There is a popular notion that a person must invest 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in a field or a practice. The original idea stems from psychological research by Anders Ericsson. It’s a call for years of dedication to one’s craft. But we should also consider how we become capable, how we add a new ability to our practice. I’ve discovered the mark to hit for this accomplishment: The 100-hour knack.Read More
I have been trying to wrap my head around vulnerability recently. Yes, I finished reading Brené Brown's "Daring Greatly". No, I am not the first person to do so or to be taken with the concept of vulnerability as a powerful force in our everyday lives. I am now hunting for people with whom I can speak about the topic. I am also observing people as they write, share (or don't) and why. I am also keenly aware of what they write and why they choose to take the approaches that they do.Read More
If you want to automate your home today, chances are you have to change something major about it. It may mean switching out a thermostat or replacing a light switch. There’s no getting around fumbling with wires, a screwdriver, and hoping not to get electrocuted. So, how are people supposed to try out home automation when it’s so hard just to get started? We created Switchmate to solve this problem, launching it as part of d.school’s fifth Launchpad class. Our device snaps right over a light switch and lets you control it from your phone in seconds without rewiring.Read More
It’s over. In fact, it has been over for a while. I just needed some time to recover.
The class, in all, was a wonderful prototype — an attempt to have a group of people from multiple disciplines consider the entirety of the news ecosystem, ascertain a challenge worth tackling and wrestle with deeply-held assumptions.Read More
I am exhausted.
The idea of writing this post is terrifying (nothing good can come of this level of fatigue), yet here I am. Before I launch into our third class, I wanted to take a moment to remember media critic and award-winning journalist David Carr. I was incredibly inspired by David's work -- especially this posting of a class curriculum on Medium. Aside from being a marvelous reading list, it hit me between the eyes as the future of what learning could and should be -- shared.
In that spirit, I'll continue.Read More
I want to write more. I do.
But the thing is... writing is f#$%ing hard.
But, as I sit here with knots in my stomach trying to tie up my first blog post on the whiteboard, I'm realizing that writing isn't actually the hard part. In fact not only is it not hard, it's kind of easy. 'Kind of enjoyable.
Actually, I kind of love writing.Read More
Update: The Kickstarter is underway for this project. You can learn more about Girls Driving for A Difference and show your support through March 26, 2015.
The more time I spend practicing design thinking in the d.school, the more inspired I feel to share the methodology with others and take creative leaps in my own educational experience.Read More
I have yet to meet a brainstorm I don't like, assuming the basic rules are obeyed. Those rules are pretty simple:
- There is no such thing as a bad idea.
- Get as many ideas out there as you possibly can.
- Build on others' ideas.
- Don't force the energy -- when it starts to subside let the flare go.
Late last month, I was a facilitator for the Global Shapers of Palo Alto's Shaping Davos event here at the d.school. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a member of the group's leadership team this year, actively recruiting members to a community I have been a part of for the past three years. The Global Shapers are an initiative of The World Economic Forum, which, last month, hosted its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The Shapers' initiative is an opportunity for young leaders to formulate self-directed communities, leveraging their skills to improve the state of the world.Read More
There's a big difference between the way teams collaborate when they’re in a facilitated design workshop and when they’re left to their own devices.
In many instances the difference is clear, and there are observable behaviors that illustrate it: Is the team seated or standing? Are all teammates actively participating? Is there more action or talk of taking action? Are teammates rushing around or lallygagging?Read More
I am currently in the middle of writing another, longer piece (well, two really), but I was reminded of something I often forget in design work: introduce fun constraints during brainstorming.
Often, we think of constraints in negative terms. They are limits or boundaries that introduce an opportunity for judgment and correction. But constraints can be really fun and spark ideas your mind may not otherwise settle on. I even wrote about one this week centered around a famous fast-food chain.Read More
A workshop was held at the d.school just before students left for the holidays. Aptly called "d.compress", it offered students an opportunity to retreat from the stresses and pressures of the fall-quarter finals period.
The event was organized by d.school Course Production Lead and Stanford alumna Tania Anaissie and Stanford alumna, designer and entrepreneur Olivia Vagelos. Invitations were sent out to the d.school community with a sign-up sheet. The event was geared primarily towards students and, as the weather turned rainy, came with the offer of hot chocolate and cookies.
