“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is the beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of two Cities” from 1859. This masterpiece came out in the same year as the philosophical reflection “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill which had such a profound impact on the further development of society. Where Mill describes a vision for a prosperous humanistic social development based on the individual. Dickens focuses on the problem that where many see opportunities, others only find risks. In such a perspective, the degree of well-being is very unequally distributed. Because when fear is the driving force, you like to turn your back on the future and all too often look back to the colourable security of nostalgia. An ambition that all too often tends to end up in one of history’s darkest rooms.
Charles Dickens’ beginning of “A Tale of Two Cities” is truly a timeless masterpiece, and could be a reflection from our own time:
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way—
in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
All this in a world where all research shows that the world’s population is generally getting better and better. And that development has really taken significant leaps forward. At the same time, there are those who want to push technology, environmental, social and other development forward at an ever-faster speed without putting people at the heart of the development. The author Karl Kullberg describes the same phenomenon from his 19th century perspective with the following words in his travelogue from Europe in 1842 (the book is only available in Swedish):
The general spirit of societal fermentation, which is undergoing Europe at this moment, increasingly is gaining air, for it is in the nature of things that the aspirations of an entire zeitgeist should be opposed either by those who are in the gateway and cry out for the rottenness of time, nor by those “third parties”, these amphibians, who want all and cannot do anything.
Dickens, Mill and Kullberg identified these problems in a progressive transformation and also found the starting point for the solution. Today, this management method is called Design Thinking. More about this method can be read in the book “Learning Design in Practice for Everybody“.