What is Awareness-Based Design?

What is Awareness Based Design?

Awareness Based Design is about bringing back the Human aspect into our work. It is about intention, purpose, truth, compassion, justice, right action and benevolence (among others). It is about creating things that are beneficial to humans, society and the environment.

It is about creating the impetus for change and transformation from where we currently are to where we want to be as a collective.  At this point in human history, we can no longer treat business endeavours as isolated projects. Entrepreneurial activities affect everyone around them, from the stakeholders to the consumers and the societies that they serve as well as the environments in which they exist.

Everything we do is an extension of ourselves. We bring who we are into the things we create in the world. If you look around at life today, it means somewhere we went really, really wrong. We are not aligned with life’s values and we seemed to have lost our purpose as human beings. We have become human doings, obsessed with productivity in the egoistic endeavour to become increasingly more like machines, and less like humans.

There are no such things as ‘externalities’, they are only unconscious decisions or things we intentionally turn a blind eye towards. No action is without consequence, and we need to bring our awareness to our actions in our lives, businesses, communities and every other aspect of society.

Participation in  the awareness based design process is in itself transformational. We affect the reciprocal relations where we have intent, and are in turn affected by it.

As an awareness-based researcher and designer, my job is to help people throughout the business process, to help them find the information they need and ask the uncomfortable questions that need to be asked every step of the way for them to have the insight and ability to make the most conscious and beneficial decisions that they can.

Think about how you bring your conscious awareness to your own work. Conscious business practices are about being brave and stepping up to do what is right for everyone, so it requires a certain amount of self-work and integrity to be able to participate in the process. 

You live, you learn and you grow – as individuals, as teams, as a business, as a community and as societies. Is your company making this a priority?

The aim of awareness based design is to shed light on all the relationships that require conscious attention throughout the entrepreneurial and product development process to create more coherent technologies that are created with the intent to facilitate (positive) futures for everyone on the planet. We want to create a world away from the dystopian futures we have all envisaged and are quite close to finding ourselves in. We have the technology to do everything we imagined for the benefit of humanity, the only thing we are missing is the conscious intent to use it wisely.  In Awareness Based Design, everything can be seen through the 5 dimensions of of Human relational existence.
Bringing awareness to the different levels of our existence helps us to take more conscious action towards a lighter, brighter and more sustainable future for everyone.


Relationship with the Creator 

Alignment with the source of life itself calls us to question if our intentions are benevolent or not. In the past, many design and business activities caused the destruction of human life as well as the environment. We have to bring our presence, attention and awareness to our intentions in the strategic processes of our economic, social and entrepreneurial activities. When people think that there are no consequences for their actions, that opens the door to self-destruction. Think about your religious and spiritual teachings and how you can reconcile your values with your actions. Your work should not be disconnected from who you are, it is an extension of yourself. 

Relationship with the Self

Conscious leadership is required by everyone in the process. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone was consciously aware of the effect of their actions on themselves, on others, on society and on the planet. Would they still choose to do it? We are all active participants in our lives – or at least we should be. Everyone is answerable for the decisions that they make to act in every moment of their lives. Every human being has agency and is answerable for what they choose to do.  Sometimes we have to stop and pay attention to the activities going on around us and really question whether it is something that is of benefit to the world around us or not, and whether we choose to be a part of that process or not.

Relationship with Society

Our actions as entrepreneurs, designers, product owners, developers or decision makers affect other people and the environment, directly or indirectly.  The impact that we want to see in the world should born out of creative intent, which is inherently benevolent, not of egoic self-interest that breeds destruction of society. Sometimes we have to stand up against injustice and malevolent business practices because it is the right thing to do. We need more people to think about what the planet needs now and in the future. When we design with conscious intent, we are make ourselves and others aware of the impact our work might have. Are you okay with designing people into debt? Are you okay with designing business models and products that ultimately lead to the depletion of our natural resources? Are you okay with contributing to our own destruction?

Relationship with the Environment

The actions of unconscious business practices in the past have created the utter destruction we see in the world today. Everything that we create and send out into the world carries with it some intention and that manifests in impact. The more conscious awareness that you bring into your design process, the more insight you will have to mitigate risk and ‘externalities’ that are not acceptable to the individuals, communities, societies that we serve or the environments in which they occur. The triple bottom line is not enough. Doing ‘social responsibility initiatives’ is not enough when it’s just there to make you feel better about trying to balance out the harm you are doing. Change the way you view business and the way you create value for others on the planet. It’s not about competition, it’s not about greed and it is not about power – or at least it should not be. We didn’t come here to see who can make the most money at the expense of others.

Relationship with the Unseen

There are always factors over which you have no visibility or control. While data may give us pieces of the puzzle, creativity, insight, wisdom and intuition give us access to the big picture that we are helping to bring to life. Creating spaces for reflection throughout the design (and rest of the business) process allows us to bring in new information and help us connect the dots. When you take the time to bring space into your business and design processes, you make space for expanding knowledge and wisdom that does not come from books. Take the time to think about what you are doing, how you are contributing and what you are actually contributing to. If your team is always in a rush, always stressed and always anxious, how does that affect your work? Does it help you make better decisions? Probably not.

Tools and questions for bringing more awareness to the design process

  • Alignment – Does your company live its purpose? Are its values and practices creative or destructive for society? Do you question what you are doing from time to time? 
  • Attunement – Do people practice deep listening? Do they have empathy for others? Do they make time to really listen to one another and their customers with open minds, hearts and ears?
  • Communicating – Do you share a common understanding and vision? Do you use sense-making to create and share meaning? Do you have a collective understanding?
  • Coherence – Are you coherent on all the 5 dimensions of relation? Do things make sense in terms of your alignment / knowledge / wisdom / strategy / conscious intent? Does it feel right? Is everyone in sync? Where are the disconnects?
  • Space – Do you create space and time for creativity, innovative thinking, insight, intuition, silence and deep reflection or is it all about time-watching and productivity? 

The most important thing is starting this journey with yourself. Don’t expect your company to become more conscious if each individual member that contributes to the collective does not learn these skills for themselves. Think about how you can apply these tools in your own life and become the example. 

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