Curious, I signed up.
We gathered in the media production studio (nicknamed "Studio 4") on the second floor of the d.school. The room is small, cramped and generally locked. But Olivia and Tania transformed the space into a lounge. There was soft lighting, music and, yes, hot chocolate and cookies.
The participants came from a variety of educational ranks — everyone from undergraduates, to graduate students and fellows.
The group was large but still fit the space. Olivia and Tania took us through a getting-to-know-you game called "Party, Park, Jail." The exercise was meant to help students get to know one another, open themselves up more so than they otherwise would and acknowledge who and where they were in that particular moment in time.
We were then asked a series of questions, such as:
- What do you spend a lot of time doing?
- What are you good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
Then, based on the answers, we filled in a map -- the skill print. We were given a scaffold in the form of a 2-dimensional topography. Peaks represented emerging skills. Valleys represented the skills you felt more confident in. Peaks were represented by one color, valleys by another. You could add extra growth patterns to show steeper inclines and declines. You could shade in the levels differently, with darker shading representing steeper gradients.
Fault lines represented points of great tension or conflict. Rivers were meant to show what helped to refresh or replenish you.
If the skill print sounds familiar, that may be because you’ve encountered it as one of the four prompts from design work conducted at the d.school. This body of work has come to be known as Stanford 2025. The work was done to explore the future of living and learning at Stanford. The skill print — an idea that emerged as a potential replacement for the transcript — emerged from that.
This isn’t the skill print, of course. That doesn't exist -- at least not yet. This is a prototype Olivia and Tania developed for the purposes of the d.compress exercise. Someone else may imagine it to look and feel differently — a finger-print, say, instead of a topographical map.
The goal was to create a tool for discovery rather than display. Olivia and Tania sought to answer this question: How might you get people to surprise themselves, find new connections and make new meaning out of what they have.
“We wanted this exercise to be a chance for students to reflect on skill sets they’ve developed up to this point and also an opportunity for students to gain clarity around what skills they want to further develop moving forward," said Tania via e-mail. "We hoped this would help them plan their next quarter and remainder of time at Stanford with intent.”
The 23-year old designers and former classmates toyed with a string map before settling on a topographical one. They also decided to give everyone the same starting map (above). The goal was to have a static representation of a dynamic system with the finished product being a snapshot of an individual’s experience.
In terms of the map itself. There was some debate as to whether the map should be two dimensions or three. They settled on a two-dimensional map representing three dimensions.
Olivia was excited by the idea of a physical, 3-dimensional map with fully-realized peaks, valleys and fault lines. But she recognized that raising the resolution of the map introduced a tension. On the one hand, a higher-resolution map could give someone greater creative agency and grow their creative confidence. Then again, it could also leave someone feeling disappointed if they failed to have their grand vision well-articulated.
That said, Olivia and Tania were surprised at how inclined participants were to be visual and less verbal on their maps. The team expected people to write more, instead they drew more. The duo was surprised by how easy it seemed to be for participants to fill in the fault lines.
"Usually it is difficult for people to admit and articulate weaknesses and insecurities," said Olivia, "I think there was something in the framing of it instead as "tension" that was important."
When asked what they would change, Olivia turned to the map’s peaks and valleys. “There were so many valid ways to interpret this metaphor," she said, "but then you also have to pick at some point.”
There was also the question of how detailed of an example they should give. “We would have liked to give them a more specific example of a peak and a valley that was more story-based and narrative-based."
If you are interested in conducting a similar exercise with your students, community or organization. Here’s Olivia’s recommendation: “Push yourself to make meaning out of the opportunities of the metaphor. ... Give yourself the opportunity to go there.”
Also, don’t feel constrained by the tool provided here. "This is just a baseline,” said Olivia. "My goal is to always try to surprise yourself and let yourself go down the rabbit hole a little bit. ... Don’t just stay on the surface."
