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.
They needed a bridge between a basic understanding of the process and the potential for its application in their work. So, what could such a custom introduction to design thinking look like?
Well, we gathered in Huddle Room 2 here at the d.school and started with a worksheet that had been used in a previous d.school fellows workshop. That worksheet, developed by d.school executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg, served as our starting point. From there, we began rapidly prototyping new questions and introducing new methods, having Justin run through his own personal experience as a way to test new elements. It was only fitting since Justin is an alumni of the Knight Fellowship program and designs programming for the d.school fellows.
Justin would give answers as we (mostly Ashish) peppered him with questions about those answers and his reaction to the exercise:
So, how would you answer this?
What if we asked you to do this? How would you feel?
Okay, why did you say that?
We tweaked the questions based on that testing, and continued through the sheet, writing new questions and answers as we went. While I may have decided to dive into the design of the sheet prematurely, it did help me realize how much more I wanted to do in terms of really re-designing the entire worksheet, modeling it after the original introductory exercises.
So, the following, is a walkthrough of the worksheet we created. This is a prototype, so if you decide to give it a go, please do send us your feedback. We hope to iterate on this for future classes, but wanted to share it now in the hopes of getting your feedback and, perhaps, providing a resource for others working to help introduce specific constituencies to design thinking beyond the basic process steps.
It should be noted that, prior to undertaking this exercise, we ran the fellows through various other beginner exercises. This worksheet came at the end of the day, after they had conducted empathy interviews around campus, engaged in two prototyping exercises and heard mini lectures on the key parts of the process.
We started with having the fellows map their journey over the past six months prior to their arrival at Stanfortd, reflecting on the high and low points. This part of the exercise provided an opportunity to write or draw those moments.
Fellows were given another opportunity to reflect -- this time on the year ahead. The goal was to give them an opportunity to think about their future work within the context of what they had learned about design thinking.
I am a particular fan of the "why ladder", an exercise where you identify a need in your life and then, by continuing to ask "why", are able to reach a more fundamental and perhaps even attainable need. Example: Let's say you need to fund your project. You could start on the why ladder by asking yourself, "Why do I need to fund my project?" An answer may be that you need to hire additional staff. Okay, why do you need do hire additional staff? You get the idea. The process can continue on for quite a while, though it's recommended you stop at about five whys, since things can get pretty existential after that.
We next asked fellows to explore their deeper needs, working with a partner (preferably from another cohort) to determine how those needs might be met. Each pair was to come up with three "how might we" statements. Looking back, this was probably the most difficult part of the exercise. It called on the fellows to take a pretty big leap from the need they walked in with to a need they didn't realize they had to a potential pathway to a solution. Perhaps zeroing in on one need instead of three may have provided more fruitful results. In walking around the room, I noticed some fellows had trouble filling in all three ladders and the subsequent needs. Not asking for three distinct needs in slide 2 likely contributed to this as well.
We called on the fellows, who were already working in pairs, to then team up with another pair. Now, in groups of four, they were called on to come up with six new ideas for each fellow in alignment with one "how might we statement". In retrospect, six may have been too many. Three might have been more manageable and fit better into the time constraint.
This, to me, was the critical step, moving the fellows towards a commitment to act. There is a last-mile issue here, however, in that there is no clear point of accountability after the fact.
All in all, the exercise went well, but there are definitely opportunities for iteration on this particular worksheet. But we'd love to know your thoughts? Have you tried to create a custom design thinking guide or worksheet. If so, let us know in the comments.