Playing devil’s advocate proves that you care enough about the situation to be a constructive contrarian.

Historically, the devil’s advocate — advocatus diaboli — was an office of the Roman Catholic Church, formally established in the 16th century. During the process of beatification or canonization of an individual, the job of the devil’s advocate was to present unfavorable facts about the candidate and reveal any flaws in his life or actions that would jeopardize his path to sanctity.

The modern meaning of devil’s advocate has the negative slant of being a mean contrarian. It may be because of the word devil is in the mix, who knows, but there is no meanness in going against the…


Thinking in time scales is about knowing how to shift perspective

The way we perceive time has changed dramatically in just a few years. I see this shift in the ways and patterns that were once emerging and are now dominant:

  • The way in which information overload and around-the-clock data shoving have accelerated our ways of living, working, and relating to others. The speed and magnitude of this overload has made us really good at reacting quickly to what’s thrown at us, but not so good at taking the time to get some clarity about the choices we make.
  • The popularity of forecasting and making predictions. Abundant and readily available data…


You can absorb information passively, but you can only gain practical knowledge if you engage actively.

When someone tells you how to do something for the first time, you absorb information that is likely to make you think: I get it.

But what are you getting, exactly?

Take a look at all those articles that reveal five ways to generate great ideas, or the seven phases of innovation. Some of them are good reads, but even if you bookmark the page, the thrill will be gone soon. …


Novelty is just one facet of new.

Novelty is just one facet of new, a far more comprehensive and overarching term. A search of new yields almost 2.4 billion results, while if you type novelty, you will get 262 million only.

  • I associate novelty with something provisional, temporary, superficial; things that have an expiration date that is much closer than anyone would guess: planned obsolescence on steroids.
  • New is a larger category that includes both what didn’t exist before, and what existed before but is presented under a new light. Lots of questions here.
  • Next implies a series of happenings in which every future occurrence only makes…


Setting the wrong goals will tighten up and tangle your problem.

Setting goals is easier than achieving them: saying something versus acting upon it.

Easier said than done is how popular wisdom points at the gap between theory and practice, intention and accomplishment. What separates your goals from bringing them to fruition is the simple fact that the world resists mental models by default: reality always pushes back, it resists what makes so much sense in your head.

A goal is a journey, not a destination. …


Mapmaking is about deciding which information to keep and which to ignore.

Every map viewer is an explorer.

We map territories and journeys and organizations and processes not because we know them well, but because we want to discover in them what we don’t know yet.

  • A map represents a reality objectively and subjectively.
  • A map is a space of relationships that the viewer (user) has to activate; without a viewer, a map has no value.
  • A map doesn’t influence the viewer to follow a given path: it just shows the possibilities.

There are maps that represent a reality with precision — a natural landscape, a network of highways, the city blocks…


Designers combine thought and action and are fluent in moving between opposite poles.

In studio, teachers are learners and learners, teachers.

Learning design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens around interactions that can’t be planned in advance because they respond to the work being discussed.

You can learn to be a designer in different ways: structured and unstructured, expected and unexpected, formal or informal. I believe that studio learning is the foundation of building the general capacity to understand our current challenges differently.

  • The studio is a creative space that supports any kind of work you want to do
  • It is a space that integrates learning on you own, and learning from…


Repairing is accepting the constraints at face value.

How do you decide when to repair and when to replace?

We find comfort in fixing what’s broken, completing what’s incomplete. Our mind pushes us to get right to work instead of asking too many questions. To consider the bigger picture is to risk getting lost; to connect the dots is to find a safe place where you know what you have to do.

Repairing is a beginning that accepts the rules of what already exists. It requires similar skills than building from scratch, but it also demands that you consider the preexisting condition.

Repairing is accepting the constraints at…


Every creative process has multiple results, not just one.

One of the basic lessons for aspiring designers is the principle of working in multiples: always produce a range of solutions for the same problem, rather than a single solution.

Years ago, in the first day of studio, I welcomed my sophomore industrial design students with a warm-up exercise: draw 100 chair designs, in the same big sheet of paper, in 2 minutes. It was an impossible task and they complained that it couldn’t be done. …


A tool is the no-frills version of a superpower.

In today’s ethereal design vernacular, tools are charts and algorithms and dashboards that you can see but not touch. But because I knew the world before emails and tweets, when I hear tool, my first thought is always hand tool.

The word brings to mind the image of a dignified object with weight, character, functionality, and the beauty that comes from knowing that its purpose and the way it is used are one and the same thing.

Marshall McLuhan, who sketched the intricacies of media theory before anybody else, claimed that tools are extensions of our body that allow us…

Enrique Martínez

Devil’s Advocate in Chief. To exist is to resist. Bringing a creative perspective to leadership. Design is a life skill. Drawing in black and white.

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