Sensing the system together

Bose Corporation | Novo Nordisk | Philips Home Health | Many more

The challenge: Social complexity is hard to see. It is full of invisible relationships and beliefs. Its patterns emerge from myriad of interactions, and can’t be understood as “cause and effect.” How can we sense the system so we are wise in our work? How can we help a community sense itself?

Fit has completed nearly 50 projects that relate to these questions, employing methods of system-sensing, design research, ethnography, action research, strategic immersion, story harvesting, and participatory narrative inquiry. In some projects the goal is to grow relatedness between decision-makers and the contexts, relationships, beliefs and patterns of life  their decisions affect. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to support participatory efforts, increasing a community’s ability to create for itself.

Recent efforts have focused on:

  • Patterns and capacities of families with young children
  • The network of care surrounding people with diabetes
  • The ecosystem of hearing health

Narrative inquiry, patterns of stories, and space to manage “probes” to attract new patterns
We are trained in the methods of narrative inquiry and software for visualizing patterns of stories. This “participatory ethnography” approach, in which the people who live the life of the system are its sensing network, is a powerful tool for seeking attractors and moving toward the “adjacent possible” in a community or system. 

The directions from which you come at this are breathtakingly innovative. People who work in organizations want to do a good job, want to be innovative and creative and deliver things that are useful and delightful. A lot of what you do is meeting a need people don’t know that they have.”
Director, US Digital Service

Months later I’m still enamored with our ethnography. You guys did such a great job of making sense of people’s world and experience. We now have three concepts based on the work, and are starting to explore their validity.”
Innovation Director

Your work is the natural evolution of design thinking—a design thinking approach to work on rich and complex problems. It is exciting and useful, marrying the pragmatic with an invitation: ‘Let’s go into the woods.’”
Design professor, Stanford University