Archives For design for education

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We say we practice human-centered design at IDEO, but what does that really mean? Our friends at +Acumen and IDEO.org 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

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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)

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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)

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Here’s the commencement speech I gave at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Information in 2010. It’s been adapted a bit for length, but my advice to you is the same: start designing your life.

I am a designer and I was trained at an educational institution very different from this. I was trained to play a very specific role as a designer of the products we surround ourselves with.

I was taught to use my skills to create products that are more attractive, easier to use, and more desirable—and I spent the first several years of my career doing exactly that. The only problem was that most of those products were obsolete within a few months or years and most are now occupying landfill.

But I was fortunate. I discovered that I could apply those same design skills to many kinds of problems. Problems that, if solved, might have greater impact on the world. The gulf between what you have learnt here and what you experience over the next thirty or so years likely will be even greater for you than it was for me. There is not much you can do to change that. Perhaps there is something you can do to prepare for it. My friend Dan Pink talks about this problem in his book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.

He talks about being ‘mindful’ as a strategy for reaching the right balance between actively affecting your future without trying to achieve a futile level of control. I think that mindfulness is at the heart of design, and that’s why I think it is possible to design a life.

I am not going to paint some beautiful detailed picture of a perfect life that you might wish for. Designers sometimes do that. We create a perfect picture of a possible future. We hide it under a metaphorical black cloth and “ta-da!” we pull off the cloth and expect the audience to swoon in wonder. We then expect our clients to go and perfectly execute our vision. And while it may be possible to approach the design of a car or a house that way, it certainly isn’t appropriate when designing one’s life. But I think the principles of design thinking might help you create a life that is more rewarding, interesting, creative, and perhaps more meaningful.

Here are few things you might think about:

Don’t ask what. Ask why.

We have a habit of accepting the challenges that get put in front of us—the latest school assignment, the next business project. Designers have a habit of being awkward on this subject. They ask, why is this even the right question?

They do this because they have learnt there is nothing more frustrating than pouring one’s creativity into doing a great job of answering the wrong question. So invest plenty of time in getting to the right question before you invest your creative energies in finding solutions.

Open your eyes.

We spend most of our lives not noticing the important things. I am sure there are many of us here whose partners regularly accuse us of that! The more familiar we are with a situation the more we take it for granted and in the process miss the opportunity for insight and inspiration, never mind enjoyment.

Good design thinkers observe. Great design thinkers observe the ordinary and in that ordinariness find great insight. Try getting into the habit of stopping once a day to look at an action or an artifact as though you are a detective at a crime scene. Why are manhole covers round? Why do I dress this way to go to work? How do I know how far back to stand from the person in front of me in line? What would it be like to be colorblind?

You will be shocked how inspirational it is to look carefully at mundane things.

Make it visual.

Record your observations and ideas visually, even if it is just a rough sketch or a photo on your phone. Being visual allows us to look at a problem differently than if we rely only on words or numbers.

Pictures put things in context. They show what else is going on. They show the whole idea. Drawing forces you to make decisions about what you want to happen. Don’t worry if you think you can’t draw. Do it anyway.

Build on the ideas of others.

Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch books are full not just of his own ideas but those of other inventors and engineers. He used them as the starting point for his own thinking. Picasso was famous for happily using the work of his fellow painters as genesis for his own masterpieces.

Great ideas evolve. They do not spring fully formed from the minds of geniuses. No matter what your professors might have implied about their own work! Creativity is a social activity and you should feel no hesitancy in standing on the shoulders of others. Just remember to give them credit where it is due.

Demand options.

Just as it is too easy to accept the questions that get put in front of you, so it is far too easy to accept the first solutions you come up with. Design thinkers seek out options, multiple solutions that can compete with each other. Design is a Darwinian process and diversity always creates the strongest ideas. Don’t stop until you have explored at least three ideas you would be excited by.

Balance your portfolio.

One of the most satisfying things about design is that the results are tangible. Something exists at the end of the process that did not exist before. If you chose to apply design thinking to your activities as you go forward then remember to document the process as it unfolds. Preserve those pictures and sketches you use to inspire and create. Keep videos, prototypes, whatever it is that shows how you think.

Assembled as a portfolio, this material will document a process of growth and record the impact of many minds. This will be invaluable not just in the prosaic drumbeat of performance reviews and job interviews, but in your own reflection on your life or when you try to explain to your friends, parents, or perhaps kids, what it is you really do. It is easier to feel proud of your contribution when you have a record of it.

I wish you the best of fortune as you leave here and embark on the task of designing your lives.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Education has been a growing theme at TED. It’s one that seems to strongly resonate across the community, from techies to creatives to entrepreneurs to big business C.E.O.’s. One idea that is gaining popularity is around the notion that education has to encourage and reinforce kids’ natural curiosity. Unfortunately, conventional education does a very efficient job of beating kids’ natural curiosity out of them. This year’s TED prize winnerDr. Sugata Mitra—the first to step up to $1 million in prize money—tackles this issue head on.

Dr. Mitra, an educational researcher and professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), wishes to design the School in the Cloud—a learning lab in India, based on his vision for Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE). The school draws inspiration from Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiments, in which he observed children both learning and teaching on their own and without any guidance or intervention.

Watch Mitra’s inspiring talk here and learn more about his plan for the School in the Cloud here.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)