The Great News is You Can!

Last minute enquiries for all of our workshops are keeping us really busy.

Today we are thinking about the future of New Zealand. I make no apology for such a big statement, as this is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Everyday I find many reasons to question my habits and behaviours, in light of the changes we know we need to make to secure a better future. None of us are exempt.

The heightened anxiety, obvious in society, reflects our feelings of individual helplessness and the temptation for all of us is to believe that we can’t make a difference. The great news is you can!


The Britten Institute invites you to attend a workshop that offers a way of designing systems, services and products that will meet tomorrow’s needs. We do not offer solutions, but we do offer a guiding framework with the questions you need to ask of yourself and of others. The workshop format offers fun and engagement with others and is intended to empower rather than predict doom and gloom. We believe that New Zealand can become a global voice for a positive new future. A future where business and society work together, not against one another, to create wealth, to look after our environment, and to care for all of our citizens.

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Society

As ordinary citizens, we have a habit of leaving it to science to make decisions which might impact significantly on our future. We throw up our hands and say, ‘science will sort this out’. In so doing, we successfully distance ourselves from any responsibility, calling foul when we feel we have been misrepresented. The question for us is; how might the public interact with science? 

On the other hand, the time has come for science to create relationships with the public sector. The initiative cannot be one sided, as without it science’s social license is likely to be denied. I recall a decade ago when a CRI was found to be experimenting with genetically modified corn, causing an uproar from which we have never fully recovered.

Citizens need to understand the time it takes to develop and test new ways of doing things, let alone the funding and support required. Science cannot satisfy the ‘instant fix’ mentality that is prevalent in our society, i.e. the reinstatement of our rivers and seashores. What we are pumping onto our land now will take many years to manifest, let alone improve.

It is a long trial and error process. We honor relatively small players slogging it out to offer us a better future, think Glen Herud of Happy Cow fame or Dugald Hamilton of Respond. These people, although not scientists, must be recognised as playing their part in creating a better land use future.

In my judging role with the New Zealand Hi Tech Awards, I am happy to see the growing representation of Agritech and was very excited to meet Executive Director, Peter Wren-Hilton, during the judging process. Hopefully this will help bridge the gap between scientists and society and acknowledge that we all need to pull together to create a better future.

The marvelous thing about our workshops is that we have a history of bringing professionals and citizens together to develop collective insight. Below we have some comments, from the science sector, about our workshop:

Craig Osbourne, Carme Ag Ltd

"The food-agricultural industry is facing potential disruption on an unprecedented scale. This requires us to rethink why people buy our products and to understand what attributes they truly value. The Britten Institute Design Thinking course is a brilliant introduction to the design process; practical, interesting and powerfully delivered by an experienced practitioner. I believe that it is crucial that our agribusiness sector is exposed to this thinking to help prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead."

Melissa Robson, Landcare  

“I am an environmental scientist and I spend my time grappling with complex and conflict- laden issues such as how to manage land and water to achieve social, cultural economic and environmental outcomes. This type of research demands an integrated research approach, within which both science thinking, multiple knowledge bases and systems thinking are important. What Dorenda’s design thinking workshop brought to my work (and has the potential to bring to a wider scientific audience) is to help build on the ‘what was’ and ‘what is’ of systems thinking, to include the ‘what could be’ – an essential element of tackling our most entrenched environmental issues.”

Carolyn Mander, Lincoln Research & Innovation

“A stimulating workshop! There is definitely a place for Design Thinking and 'The Britten Institute’s Design Principles' within the research science environment, particularly within science teams and in the development and execution of research programmes.”

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Hooray for Teachers

Just had a conversation with a secondary school teacher who has had a career in IT and management for some of the big-name companies in New Zealand. He is coming to the workshop and funding a Year 13 student to accompany him as he believes the student has huge potential. It’s fabulous to see these second career people being attracted into our education system.


I have some feedback for you today from another second career teacher, who attended one of our workshops earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it.


 “Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a workshop facilitated by Dorenda Britten, of the Britten Institute. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with somebody who has a real passion for embracing change and a set of design solution principles that help ensure that making the change can add value to your context.


As an educator, I find myself working in an environment that is in the midst of some radical, generational change and the design principles shared by Dorenda fit perfectly in an educational context, especially schools.


With the changes that are occurring in schools, particularly around curriculum redesign, we need to be approaching it with a fresh lens and the design principles outlined in the “Designing Solutions for the 21st Century” workshop, certainly provide a framework for us to use.


The workshop did a fabulous job of showing me that education is no different from any other industry, in that we should always be looking to improve and add value to our product and for our consumers. In our case our consumers are our students and our product is the curriculum we deliver.


The three hours spent with Dorenda were insightful, enjoyable and finished far too soon. I would encourage anybody who is looking to make changes and add value, to seek out Dorenda and the Britten Institute and discover the principles for “Designing Solutions for the 21st Century”



It’s time to hear from the accounting profession and a healthcare manager...

Sam Cherry – (CA) formally, Rightway Accounting:

“Really enjoyed the class, being a definite 'analytical' it was great to be challenged and to look at things from different perspectives. Also, great to see how analyticals & creatives can work together to get results. Highly recommend!”


