Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Design Thinking and the I.F.

If you're just hearing this phrase "design thinking," you may actually be familiar with it in a different form, like the engineering or inquiry cycles. It's been around for decades but has more recently made its way into education. If you want a relatively quick hit or refresher, watch this Nightline video demonstrating how the team at IDEO used design thinking in a one-week challenge to re-imagine a shopping cart:



I've been intrigued with design thinking since January when I had the chance to spend a morning at Steelcase. Since then I've read four or five books and countless articles, and picked the brains of some really interesting people who use it in their work. I participated in a 90-minute crash course with some of our teachers in June, and recently spent three days at the Henry Ford Learning Institute with other intrigued educators from across the globe. However, I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface.

Many thoughts from the HFLI experience continue to percolate in my mind. However, one keeps bubbling up: the natural alignment between design thinking and our Instructional Framework. I went back and re-read my first blog post, "Intentional-Collaborative-Reflective", and was struck by how much that lens aligns with my design thinking  experiences.

The shopping cart video is a great example of the premise that while the design thinking process is self-described by IDEO as "focused chaos," all of the stages or phases (empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, feedback, and reflection) are deeply intentional. It may be best summarized by the use of their phrase "one conversation at a time." All ideas, even the wild ones, are valued. The team is also very intentional in regard to trust. Through that trust, each team member feels able to ask or pose questions, embrace risk, and learn with and from each other.

Collaboration supports the foundation of design thinking. Each team member is equal even though members possess different job titles and outside responsibilities. Everyone engages in the hard work together, and there is the underlying belief that teamwork "beats the lone genius every time." The collaborative effort makes the hard work fun and deepens both individual and collective learning.

Finally, design thinkers must be reflective. There are iterative cycles of feedback with the user, to see what worked, what needs improving, questions, and "aha" ideas. After that comes a reflection on the entire experience -- reviewing all phases, identifying new insights, and processing learning. Of course, in the world of the design thinker, just like the teacher, the reflections feed forward and drive professional growth.

If you're curious about design thinking and want to learn more, Stanford's d.school has some excellent K-12 resources, including a downloadable Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit. If you're in the market for a broader view, a good place to start is Tim Brown's book Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.

Join the conversation...
Please share your thoughts. For example, if you're new to design thinking, what intrigues you or what questions do you have? If you have some experience with it, what insights might you offer?


3 comments:

  1. To me it is so interesting that the IDEO/Nightline video is from 1999. I wonder what happened to the shopping cart idea and is IDEO still in operation? Their model of design thinking has obviously survived and become the recognized gold standard for innovation and learning - but are there lessons to learn about their failures also? It's seems good to look back.

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    1. Glenn, thanks for sharing your thinking. IDEO is still going strong, and still a leader in DT. And, I think David Kelly would tell you that they learn more from failure. Another good read is Tom Kelly's book (David's brother and partner), "The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm."

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  2. 20 years ago, we taught students interdisciplinary units with authentic assessments. What IDEO and others who believe in the Design Thinking do is study the problem deeply, from all angles, and determine what their consumer wants out of the project. In the end, a finished project (many prototypes along the way) is only "good" if the end consumer agrees. Perhaps a design cycle for our students AND communication systems (human ecology) to include into PLC work.

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