Archives For design for education


I was chatting with my colleague Suzanne recently and she told me about a friend of hers.

Adam is a creative soul. He’s well-read, plays music, cooks elaborate meals, and is highly engaged in arts and culture. He’s an engineer by training, and has worked in senior roles in multiple companies, but he’s frustrated that he hasn’t been able to find the space to be creative at work.

In his late 40s, Adam was musing about going back to get another Master’s degree. But with two kids on their way to college, the idea does not seem feasible financially.

I’ve met a lot of people like Adam who are craving new challenges and new ways of thinking and working. They’re lifelong learners, and they’re interested in amplifying their craft — whether they’re doctors, engineers, designers, researchers, filmmakers, architects. These are motivated leaders who want to stay nimble and sharp, and are finding ways to do it despite their busy schedules.

For this group, there are a number of different offerings. They can take business and design courses at places like General Assembly, or get retraining in technical programs like Udacity’s Nanodegrees. Khan Academy is great for anyone to learn just about anything – from art history to computer science to finance. And for a hit of inspiration, millions of people go to TED Talks.

Traditional higher education is also finding a way to stay relevant to lifelong learners, with online schools like HBX CORe and Stanford’s NovoEd.

Some of the most intriguing opportunities are coming from private sector businesses. For example, the New York Times has announced it will provide communications classes with CIG Education Group. The Economist is also sharing its trove of knowledge through online courses.

With LinkedIn acquiring, we will likely start seeing closer alignment between people learning new skills and companies finding relevant talent.

This is just the beginning. As the breadth and variety of online learning keeps growing, we are exploring this as well, with the launch of IDEO U. We understand that learning has to accommodate people’s lives in a realistic context. We still have much to learn about how best to deliver learning experiences about creativity in an online environment. No doubt there will be more innovation to come in this arena, but we hope many people like Adam will benefit from learning how to unlock their creative potential and sharpen their problem-solving skills.

What are some ways we can create learning experience that fit into people’s lives and serve deep desires, such as being more creative?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)


Looking back on your college years, what would you change about your experience? Would you head to college straight out of high school? Choose a sensible major? Power through and get your degree in four years?

Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of the Stanford Design School, offers a provocative alternative to our existing higher education system. In her compelling talk at Wired by Design, Greenberg asks: how can we go beyond redesigning higher education — how can we fundamentally change it?

To foster creative thinkers and problem solvers – people who will have to tackle complex challenges like the ebola epidemic, data security breaches, climate change – Greenberg and her colleagues set out to learn what students want and need from their college experiences. They asked students to interview each other, and used insights from their research to propose radically different models for higher education. These are just some of their ideas:

  • What if students could loop in and out of university and work in the real world over the course of six years? Or what if they could move through college at their own pace, with the ability at different points to explore lots of topics broadly, then focus and gain expertise, as well as practice in the field?
  • What if students could build college transcripts that emphasize skills rather than a record of classes?
  • What if students could declare missions, not majors, such as the School of Hunger or School of Renewable Energy?

How do you think your career – or even your life – would have changed, if any of these defined your college experience?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)


We say we practice human-centered design at IDEO, but what does that really mean? Our friends at +Acumen and have designed a free online course to answer that question. Open to anyone anywhere in the world—no prior design experience needed— the class is called “Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation.” The goal is to teach budding social entrepreneurs how to develop solutions for those who live in such dire circumstances, they may not know where their next meal will come from.

The team-based, 7-week curriculum was first offered last summer and brought together over 13,000 people from 134 countries. Many inspiring ideas came out of the course, but one in particular caught my attention.

Two groups of staff members from Jacaranda Health in Kenya, which is dedicated to providing affordable, high-quality healthcare to low-income women in East Africa, looked at “barriers to good nutrition” for pregnant women. To better understand the problem, they interviewed people all along the healthy eating chain—pregnant women, farmers, community members, cooks, and food buyers—distilled the information, then brainstormed possible solutions. Then they built prototypes and showed them to patients in their maternity clinic for feedback.

What’s interesting is that even thought the two groups were looking at the same problem—“improve pregnant women’s nutrition”—they came up with very different solutions. One group thought better education was the answer, so they came up with healthy eating do’s and don’ts that they published in a local newspaper and posted in the clinic’s waiting room. The other group felt pregnant women know what to eat, they just don’t have the right resources, so they created a burlap-sack kitchen garden that would grow iron-rich greens in their homes.

Jacarada Health’s commitment to taking a human-centered approach to solving their communities’ maternal-health challenges is impressive and has caught the attention of the Gates Foundation, Heath Enterprise Fund, and others. In about the time it takes to get a passport, you, too, can be introduced to a whole new way to approach the world’s toughest challenges.

Specifically, the social-innovation course will:

  • Teach you human-centered design processes and methods
  • Help you identify patterns and opportunities for concept development
  • Inspire you to approach challenges differently and experience how human-centered design can add a new perspective to your own work
  • Give you hands-on experience speaking to, prototyping for, and testing solutions with potential users.

