Design Thinking For the Self, Pt 3

(be sure to read Parts 1 & 2 as well for the full story!)

Education edition

On the second weekend of October, I took a big risk, and deployed the first workshop for Design Thinking For The Self at the AIGA Frontier conference, otherwise known as the AIGA Design Educators conference.

The conference had many themes, see below.

…is a conference concerned with alternative models for learning, radical pedagogy, utopianism, emerging technology and tools, global economics and design, virtual classrooms, invisible worlds, the growing relationship between design and tech, homogeneity in design, imagined scenarios, the role of critique in a post-internet culture, and the speculative future of graphic design education.

Looking at this conference, it made sense for Rose Newton and myself to try out DTSelf on the populace. We challenged nine educators to take on two prompts, revolving around aggression and dissociation in the classroom.

We had some intriguing takeaways.

  1. Design thinking in an education sense needs to affect the ecosystem.
  2. Educators need a support system
  3. “Design Thinking” as a phrase comes packed with baggage.
  4. Empathy, Empathy, Empathy.

Let’s unpack these:

  1. Design Thinking in an education sense needs to affect the ecosystem

Simply put, when we went into the workshop, we assumed the tools would have a student only focus, but by going through the tools collaboratively, we discovered that the problems a student faces are reflected by the professor. One insight an educator had was that they tend to write off the “c-level” students, which in turn causes issues in the classroom. They were unaware of their unconscious bias.

2. Educators need a support system.

Not being a design educator (though I consider myself a facilitator), I was unaware of the lack of a real support system for educators, who tended to use the conference to share stories, which is a key moment of DTSelf, a tool called a “Reflection Moment”. They were able to find commonalities in the problems that they encounter, along with ideas for solutions. I can’t wait to hear back from the professor who is going to burn projects.

3. “Design Thinking” as a phrase comes packed with baggage.

I will be the first to come out and admit that my company has done a great job of packaging up an open source ideology, branding it, and promoting the heck out of it.

IBM Design Thinking is a framework to solve users’ problems at the speed and scale of the modern digital enterprise.

Design Thinking for the Self is a way to solve interpersonal problems by bringing clarity to the situation.

design thinking is a methodology to solve problems, with many forms.

We encountered educators who were actively pushing against the ideas of design thinking (claiming it kills creativity), along with educators who were open to it (claiming it inspires creativity). I urge you to look past the rhetoric, and take the framework for what it is…a way to bring clarity to problems, which allows for more creative problem solving.

4. Empathy, empathy, empathy.

As in life, having empathy for others is a powerful tool. In order to make any kind of design thinking exercise work, including ones used on yourself, you need to be able to understand all of the drivers for the “user”. What are they saying & doing? What do they think, and how do those drive their feelings?

In our eyes, AIGA Frontier was a success. We enabled nine educators to go back to their schools, armed with tools that can help them understand the drivers that cause lack of performance in the classroom.

Most importantly, we added to the support network these educators need.

  • Randy Gregory II is a Design Strategist at IBM based in Austin. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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