I'm now at the end of my second week as a d.school fellow and here are some raw insights.
1. You know how Stanford is often thought of as this incredibly elite and rarefied place? Well, maybe it is – but the people here at the d.school are incredibly warm, down-to-earth and generous. (I know, it kinda' hurts even more.)
2. It's hard to get a horse to follow you. We spent an afternoon at the Stanford Red Barn and experienced their equine leadership program. As a Midwesterner, the smell of tack, hay and manure immediately made me happy. But interacting with the horses to explore our leadership skills was not so easy. Takeaway: Don't over-think strategy when trying to relate with something that lives and breathes – equine or human. Connect authentically and go from there.
3. Bob Sutton is not an asshole. The Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Department of Engineering here at Stanford (and author of "The No Asshole Rule" and "Scaling Up Excellence") hung out with us for over an hour asking genuinely interested questions about each of our projects, while sharing some amusing stories including one involving a garage door and cancer screening that won't be repeated here.
4. Design thinking. I went through the design thinking process under the leadership of amazing Professor of Organizational Behavior Sarah Soule during the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship (EPSE) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I'm excited to jump back in. Former Fellow and co-founder of FEED CollaborativeMatt Rothe dropped by to share his personal experience and open our minds to unexpected possibilities. Two terms that leapt to the forefront: emergent leadership (think: school of fish) and divergent thinking (many solutions to a problem). My sketch of those things as I see them now is above.
I'm sure my understanding will evolve with time, but it's a little bit like embracing what we had to remind our parents of as small children: "I'm the boss of me." Only we have to be really good at sharing and listening to others.
The part I like best so far? The spirit of fun and collaboration. Each of us in our fellows cohort has worked very hard to build organizations that we lead. As rewarding as that is, it can also be isolating. But here no one leads alone and we're all open to new ways of thinking.
I'm happy to be one of the fish.