This year’s registration deadline—March 30—is fast approaching. Time to design a better, more human future together. Sign up now.


What challenges will you tackle with your newly acquired design-thinking skills?


(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

If You Build It…

March 7, 2014 — Leave a comment


Blocks. Legos. Forts. Kids are natural builders. But most schools don’t offer such hands-on learning. They offer sitting at a desk and listening quietly. That’s a shame, because there’s no better way to learn than by doing. Designer-activist Emily Pilloton gets this idea in a big way.

The founder of Project H, Emily’s dedicated her life to improving K-12 education in America through rigorous training in design thinking, vocational skills, and applied arts and sciences. (The “H” stands for the values at the core of her work: “hearts, hands, and hammers.”) Recently, Emily spoke to me about the two inspirational programs she’s running at Realm Charter School in Berkeley, CA: Camp H and Studio H. Camp H teaches young girls ages 9-12 hands-on design, woodworking, fabrication, and welding skills, while Studio H is a design and build class for 8- to 11-grade students that Emily originally co-founded with Matthew Miller in Bertie, NC. Where literalists see band saws and blow torches, visionaries like Emily and Matthew see these tools’ potential to strengthen kids’ math, design, and visual and abstract thinking skills—and boost their creative confidence.

But don’t just take my word for it. The best way to appreciate Studio H’s potential to transform young minds is to watch the recently released documentary, “If You Build It,” by Patrick Creadon, Christine O’Malley, and Neil Baer. This wonderful movie follows 13 Studio H students in Bertie, NC. Tasked with designing and building a farmers market for their community, “If You Build It” demonstrates how design can give meaning to our lives and shows just how difficult making meaningful change can be. Thankfully—spoiler alert!—their sheer optimism and determination surmounts bureaucratic obstructions and construction challenges.

I left the movie more convinced than ever that a thinking-with-your-hands approach to education provides students with the critical tools they need to build solid futures.

What other education experiments inspire you?

Photo courtesy of “If You Build It.”

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)


Roshi Givechi is a calm, cool, design director and associate partner at IDEO. About a year ago, she uprooted herself from the San Francisco Bay Area and embarked on a nomadic year in Asia to support our growing locations in ShanghaiSingaporeTokyo, and Mumbai. When she proposed the idea of a one-year externship within the firm, it was an experiment for all of us. Recently, I checked in with Roshi to see how it’s going and what she’s learned over the past year. Here’s what she said.

What do you think businesses gain by letting their staff work abroad for a year?

I think there’s a lot of value in supporting cross-pollination within companies. For me, it’s not just about getting inspired about design in Asia, but also about understanding IDEO’s business role in China, Singapore, Japan, and so on. For our Asian clients, me being in the room represents a global background coupled with 15 years of experience: things that matter to them. Being able to work hands-on with IDEO project teams also brings a certain peace of mind to young designers—an added benefit that’s important for global businesses to keep in mind.

Change reinvigorates. It broadens your horizons. Besides, if you let people channel their creativity in ways that map to their own interests as well as the company’s, you’re likely to get more value out of the person in the long run.

Name one pitfall from a year on the road.

One pitfall, If you’re endlessly inquisitive like me, is taming one’s curiosity so you can simply recharge. Asia, in particular, has a plethora of things to explore. I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay to close the blinds once in awhile and tune out.I’ve realized that without time to “simmer” now and then, I won’t fully benefit from the creative inspiration this year has already given me.

Any personal revelations?

To me, it’s necessary to experience the unfamiliar every now and then. What I didn’t expect, however, is thatliving in various countries in Asia where I don’t understand the local languages would give me a sense of calm. I can’t decipher the chitchat I hear on the streets. I can’t participate in certain client meetings in my usual way because of communication barriers. Because I have no choice but to downplay what I hear on the outside, for better or worse, I’m hearing my inner voice more clearly and I reflect more deeply and frequently. And with reflection, comes learning.

What noteworthy trends are you seeing in Asia that could inform how businesses innovate for growth?

I’m sure many have heard the term “Shanzai” used to reflect Chinese imitation, or pirated brands and goods. Shanzai 2.0 reflects a culture that has been learning for a long time, is beyond copying, and—one could speculate—is now innovating.

GooApple, for example, is essentially an Apple iPhone knockoff that runs Android inside. It combines two experiences people love, eliminating the need to choose between them. Not only did this clever“merger” offer a better camera and processor when it came out, its makers show no qualms about celebrating the originators (as seen by the Apple logo placed on top of the Android logo). There’s something good to be said about craftsmanship learned by copying. It’s like apprenticeships in days gone by.

And, of course, when we think of Asia, we inevitably think of speed and agility. Along with the boldness of Shanzai, what I’ve come to admire most is a fearlessness in going to market sooner, instead of waiting to perfect things. Anyone who’s worked in India, in particular, can attest to a willingness to try things out in-market earlier and more frequently than you see in North America. To me, the motivation is simple: if companies don’t innovate in-market, others will pass them by.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)