The first weeks at Idiom and my first DREAM:IN experience

I know Idiom was going to be amazing, please view the last post if you want to know more about why India and Idiom!. I must admit I was quite scared of coming to Bangalore in India, as I was really unsure what to expect. But I knew that when I arrived I would be greeted by a warm face as I would be living in the DREAM:IN guest house with Paula and Anna, both from Brazil, Paula from Curitiba and Anna was from Belo Horizonte, Brazil where I had just been working!!  I think I am really starting to believe in serendipity. We had talked about doing traveling around India; it was going to be fab to have them as my travel mates.

Sure enough, when I arrived, I was greeted by Paola and she made me feel very welcome. On the first morning of waking up, I was picked up and went to the Idiom office. I knew that India had traffic problems but I was not expecting the trip that I had by car on the way to the office – it was as if we were in a rally race! (see video above), but one thing Brazil had taught me was to slow down and take things as they come, as a plan never goes to plan.

Having done some research on Bangalore, I knew it was the second Silicon Valley in the world with all of the hi-tech companies located around it – but this had only grown in the last 10 years, and it was previously a retirement and army town. I could see a lot of building and construction work going on, with a lot of informal businesses to make money. So I was in a city with a lot of tradition but also a lot of new international cultures coming in.

My first thoughts on arriving were how big Idiom was: it had 2 floors, with the ground floor having a big entranceway, meeting rooms, and lovely outdoor spaces (see pictures blow). At the top of the building were the main working spaces for graphic, space, and the production team, and I learned that the building used to be an Indian wedding hall, having a central stage at the back of the top floor.

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This was my first chance to meet Sonia Manchanda, Co-founder of Idiom, Javed Mohammad the CEO of Idiom, along with Nidihi (featured at the end of the video below), Raji and also all of Idiom’s other big teams. I was going from working with a team of 4 people in Brazil to a team of over a 100 people!

On my first meeting with Sonia Manchanda she explained the ecosystem she had created that included Idiom, DREAM:IN and MIND. Idiom is a design consultancy; Dream:In is a new start-up organization based in a different office; and MIND is about to become their educational organization – not only for design, but for music and other creative industry activities. As Sonia Manchanda explained how these organisations work and relate to each other I could see that she was an amazing thinker, who can understand and also build systems with each one making design business sense on a huge scale. Of which DREAM:IN can innovate across a whole country. From the start of the walkabout, I was asking the question ‘Where is design having impact?’ being at Idiom I found myself in a the heart of a place which was so forward thinking, which could provide many responses to this question.  The idiom team, worked with entrepreneurs every day and I was truly in a place where I could learn the business mindset of design while capturing Idiom’s important story for ‘Design Transitions’, the forthcoming book that I am co-authoring (due to be published in Autumn 2013).

Over the course of the following days I spent time with Javed and at DREAM:IN working out my plan for the months to come. As I was to be in India for such a short time, it was important for me to spend as much time as possible being part of the team and learning from them. I soon got into the routine of eating curry for lunch at the office, and going to the gulla afterward with my colleagues from the graphics team (where we had chai – I’m not a big fan of tea, but every place I’ve travelled to I have changed my preference for hot drinks to the local favorite). At the end of the first week, I took part in DREAM:IN training for Next Gen with the first group of Dreamcatchers in the DREAM:IN centre in Idiom.

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Sonia Manchanda introducing DREAM:IN Next Gen to the Dreamcatchers from all different university students from the south of India

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Avy Varghese Aardvark (leading the training) introducing DREAM:IN Next Gen to the Dreamcatchers from all different university students from the south of India

The current model of DREAM:IN, is called DREAM:IN Next Generation grew out of the fact that there are 1.3 billion people in India, and they have the youngest population in the world – so there is a imminent need to create jobs for the young people of India. But this is not only the case in India, but it is a platform that is relevant worldwide as the DREAM:IN Next Gen website makes us aware:

“Youth population is predicted to grow around the world and peak around 2035, creating an unprecedented youth demographic bulge. Growing with this population would also be their hopes, aspirations, ambitions and dreams.

Now consider this fact, unemployed youth today make up almost half (43.77%) of the total unemployed. In comparison, the youth’s share of total working age population (15 and over) is a mere 25%. In such a scenario, Sonia Manchanda, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, DREAM:IN asked herself if existing systems/opportunities can accommodate the growth in youth population?

Especially when we have already witnessed glimpses of what could happen, when it doesn’t, in the form of unrest in the Middle East and the occupy Wall Street movements in various parts of the developed world. Yes! Hopes, aspirations, ambitions, dreams can easily morph into fears/anxieties and insecurities in a hugely networked global youth community.”

I came to understand that having too many people in one country is not the problem – working out what to do with them is the real problem. So Dream:In Next Gen was aiming to catch the dreams of 10,000 people under the age of 30 in the south of India, and then help them to turn their ideas into 100 business offerings (with half being social ventures) to investors in April 2013. The dreamcatchers were all from all different types of universities (mostly from outside of design) and had been trained in DREAM:IN methodology to capture dreams. Each dreamcatcher had to catch upto 10 dreams of people aged under 30.

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Dreamcatchers learning how to capture and record people dreams

At this point I realised that it was about dreams, people have aspirations and innovation should focus around that. Dream have been spoke about in design research by in Bill Gaver’s papers on Cultural Probes Interactions (1994) Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty (2004) and Ludic Design (2002), referring to the Dream Recorder, “a cheap digital memo-taker that we repackaged with instructions to use upon awakening from a vivid dream”(2004). But DREAM:In is not only innovating across a country, but it was sharing design thinking at a scale that has potential to be echoed in every country, to address different needs and empower people to create their own future. Having engaged in the weekend of training, it was great to see a group of young people given new skills and tools of design thinking. This was only the first event of many in 2012 that would train dreamcatchers and dreamers to fully understand DREAM:IN, DREAM:IN Next Gen, its’ methodology and impact, follow the Dream:IN blog to keep updated for yourself. Recently DREAM:IN has been featured in Metropolis Magazine as a the game changers in 2013 – big congratulations to the team!

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The Dream tree

In the Dream:In central in Idiom is a the Dream tree, as their blog explains is “The concept of the Dream tree goes back to the ancient Indian tradition of tying ‘wishes’ on special trees in holy places. We, at DREAM:IN, believe that a person’s dream is one of the most pure and special attributes that defines that person…This tree is designed to capture a persons aspirations, by simply writing down (and tearing away) their dream on a tag, then tying this tag on to the Dream Tree. These Dreams, then are in turn tweeted out from the Dream Tree twitter account to hundreds (slowly growing to thousands and more) followers on twitter and blog.”

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A DREAM:IN tag, used to capture people dreams

Learning about Idiom, DREAM:IN as really great in my first week was great. But what I enjoyed about my first weeks in India, was discovering that it’s not really about appearances there – you did not have to dress in a certain way, it was more about your inner self, reputation and order. Also a strange thing happened in the first week – I got mosquito bites on my arm, which looked like a global map of the world of where I had been so far (see below)!

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My mosquito-ed arm!!

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