I’m taking a course at Georgetown University that includes a module on Design Thinking. It’s a process that innovators in every industry use (including art, literature, community building, business, and technology) in order to design better processes, products or systems that fit the needs of their community members and consumers. I was struck when our very talented instructor, Maya Bernstein, invited us to apply that way of thinking to us as individuals. It was a “Design Me” exercise.
The exercise had 4 simple steps:
Step 1: Immerse – ask questions that get to the core of the issue you are facing.
Step 2: Frame – consider what you want to feel, know and be able to do as a result of a suitable solution to the issue you face.
Step 3: Imagine or Reframe – imagine different solutions that could possibly address the issue at hand.
Step 4: Prototype – try out a couple of the solutions you came up with and see what works best.
With many of us finding ourselves “back to where we started” with Omicron and feeling helpless in the face of our plans that are always changing, design thinking, and going through a process of “Design Me” or as I did, “Design my kids” can provide a sense of agency that is refreshing.
One of my kids is having a hard time at school and we went through this process together. The immerse stage is the first step. It’s the stage where you ask open questions. I asked her, “What is something you like about school?” “What is hard for you?” “When did you feel like you really learned something?” “What gets in your way?”
I then went to the framing stage. I started out with what I wanted for her. I want her to feel better at school, I want her to know that she is a good learner and just might need some adjustments to how she learns, and I want her to behave in a way where she can advocate for the kind of learning she needs.
Then comes the fun part – imagining the possibilities that await her! It’s so different from the feeling of being stuck that so many of us feel when we go around and around in our minds about an issue. “Let’s imagine we could have a learning environment that is only with your friends!” I told her. “Let’s imagine you had lots of time and attention one on one so that you really understood the material being taught!”
And then comes prototyping or trying out some of the suggestions that surfaced during the imagine stage. We came up with a few good practical applications and are still tweaking them. She’s spending more time reviewing her work and making flashcards to help her commit concepts to memory. She’s depending on her friends to help her too.
This was a rapid design process but one that shifted the needle a bit – moving her (and me) from feeling the weight of being stuck to the air of possibility.
I am grateful for that learning and while you might have some time over winter break, I invite you to try it out for yourself or together with someone you love!
Blessings for the journey,
Ps. Here is a quick 90 minute video about Design Thinking.