A pre-supposition in the way our brains work is that it ignores negatives. Thus “don’t think of a green elephant” trick becomes an instruction. Consider also all the parents and teachers who scream ‘don’t run!’ at children – who then run around...
As a young teacher, a seasoned colleague of mine observed a lesson and gave me brilliant advice I still keep in mind to this day; show the kids what you want from them when demonstrating a practical task rather than say (and then demonstrate perfectly) all the things you don’t want them to do. It’s worked every time from demonstrating how to hold a coping saw, making a turn on a ski slope, changing a car tyre and yep – used guessed it, having creative sessions and facilitating conversations in business.
The same advice would go well in urban design.
At the weekend I strolled into town with my kids and passed the Jubilee Fountain. Interestingly enough one short sighted councillor opposed it being built as he thought vandals would urinate in it. Funny how we’ve managed to keep our legs crossed all this time...
The photo shows one of two nasty signs that have been banged into the park that immediately spoil the aesthetics. It says “This ornamental fountain is not designed for public access. Visitors paddling in the water do so at their own risk”. SINCE ITS INSTALLATION I have not passed this fountain without seeing children and adults paddling in the water. Signs that ask us NOT to do something are always ignored.
Instead of being all parent child in its communication, the sign could read... “Welcome to the Jubilee Fountain, young children may paddle here freely, have fun and take care”. As a result responsibility to look after ourselves (and urinate appropriately) is passed to us rather than taken away from us.
In our emails, phone calls and advice to others today and this week, be enabling.
you then don’t have to write or explain what you don’t want your staff to then not do*
*sentence to ignore J