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Off-piste learning design

March 5, 2013

Looking for off-piste routesThis is another skiing themed post – I think I’m becoming obsessed.

I recently returned from a short ski break. I’ve been thinking about what I enjoyed most about the trip – and it’s got to be skiing off-piste. If you don’t ski; pistes are the marked routes on the mountain. Outside of these routes is known as off-piste and here there is much adventure to be had.

Now off-piste can involve having a helicopter drop you on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. But it can also mean heading just slightly off the beaten track, between the pistes. I’m just getting back into skiing and found the latter was great fun. Reflecting on it I realised that I’ve spent much of my life slightly off-piste, doing things a little differently and sometimes better. So why go off-piste?

  • You can find better, quicker routes
  • Others can benefit from your explorations
  • It’s more creative and you learn more

On the flip side:

  • It’s more risky
  • You could become isolated
  • It might be harder to justify to others why you don’t just follow the herd

I would argue that off-piste learning design is where true innovation lies. Yes it can be risky but you stand the chance of opening up new more effective routes that others might benefit from. It’s more challenging, more fun and more rewarding as a designer. In reality you wouldn’t constantly design off-piste but rather allow your explorations to inform your more on-piste projects.

One of the ways that I find helps to design off-piste is not to initially research what the common approach is. Instead follow a creative but rigorous design process and see where you end up. Then look around at the approaches that others have taken and see what you can learn from them. Incorporate elements of these into your design where appropriate.

If you have few opportunities for off-piste design as part of your commercial work, why not develop some ideas for a project of your own. You could learn some things to feed in to your commercial projects. At the very least it’s a good design exercise and damn good fun too!

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