Jonah Houston, Senior Portfolio Lead, Mobility, IDEO – Interview by Hong Kong Design Centre


When you were a kid, did you ever play games that involved building an imaginary city? Maybe you envisioned a world where people could be picked up anywhere and at anytime, and traffic would no longer exist, since every action would be timed with synchronized signals.


When we talk about the future of mobility, these make-believe scenarios seem to be turning into reality. Jonah Houston of IDEO comments, “The rise of the sharing economy, combined with groundbreaking technological achievements in the autonomous vehicle space, for example, have brought us to a pivotal moment in evolving not only the physical vehicles of tomorrow, but also the systems, cities, and experiences that will redefine people’s everyday journeys.”


While other speakers like Rama Gheerawo and Takeshi Go at Mobility Forum of KODW 2017 emphasised the weight of experience, Jonah suggested designing journeys, not routes. “Journeys move beyond the pragmatic and account for a broader set of desires than just getting to work on time,” says Jonah. Practically, this might mean designing travel experiences that foster social engagement, give passengers ownership over their experience, or more deeply connect people. This is the beauty of involving all stakeholders — passengers, drivers, corporations, policy-makers, designers, engineers, and beyond — to shape the system.


On and off the stage, Jonah continued to share his views on this year’s KODW theme. “Inclusive design is especially important when it comes to mobility today. By building mobility services and systems that are accessible to all citizens, we can enrich people’s lives and empower them to reach significant new social and economic opportunities.” This ultimately helps drive impact at a personal level and at scale. Inclusive design is an integrated approach to designing for mobility and all aspects of future urban development.


IDEO is a global design company committed to creating positive impact across industries, including health, technology, education, and food and beverage. In his 17 years at IDEO, Jonah has enjoyed partnering with organizations to tackle complex mobility challenges, as well as helping them find purpose, cultivate creative cultures, foster collaboration, and even mobilise their teams to drive movements for change.


The time is always right to ask questions about how we can improve the world around us, but the ability to ask the right questions through design-oriented methods is what distinguishes creative leaders from others. Are you ready to create an impact in your group/society?


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