I’m taking a course called Design Thinking Bootcamp at the d.school this quarter. The goal of the course appears to be as follows: stuff human-centered design into students' brains through experiential projects. My brain loves it.
I spent the first segment of the class in a 7th-heaven of process. The steps were laid out in a nice, neat line: Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
Oh man, do I love starting with “empathy”. It actually means I get to go talk to people about what they think and what they need deep down on the inside. In fact, I loved it so much that I kept coming back to interviews and great conversations on the street corner throughout the entire process. Our users were homeless people and drug dealers.
Wow, I thought, here I am listening to a lot of stories I would never have been able to hear otherwise.
Then, it was time to define. We took the viewpoints from our interviews and created a point of view, or a detailed description of the person we were trying to help, the need they were facing, and what we thought was a surprising insight. Once we had those pinned down, we jumped into ideation.
Fantastic, I thought, time for advanced-kindergarten post-it-note flurries and impassioned conversations!
What are the bazillion ways we could solve the problem or meet the need? Can we make a spaceship with just the materials found in the d.school? Who cares? Stick it up there! Would the addicts talk to us if we set up coffee stations and gave them stickers? Don’t think about it! Write it down!
Prototyping and testing were straightforward. Pick an idea, but don’t get attached to it. We made a ridiculous prototype and took it out into the real world. We received mixed results, but we learned some things and so did our users. We went through a four-hour video-editing marathon and made a short, mediocre movie.
Let's flash forward to our next assignment.
The Bootcamp teaching team pulled the rug out from under me. In a Yoda-meets-the Oracle from The Matrix moment, they announced that the process I’ve been falling in love with could be completely reshuffled and still work.
Sure, whatever, I thought.
I shuffled up my process cards and drew our team’s new order.
Prototype, Define, Ideate, Test…Empathy?
I came here from the software start-up world, and this process is how most of the companies I’ve seen not only die but hasten their demise. They come up with an idea, try to think of someone who would want it. Then they add a whole bunch of bells and whistles and eventually go out and ask people if they want it. They use that weighted opinion to justify the year and the $1.5 million it took to get to that conversation. Classic.
Sitting on my little stool up in Studio 2, I felt physically uncomfortable. I wanted my process back. I made snarky comments to the teaching team. I moped for like ten minutes. Then I realized I was being a jerk and that I’m here to learn. My teammates were awesome and pointed out that we might not come up with the final solution while pioneering this new process, but that it could teach us some things.
I know this is not a flattering blog post, but this is where I am: I miss my old process, and it hurts. I’m trying to learn things from a scrambled design process. It makes me uncomfortable, angry — and better at design. Grmph.