Vickey Johnston – Quality manager at BUPA Aged Care:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop; it will be extremely helpful for me going forward when we look at changing the way we do things. Is the change necessary? Who will be affected? Who are the stakeholders? Is this what they want? Is it fit for purpose?”


Carla Martin – Accountant, Business Advisory Services, BDO Christchurch:

“As an accountant attending this design workshop, I was challenged to escape my own limiting mind-set, to approach problems creatively and to solve them innovatively.  I was encouraged to be empathetic, to be a part of the whole process and to value the unique perspective that I can bring.  These are the skills that set me apart from the technology that is taking over the Accounting profession and will make me a more useful advisor to our business customers.”

Image by Felicity Powell

Image by Felicity Powell

Hardcore Engineers Seeing the Light!

Over the years we have had the privilege of working with engineers and others from a variety of sectors. Engineers felt that they once had the power and the right to dominate nature. This generation are changing the narrative.


From Ben Exton, Structural Engineer:

“We are encouraging people into STEM subjects. It is important to recognise that STEM based organisations need to seek out their philosophical opposites. The STEM based approach to engineering has traditionally ignored its human and environmental impact. Our young engineers are making it clear that we must think more holistically about opportunity and effect.


Within our project teams, it is important to embrace cognitive diversity so that we can challenge each other to see new world views and improve the way things have always been done. The Britten Institute’s content provides a relatable framework for weaving in these new perspectives and has proven incredibly valuable in providing better project outcomes for the company, the community and the planet.”


A shy engineer from Aurecon reports:

“Dorenda is a natural public speaker and storyteller. She introduces Design Thinking for the 21st Century in an accessible and engaging way that leaves you wanting to develop more curiosity. Dorenda showed me that, as an engineer, I have an amazing opportunity to make a positive impact in the world and to work on things I can be truly proud of. By thinking like a designer, I can get a deeper and broader understanding of problems, which makes designing and engineering solutions all the more effective and satisfying.”


Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Why we need a framework for designing for the future.

I was chatting to Neil Hamilton, General Manager of Canterbury Tech a few days ago. We met to talk about our Designing Solutions for the 21st Century workshop that the Britten Institute is running around New Zealand for Techweek 2019.


We discussed the number of tech companies in New Zealand that engage in design thinking. There are those such as Xero, who have deployed the tools with spectacular success, and those at the beginning of the journey.  We mused about how design thinking interfaced with Techweek theme – Innovation that’s good for the world.


There are design thinking tools, readily available, that will help you define product development, sales journeys and customer profiles. However, there are deeper questions that must be asked and answered, if your organisation is to thrive in ever more demanding markets.


Our short workshop will introduce you to a framework for approaching the future.


Join us in your nearest centre – see the Techweek program.


Design Thinking can't improve bad thinking.

It was great to be part of a workshop whose presenter lives by the codes she teaches.


The Britten Institute presented their workshop recently at Engineers NZ to a wide-ranging group of participants. Facilitator Dorenda Britten emphasised that ‘design’ is about testing your assumptions, putting yourself at risk. As she pointed out, her own design thinking has evolved and changed over the years - nothing is static, context always changes.


The workshop challenged us - ranging from engineers to Japanese Embassy staff to a clarity consultant (me) - to think wider, deeper and more holistically when designing solutions; whether that is a widget, a course or a new building.


As she said, “we don’t need more stuff, we need better thinking.”


Dorenda presented us with multiple iterations of everyday household items and challenged us to ask why - why so many, what is the purpose, why have they bothered. All of these questioning angles changed our basic assumptions, made us think wider.


Which is where ‘Designing Solutions for the 21st Century’ unapologetically starts...with PURPOSE. For any new product or service, first and foremost we need to understand what value (for the end user) we are trying to achieve. By focusing on where the value is, for whom, we find what Dorenda describes as “demonstrable value”.


This was part of the outline of a (brilliantly simple) ‘The Decision Principle’ diagram and explanation as a key resource to take away from the workshop. (I won’t steal her thunder or IP by explaining it...get to it yourself).


“We need to know where, what you’re doing, fits into the future,” she says.


This was an illuminating three hours in which I learned a considerable amount, added to my understanding of design, (and of my own writing). And if you’re after a single takeaway it was this.


“Design thinking can’t be additive.”

Past Participant - Peter Kerr, PunchLine


Techweek 2019

The Britten Institute is excited to be involved in Techweek 19.

But why Techweek?

Pen, paper and the printing press were my world. Believe it, Biros were new and exciting when I was a student. When I sailed the Pacific in dirty old cargo ships, ship to shore radio was it.

New times, new tools, and what an amazing world we live in.

The Britten Institute is only interested in new ideas that have the potential to do good in the world. Technology makes the work possible.

As a HiTech Awards Judge, I have witnessed a gradually refocusing of entries towards entries with meaningful outcomes for society and the environment. We need more of it.

To quote Techweek’s strapline: Innovation That’s Good for the World.

Please join us in celebrating this amazing opportunity.