Getting Accustomed to Uncertainty

Interview with Hlín Guðlaugsdóttir

“The world needs more imagination, we need to harness its power and speculation encouraging creative thinking.”

Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir is an independent designer, curator and a consultant to companies on design thinking, innovation and creative leadership, most recently at the Nordic management consulting firm Capacent. Hlín has been involved in education and research at universities around the world since 2009, through her posts at the MFA in Experience Design at Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm and the MA in Design at the Iceland University of the Arts. She has been a guest teacher and associate faculty at Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship since 2010 and has designed and led numerous studios globally within this capacity at Parsons The New School, New York, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, the University of Iceland, Reykjavik University and others. Hlin is also a fellow at the think tank W.I.R.E and curates various exhibitions and events locally and globally.

Name: Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir
Title: SSES Teacher, designer, curator and a consultant

How did you first enter the SSES universe? When and why?
It was shortly after I started teaching at Konstfack. I came to Stockholm in 2010 to teach at the Masters Program of Experience Design with the late Professor Ronald Jones, my dear colleague and friend – and with him I entered the SSES universe. Pretty soon I took on the Future Thinking course and started contributing to various bootcamps around the world. I was based in Stockholm for five years and was always somehow attached to SSES during that time. The relationship has since then been kind of ongoing, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the situation.

What do you think the connection between speculative futures and entrepreneurship is, why is it such a good method?
I think that the main reason is that the world needs more imagination, we need to harness its power and speculation encourages creative thinking. Thankfully, people are more and more aware of the fact that everything one does has consequences and it’s relevant to train yourself to prototype, visualise and give form to potential futures. This gives one a deeper sense of how you need to act today to create the future you want. To me, speculation is actually more about the present than it is about the future, it’s about curiosity, and bravery. Getting accustomed to uncertainty, which then again is the only thing we know about the future, it’s going to be uncertain.

Which SSES Bootcamps have you been a part of?
I was part of the faculty for the India Bootcamps on The Future of Death and on The Future of Authenticity and the one in New York on The Future of Mobility. I also taught at one point in Hongkong, Iceland and now in Singapore. Bootcamps are my thing, I like the energy that surfaces under these conditions.

Do you always use the same methodology at all the Bootcamps you have been a part of?
Yes and no, there is a red thread but as you evolve professionally your methods evolve, and there’s always the quest of making them better. Since the beginning it has been the same basic logic, but it has been evolving as we and SSES evolve.

What about diversity in the classroom, is it important?
Yes, and diverse in all the meanings of the word. It’s the best kind of classroom you can get. Actually it turns into something else than a classroom at that point, something more, something more magical I feel. There is this really interesting, fruitful and sometimes difficult tension between different disciplinary backgrounds or upbringings that can really bring about something new. It’s a good experience to go through, that we are not all the same, we don’t all think the same and the richness in that fact. But I also think that these boundaries are evaporating, many of us are many things, wear many hats. It’s also more fun that way – and necessary. The challenges humanity is facing demand that we have richer conversations, we need to collaborate, co-create our ways forward.

What’s your fondest memory with SSES?
There’s this moment when you literally see in someone’s eyes that their world has changed. That the world has gotten a new flavor somehow. Luckily I have experienced that on several occasions and I think that’s why I’m in the teaching business. That’s what SSES has allowed more than any other institution. It might be because of the mixed groups and that the context pushes you a bit further than usual. The line between learning and teaching gets blurred, it’s a setting that helps this kind of discovery, which often is a discovery about yourself.

What is your hope for the future of SSES?
I really hope that we can continue to bring people together, across disciplines and across cultures. Also, that we will keep on tackling meaningful real-life challenges, and while doing that expanding the realm of imagination, creativity and entrepreneurship. I hope it will continue to dare to sometimes be an experimental platform and push for experiential learning.