Review on IDEO & Acumen’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design
I hope anyone thinking about taking this course finds my personal reflections helpful.
First, some quick context:
Completed the February — April 2016 offering
My group had 5 people with mixed professional backgrounds
We’re based in Mississauga, ON, Canada
How I found out about the course
These days, you can’t be in a creative field without hearing the term “design-thinking” on a regular basis. From reading blogs and articles, IDEO is a company that seems to be synonymous with the term. This led me to their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. I not only fell in love with the illustrations but also the content. So many great tips and exercises!
From there, I found the online course they offer in partnership with Acumen, a poverty-focused nonprofit. Using design to explore problems that help people and society? I’m in!
First hurdle: Making time for it
I actually put it off for a couple of months before signing up. I eventually told myself that if I sign up, I’ll make time for it. So if you’ve been thinking about it for a while, I suggest to just sign up because you’ll find time. It’s free anyways.
Second hurdle: Finding a group
This was challenging. At one point, I thought I was going to do the course all by my lonesome. I went through my network, LinkedIn, #AcumenHCD on Twitter. I even asked my brother. I was getting nowhere. Then, I started emailing design studios in my community. Still nothing.
It dawned on me that this course isn’t just about design. It’s about applying design-thinking to social change. My flaw was in trying to contact designers who are just interested in design. I should be recruiting people who are interested in social innovation and community initiatives.
Finally, I went on Meetup.com and finding a group became a breeze. I contacted people who were affiliated with or running their own co-working spaces. One was a designer who recruited another design friend. Another had a business background who recruited a friend with a communications background. Our group, which we call Groot Squad, had diversity in skill sets. This was more beneficial than if we were all designers who thought the same way. Bonus: we had access to great co-working spaces to meet at for our workshops. Shoutout to LAB B and Studio.89!
Why I highly recommend the course
The course is definitely well designed. I can tell by the way it balances self-learning and motivation to keep up with it. They do this by outlining soft milestone deadlines and one final hard deadline if you want to receive the Statement of Completion. It also uses peer evaluations to help facilitate feedback and grading. This gets rid of the need for professors or TA’s like in traditional educational structures. NovoEd, the course platform, made this process very easy.
Plus, the peer evaluations aren’t just in your group but with people all around the world taking the course. It’s pretty cool reading comments about your work from people on another continent.
What I learned
The course takes you through a 3-phase version of the design-thinking process; Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation. The highlight for me was being introduced to a bunch of new research techniques. Some of my favourites are Analogous Experiences, Power of 10, and Positive Deviants.
The course material and lesson plans are extremely worthwhile. I was immediately able to apply what I was learning at my job. The resource documents are all worth saving and sharing. I know I’ll be coming back to them throughout my career.
What I would change
My biggest challenge, which is a classic tale for any group project, was accountability. I was fortunate to have a group where everyone contributed in the end. It wasn’t a one-person-did-everything scenario. But it was difficult to keep everyone on top of delivering tasks on a timely basis. There’s no arguing that work, personal, or family commitments are priority over this course. Everyone taking this course should be aware of how this can impact their own and their team members’ dedication to the project.
A key part of the Ideation phase is coming up with “How Might We” questions to help us explore alternative solutions. So let’s try it out.
How might we promote accountability in group work projects?
A couple of ideas come to mind. One that might be worth exploring is an assessment of team members’ dedication before starting the course. Up-front transparency to gauge how passionate everyone is about contributing to the project.
This could be similar to the point-system method used to choose the challenge topic in the second workshop. Perhaps a “group compatibility survey” to show how much time and effort people can realistically give to the course. Depending on which range the overall team’s points fall under, it can reveal if the team will be compatible or give forewarning before they proceed. Building on this, recommendations for high to low compatibility can be offered (ie. about scheduling, members having part-time involvement instead, working efficiently, etc.)
It’s a great course to start practicing design-thinking. If anyone wants to go more in-depth, it’s probably better to pursue a longer program or get involved with an organization that is affiliated with design-thinking operations.
The best part is I‘ve been introduced to a group of truly inspirational people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The course is about human-centered design and is an example of exactly what it teaches. It has brought people together to see new perspectives outside of their own lens. I’ve learned so much from my new friends and look forward to future collaborations.
Anyone who’s thinking about signing up for the course and has questions for someone who’s taken it, please feel free to give me a shout!