I hide my clutter. I push it under rugs and stuff it in drawers. This clearly has its disadvantages. So, recently, I have tried to cut into my clutter piles by getting rid of the things I don't need. I have also been challenging myself to part with items I think are essential. When it comes to ideas, I operate in a very similar fashion. I tend to store my ideas in my head. I stuff them under rugs and in closets, expecting them to stay put and ready for me to retrieve them. But ideas are not like coats and tote bags. They have a habit of disappearing when you need them most.Read More
Two of the d.school fellows -- David Clifford and Jae Rhim Lee -- are launching their design sprints today at the d.school. This means that both fellows will start working with their design teams on key aspects of their projects. The design teams are made up of the remaining fellows split into teams of two -- one for David, the other for Jae Rhim. Jae Rhim is an artist and researcher. Her project centers around death-care, particularly how to improve the ways individuals address, process and otherwise prepare for dying and death. We'll have more on her project here in the coming days and weeks.Read More
What is a design sprint?
If you're a d.school fellow, it's a way to launch your project into a new phase. Starting in January, fellows will ramp up their work by incorporating their fellow fellows into their projects. Each fellow will synthesize the work they've done so far, develop a schedule and lead their colleagues through a sprint they design.Read More
It's finals week here at Stanford, so things are pretty quiet at the d.school. The silence, however, does not indicate the absence of activity. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that things are just as active as they were during the height of the quarter. The difference: We're in planning mode. Next quarter, we'll be introducing experience assistants to the team-teaching model at the d.school. Think teaching assistants, except rather than assist with the teaching of the class, they are focused on student experience. What warm-ups should be used, how should the flow of the class go, when and how should the teaching team collect and administer feedback? Ultimately, of course, the experience of the experience assistant will be determined by the dynamic of the teaching team they join, the class topic and, of course, the students.Read More
This was a particularly rough series of weeks in the lead-up to and through Thanksgiving break. These were weeks for exams, presentations, rescheduling all of the meetings and phone conversations that were put off for one reason or another. These were weeks packed with experiences.
They were not, unfortunately, a period for reflection.
Well, let me revise that: It was more challenging than usual to make time for reflection.Read More
There are more productivity applications out in the world than I would ever care to count.
The search for the right combination of applications has been particularly informative over the past few months as I explore the capture of design processes here at the d.school. While the exploration has been an interesting one from which I have been able to reap personal benefits, I'm still struggling to find a single application or process that others will readily use in an active team environment.
As I write this, I am sitting in a meeting with our teaching fellows, Ashish Goel, Alissa Murphy and Erik Olesund and our media curriculum designer, Seamus Harte. The purpose of the meeting: to begin gathering all of the artifacts and insights from this year's bootcamp class.Read More
I promised, at the beginning of the school year, that I would write one sticky note a day and share it. I modified my process slightly, deciding to share each note over Twitter with the hashtag #DailyNote.
It has been a little over two months since I started (Sept. 3), and when I started I mentioned that I would likely fall off of the wagon with the intention of getting back on as soon as I could. I have not merely fallen off the wagon, I have jumped off and, it seems, run in the opposite direction. Of the two months, I have missed 33 days of notes.Read More
I'm smack in the middle of process - or, at least, I think I am. It's hard to tell sometimes. This past week, I was able to find a little clarity and a few, fascinating insights.
Co-creation expert and INITIATIVES co-founder and partner Stine Degnegaard visited the d.school this week. Stine, like Aaron Huey, is a Global Ambassador for the d.school fellows program. She is also a PhD Fellow at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design.
Now, if you remember last year’s fellows, you know this isn’t the first time Stine has been to the d.school. She spent days working with last year's cohort to help them bring clarity to their projects through the process of co-creation.Read More
One of many challenges in teaching design thinking can be finding ways to make the methods relevant to students' everyday lives. It's one thing to design an object or experience for a partner you may have just met, it's another to apply the process to a project with which you are intimately familiar.
In a previous post, I mentioned that Justin Ferrell (our director of fellowships), Ashish Goel (d.school teaching fellow) and I put together a worksheet for professional fellows at Stanford, including the Knight, Biodesign, CERC and d.school fellows. For many of the fellows, the workshop we conducted served as an introduction to design thinking. But, based on previous experience, Justin realized that the engagement needed to be more than just a simple introductory design project or bootcamp. It had to be designed, if you will, for the attendees -- a group of professionals who, in many cases, had uprooted their lives to come to Stanford, learn a variety of new skills and methods and bring that learning back to their professional organizations.Read More