas thriving for generations to come, while community or impact driven organizations are able to utilize this thought process to create clarity around growth models that allow team members to be seen as people not just positions designed to accomplish.
So let’s talk about creating a narrative for the breakdown. It starts by looking at the process to define and design, and holding ourselves accountable as we ensure there is a way for us to take apart as much as there is a way for us to reconstruct into something new. This is where a lot of people tend to get stuck, but a place we see as an opportunity to write a pivot plan and collaborate with creative partners.
For those looking to dive deep into circular design thinking for either their products or organizations, we’ve got a few books and brilliant minds for you to follow as you redefine the cultural norm of putting your trash, or take apart a plan, first.
- Circular Design Thinking by Leyla Acaroglu. This technical quick read packs a serious punch when it comes to dissecting the reality of our normative perspective and challenges us to define a direct plan for action. This woman also boasts an educational cohort that brings this book to life and helps you turn ideas into action.
- For those looking to understand the international scale and create a bit more empathy around those who can’t just ignore waste, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers offers a stark stare into the lives of low-income families in India who are the growing many stuck with what higher income humans believe is not their problem.
- Downwinders at Risk hosts a College of Constructive Hell Raising that challenges activists and local leaders to think organizationally — defining impact through community-focused processes and human centric commitments. This in person, semester long, series offers a much-needed challenge for us to shift our cultural norms and shows the action needed to create actionable impact.
- Ethos Equity challenges organizations to consider the lifecycle of their team through the lens of diversity, equitability and inclusion. Like circular design thinking in products, Brittani Howard challenges her clients to consider designing the spaces they are creating opportunities within as ones that need an endless loop of feedback, commitment to care and intentional processes that support people’s humanity above their accomplishments.