This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes – at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.
Human history is rich with moments in which massive change was made possible because an innovation that improved our capability coincided with a social movement that engendered increased quantity. For example, the English longbow gave England a decisive advantage during the Hundred Years’ War, but its use in battle was only possible because various English kings had encouraged their citizens to take up mastery of the challenging weapon for sport.
A very different type of bow — one perfected late in the 18th century by Francois Tourte — was embraced by violin virtuosi of the day. Its added length enabled the long, lyrical phrasing that made violin solos possible and popular. Its strength and balance better suited violins for concert hall performances. As the popularity of longer bows swept Europe, it supported a shift to the kinds of string-centric orchestral music we still enjoy.
Today, a similar effect is happening at an exponential level — which explains why even dramatic disruptions seem to gain acceptance overnight. It’s what Bruce Mau refers to as The Power Double Double.
“We start with putting two concepts together. One is the exponential growth in the sheer quantity of people…. the second is the doubling in capacity,” Bruce explains. “Over the last century, we’ve had a double double population. In other words, we started with about 1.5 billion people on the planet in 1900, we doubled to three billion, and then we doubled again to six… it’s the single biggest fact of the last century… we doubled and doubled again the number of people on the planet.”
Next, Bruce invites us to consider that the capability of each of these billions of individuals has seen a similar doubling, thanks to technology that allows people to connect, innovate and collaborate on the design of new solutions in ways previously unimagined. Think about how much we rely on our smart phone apps to accomplish the tasks we now consider routine — tasks that previously would have required us to be in a well-equipped office, or in a tech lab, or in a pricey film-edit suite, or even in another country.
“That’s what makes it a Double Double,” Bruce says. “The fact that the quantities are doubling and the capacities are doubling. So, we are literally producing millions and even billions of people with the capacity to change the world….This is a cool idea and very relevant to our business because it changes the people who show up at our shows…. they come with a new set of expectations; if we don’t meet those expectations, we fall short and we look outmoded, outdated, and irrelevant.”
In other words, even if the “same” people come to our events year after year, they are “different” each year, because their expectations have changed. The annual doubling of technology across a vast population means that innovations that seemed mind-boggling at first — such as personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google — quickly become normal, price-of-entry features. And the people who rely on them come to our live events expecting that we will take it to the next level.
This prospect may seem intimidating, but the possibilities are incredibly exciting. Especially for those of us engaged in creating live brand experiences. Think of how many products, services, ideas, concepts, medical breakthroughs and business practices we help to launch into the world. Think of how many people we reach and from how many regions of the world. When we design the platform for The Power Double Double, there is an implicit obligation to make it count. As design thinkers, we must create our conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, and events in ways that harness this vast power for a higher good.
Here’s an example that features a Freeman client: the people at IFT (The Institute of Food Technologists) are actively working to elevate the industry they represent and the career outlook of professionals in the field of food science. At their show last year, organizers created an incubator to showcase, launch, and even sell new food technology businesses — right from the expo floor. Even more impressive, they are leveraging the The Power Double Double to help solve for the challenge of how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Understanding that the new culture of food technology is a distributed culture, they have redesigned their IFTNext sessions to highlight the stories of individuals and institutions making a huge difference in solving for things like global food security, sustainability, and reducing carbon footprints. As a result, participation in these breakout sessions has tripled. More people attend; more people leave inspired and equipped to feed the expanding global population.
We are privileged to work in an industry ideally positioned to advance massive change, solve thorny problems and create prosperity for people everywhere. And as Bruce points out, it drives a fundamentally optimistic outlook: “That’s The Power Double Double,” he concludes. “It’s super exciting. This is the best time in human history to be alive.”