Friday, July 25, 2014

The Spark is still strong

This past week has provided a couple of unique opportunities to review and refresh. My wife, who will be teaching gifted fourth grade students staring this fall, was fortunate enough to attend a K-12 Teachers workshop at the at Stanford. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with four very talented Imagineers. Both experiences were refreshing and delightful for a surprisingly similar reason.

When Terri and I arrived at Stanford, the plan was to drop her off and go find a corner somewhere to prepare for a meeting I had later in the week while she experienced the magnificent chaos of Express - Test - Cycle first hand. Things started out that way, but then I started taking "just a few" pictures.

Devon Young putting a welcome smile on the day
School teachers are an amazing blend of optimism, practicality, determination and love which isn't found in nearly enough places.  As the group filed in, a remarkable range of diversity was also present. They settled in, as teachers do, to curious polite chatter about each other's situations and circumstances.

Then it was time to call the class to order...

The magic and miracle of Design Thinking is something which is best learned first hand. Like most skills of mastery, there are rules,  tools and methods. One of the first and most fundamental is to learn quick and fail fast.  Therefore, the first exercise was about loosening up and getting comfortable with failure. 

Everyone spent a couple of minutes celebrating failure. This move would prove useful and entertaining many times over the course of the next three days as cups of beverage were spilled, bodies bumped, and prototypes were built and recycled.

Whoo hooo! I'm not perfect!

Sketching is a key idea capture and expression skill, so a few minutes were spent warming up everyone's rapid visualization toolbox.

I don't need to draw as well as Da Vinci...

As we've discussed elsewhere, Design Thinking starts with Empathy, so the next exercise involved going out and interviewing. As was the case with every exercise, there was an example and an opportunity to practice together. Then everyone was metaphorically thrown into the pool, sent out onto the the campus to talk to people about their circumstances.  The formal name for this in other circles is need finding, but Design Thinking puts a much more personal spin on it.

Some sample questions

At this point I headed out for some fuel, for both the car and I.  The plan was to meet back at 3:30, but after I'd gassed up (at $4.60 a gallon!) and made a phone call or two, my curiosity got the best of me and I headed back towards the atrium, to "see how Terri was doing."

When I arrived, the group had broken out into their teams and were deep into constructing their first needs analysis.

As I went around the room and looked at what was on all the white boards I was utterly re-hooked.

All my plans for the next two days went out the window and I opted-in to vicariously photo document everything.  And it felt like coming home.

More to follow...

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