gears v humanIt’s easy to see why so many slide presentations feature images of interlocking gears to evoke maximum team efficiency. Gears convey a seductive sense of control; they appear reassuringly neat and predictable. These mechanical parts are perfect for representing machine age detachment; the opposite of “design thinking.”

But gear metaphors also communicate an anti-innovation world view. Knowledge (in contrast to information) gains value when humans develop what they know through reflection and interaction. The reality of this process is far from neat, predictable and mechanical.

Developing the wealth of knowledge that leads to innovation requires relationships built on trust. Gears do not evoke trust or thoughtful reflection. So let’s not misrepresent living, human activities such as collaboration with graphics that glorify interchangeable metal parts.

These slides expand on my contrast between mechanical and natural systems: