Over the holidays a recent discovery got me to thinking about what data leads designers to imagine the future.

As per the status quo of any extended holiday (once the eating, spending time with whanau (family), lounging about and doing things one tenth the speed we usually do), we generally turn our attention to tidying up / clearing out / and organising.

In other works – jettison extra “stuff” as we embark on this next trip around the sun.

These holidays were no different.

Recently, I stood in my Dad’s workshop making helpful suggestions (depending on who you talk to) about how he might organise his “mid-sized hardware store” inventory of odds and ends.

Deep in one set of shelves we came across his stash of ‘yet to be built / partially built’ model cars.

Think high quality, highly detailed replicas of desirable sports cars ready to take pride and place on collectors mantelpieces. This was a curious collection though – one that had been acquired over many years.

Tucked away under the iconic Shelby Cobra and Caterham Super 7 boxes was the imagining of what a vehicle from 1990 might look like.

It was marvelously good timing for us to uncover this forgotten gem.

Dad was unsure exactly when he purchased the kit. But, his fuzzy memory placed it somewhere in the mid-sixties.


The Silver Streak – 1990 GT sport coupe

This Jetson mobile esque transportation device was both humorous and curious to look at. But what captured me most was considering what data led the designer to believe that this would be a reality if he fast forwarded 30 years.

Was this a pie in the sky stab at what transportation might look like? Or, a result of data shaping what the designers saw as a logical and practical design for the year 1990?

I personally couldn’t help but rest on a position that this was in fact a genuine attempt to peek behind the curtain of the future. To marry the knowledge of the day with the wild and optimistic aspirations of what the world might become.

It built and iterated on what was known with just enough scope to believe that the impossible was in fact within arm’s reach. It linked empirical data with the mystery of humankind’s ability for independent thought.


Reconciling mystery

We humans are funny things. Whether by design or development, we have the ability for independent thinking, decision making, and reasoning (or sometimes not).

Despite having access to information that can track, measure and predict our behavior, we can create outliers and deviate away from patterns and data for no other reason than “I felt like it”.

The information age powers on. We’re at a time where data and information generation outpaces our ability to adapt and change with new insights. Humankind retains a superpower in the form of a mystery muscle fueled by curiosity, optimism and creativity.

Reconciling mystery allows us to leverage constructive disagreement as we wrestle with diverse viewpoints and conflicting information. It says, “its OK not to see it the way others do”. It validates “I’m not sure” and “I don’t know” as perfectly reasonable and informed responses. It motivates us to ask more questions, or to try different approaches. When overcome by a barrage of information – it empowers us to discern questions that need answers from one’s that can wait.


Putting the mystery muscle through its paces…

Like many biological muscles that control our body and movement – our mystery muscle needs to be worked, kneaded, and stretched. Fueled by the oxygen of information it needs to be given the opportunity to lift and carry the burden of uncertainty and feel the reward of embracing that, that might not have an answer.

Thinking about it, I think the designers of our bubble headed wonder car were asked to imagine a future during a time of significant change and development. The net result bore little resemblance to what graces our roads today. But that didn’t matter!

The team were given licence to ponder, consider and wonder. An opportunity to play outside the lines. They could embrace the mystery of an unknown future, driving up not only the currency of the work that those designers did then, but on all their future projects.

The designers of the Silver Streak were afforded the luxury of an entire gym and trainer (by way of the project) to work-out their mystery muscles. A commodity few of us have.


Innovation hub to explore the unknown

Good thing we live in an age of CrossFit and F45, where we can sculpt and shape our bodies and minds with little more than some basic household items and routine opportunities.

Whether the simple satisfaction of choosing to speak to a new business contact on an audio only call, taking on the challenge of navigating your way to a new destination free from technology, or diving head first into one of the many hackathons on offer this year – 2020 is primed with a myriad of opportunity to flex your mystery muscle hard.

It’s also why we’re excited to be launching the build of our very own Innovation Centre which we see as a central space to provide the resources and support to open ourselves up to imagine a new future for our industry.

If you’re interested to find out more, or be part of this amazing initiative, feel free to get in touch with me! Email greg.buckley@hera.org.nz or call on 021 996 794.