Justin Cook

Justin Cook
Senior Lead, Strategy

Justin Cook is the senior lead for strategy at the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra. His current work includes research and projects in support of Sitra’s sustainable well-being societal transformation activities.

Previously, he cofounded Helsinki Design Lab which brought strategic design into government. Cook is on faculty at Rhode Island School of Design and a Provost Fellow. He advises researchers at MIT and Harvard University on using design as a transformative capacity.

Recently, he joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation as an advisor on systems change for government. Cook earned degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the University of Washington.

Design for an Age of Complexity and Systems Change

Complexity and uncertainty are now the norm. They are contexts—not just risks. The world seems to operate by a new set of rules that are difficult to observe directly. The defense and intelligence communities have called this the VUCA world, which originally described the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity left behind by the end of the ordering function provided by the Cold War.

Today, digitalization, globalization, the rise of non-state actors and other factors have accelerated the rise of VUCA in every domain. Justin Cook asks, “How do we account for uncertainty while managing greater complexity and still deliver effective services, develop meaningful products and foster resilient communities? It is within this complexity gap (the disconnect between institutional/organizational capacity and the problems they face) that systems thinking and other systems approaches such as design show promise, but also face new risks?”