Do you see clearly?
I'm not talking about the sense of sight per se — I mean, do you understand the context you're acting within? How do you know?
As designers, we're increasingly called on to intervene in complex systems. Often, we go into the challenge with an imperfect understanding of just a small part of the system, at best. That's expectable and mostly alright… As long as we recognize the extent of our ignorance and take steps to remedy the situation.
Sometimes our ideological commitments can be an obstacle in the way of these explorations. In these highly polarized times, we're drawn to see things only from one perspective. That makes us less effective agents of change since it keeps us from seeing the whole picture. The question I often ask myself is: How do I honor my values — act with integrity — while also opening my mind to other positions?
Two practices help. The first is trying to understand others' goals, rather than focusing on their methods. Perhaps we differ less on our objectives than on the means to get there. The second is cultivating equanimity. We live in the age of the "hot take" — the opposite of what we want when making a systemic intervention.
Ultimately, we want things to get better in a sustainable way. More than ever, designers must strive to see clearly. In polarizing times, this requires the ability to distinguish being "right" from being effective.