How a University Intro Class Changed my Life Perspective

My whole life, I have never had a problem understanding what other people wanted me to do. I have known what teachers were going to test me on, and I studied just that. I know what people need when I’m bartending, and I will give them a drink or smile or story to get them through the night. And, I know what society expects of me, and I only show those parts that I think will be accepted.

Because when I acted differently than what people expected, the results were never as positive as when I did exactly what they wanted. So, I didn’t.

That changed when I took Introduction to Human Centered Design and Engineering.

On the first day of class, I was told that I was expected to go above and beyond what I normally would do, letting creativity lead me to a new and improved way of doing things.

I scoffed.

I thought I could see right through their rules and that they would be happy with me giving them what they thought they wanted, just like always.

I was wrong.

This class was the first time in my education that I was told to be creative. Not creative with an asterisk telling me that I was still supposed to do what everyone else was doing, but just a little differently, but CREATIVE without boundaries.

I was given problems and told to think of solutions that were impossible, solutions that were improbable, and solutions that were just plain nonsense. I was told to be ridiculous, inventive, and imaginative. And, I was told to think of things that had never been done, never been created, and never been attempted.

I was expected to use my brain to create things for people that they didn’t yet know they needed rather than giving them exactly what they already thought they needed.

And I loved it.

The study of Human Centered Design and Engineering is exactly what it sounds like. It is studying humans to center new design and engineering ideas around them to help them with problems that they didn’t realize they had.

Ironically, I found that my pervious experiences had both prepared me well for this class, but also not well at all. The people skills and the empathy that I was able to develop during my lifetime of giving people what they thought they wanted was useful as I was able to understand what people needed even if they didn’t immediately know it themselves. But it was detrimental for me as I had taught myself to never go beyond what people wanted- I had quelled all creative instincts.

For me, this introduction class to Human Centered Design and Engineering was more of an introduction to how I need to look beyond what is expected of me and create what is unexpected- because most of the time, if you do it right, the unexpected is WAY better than the expected.