Disruptive Design – Leyla Acaroglu

Meet Leyla Acaroglu. Founder of the UnSchool of Disruptive Design, she is a sustainability provocateur and TED Talks presenter with over one million views. Leyla is also a UN Environmental Champion of the Earth. We asked her a few questions about her inspiration and ideas. This is her entrepreneurial story.

Was there a catalyst which projected you into the disruptive design space?

I had spent years exploring the ways in which design can be used as a catalyst for positive social change and through my creative productions, professional work and then my PhD I dove deep into all the theories, opportunities, issues and potential that the creative industries have to help design a future that works better for all of us. So I developed a methodology set that drew on much established academic and professional literature, and synthesized a three-step process of applying this in the real world through the Disruptive Design Method of Mining, Landscaping and Building. Over the years I have worked with many people, from CEOs to governments and school teachers – many people deflect the responsibility for solving problems to other people and I wanted to tackle this by re-framing the way we see problems and helping people get excited about their own potential to go for substance over surface, love programs and build positively disruptive change.

What drives you the most?

An undying passion to see the world work better for all of us. At some point in my life, a pilot light was lit for participating in positive change and helping to find the ways we can live prosperously, sustainably and respectfully on this incredible planet we are all beneficiaries of. I really can’t explain it any other way than I have an agenda to make a positive impact in my life that picked me and I can’t get rid of it (no matter how hard I try sometimes)! There are many downsides to being a social entrepreneur but the positive change outweighs all of the extra stressors that being an entrepreneur can bring.

How do you see the future of education?

Education is the most significant innovation humans have and it is in flux constantly. Right now we are at a tipping point with the rise of technology and its critical that we find ways of liberating learning and knowledge sharing. I think that the rise of peer-to-peer needs-based learning will be immensely positive, where knowledge is shared one-on-one or in small groups in a needs-based way, this fosters peer mentoring and rapidly enables access to information. The only issue is validity and variation. The internet has made it easy for anyone to claim they are an expert or authority of a topic even if they are clearly not! Making sure we still have checks and balances for peer-review is going to be important. In my school (The UnSchool of Disruptive Design) our approach to knowledge sharing is all based on embedded experiences. Every experience we have is an opportunity to learn, our brains respond to the world around us, so we curate experiences that facilitate rapid knowledge transference and hopefully it triggers an intrinsic change in our participants. We experiment with different approaches to pedagogy and the people who come to the UnSchool are hungry for practical tools and knowledge that will help them achieve their purpose-driven career and personal life goals, which I think traditional education really falls short on.

What are your top three tips for changing thinking processes to create innovation?

  1. We are all products of the reductive thinking paradigm that has dominated our linear industrialized economy so we need to gain mastery over our own thinking practices and build a more robust, three-dimensional perspective of how the world works.
  2. Systems thinking is critical to this, as is creativity and reflexivity.
  3. On a practical level this means busting cognitive biases and questioning what we think we know but also thinking in and around things we encounter or believe to be true. I just released a class on Busting Bias based on research I did into gender equity and it looks at cognitive tools to do this. (online.unschools.co)

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