On Vulnerability.

Girl looking through a window at the traffic.

In design, we talk about courage all the time. There is a good reason for this. When you’re involved in design, you’re inevitably changing something, or bringing something new into existence. Meaningful design, design with authenticity, passion and a little bit of yourself included in for good measure, requires a bit of courage to follow through.

One of my favourite talks on TED is by Brené Brown on Vulnerability. I love the story she tells about her first attempt at understanding vulnerability, and her mind’s hunger for neat frameworks and components that describe vulnerability deconstructed. She mentioned the book that emerged as a result of the six years of effort she invested, and then the one year of difficult therapy that finally had her understand vulnerability.

These two attributes are like conjoined twins. You cannot be courageous without first being vulnerable. We often don’t prepare people for what it feels like to be courageous. Being courageous requires us to risk something meaningful to us. Whether it exists external to us, like the chance of getting a promotion, or something internal to us, like an ideology of who we are. When we put something at risk, we are vulnerable.

Instead of speaking about courage in design, perhaps we should be speaking more of vulnerability. Vulnerability sets the conditions for courage to emerge.