I have like, I dunno, the best job ever.
Except being a classroom teacher was also the best job ever.
I guess I've had a lot of best jobs ever.
Anyhow...It all began one super ambiguous summer day...
My colleagues and I decided to start learning. We had heard about districts and industries using design thinking to tackle challenges and opportunities, and leverage the infinite creativity of the people that make up their organizations. We studied those organizations. We read. We tried things. Iterated. We navigated the gray of finding the role that design thinking might play in the everyday creativity that is required of education, and thought deeply about the impact it might have on our learners.
And then...frankly...we just started doing it.
Step one was solidifying the methodology we thought might work best for us. After countless prototypes and iterations of an image to support the work, we landed on this:
Here's super fast version of what it all means:
- Discover - Inspiration: Never again will we let a moment of inspiration pass us by. Whether it's something bugging us, something feeding our hearts, rediscovering the familiar all around us, or just itching to create. Capturing our aha! moments is a jumping off point for innovation.
- Discover - Insight: Insight is everything. It's knowing deeply who you're designing for, and goes far beyond knowing likes and dislikes. It's digging deeply into latent needs and intangible desires. It's discovering the parts of the world that facilitate a user's life, and the bits that get in the way. It's never, ever taking for granted that you can assume what someone needs or wants without exploring all that might influence it. Seriously...insight is everything.
- Design - Ideate: Ideating is all about generating as many ideas as possible to improve the chances of finding a solution (or sometimes just the next best option). We are all creative people and have the capacity to come up with amazing ideas.
- Design - Prototype: Creating quickly. Trying quickly. Failing quickly. Iterating quickly. The faster you can try, get feedback, iterate, and cycle through what doesn't work before any of the work becomes precious or ingrained, the faster you get to the solutions that will work and can make a change.
- Deliver - Implement: Pardon my language. Just f***ing do it. Honestly. The world of education has been a breeding ground for dead ideas for decades because perfection paralysis and the fear of the unknown has been the never ending inhibitor of try. Fear of failure keeps us from doing all kinds of great things.You'll never know what works or doesn't until you do something.
- Deliver - Refine: It's rarely going to be perfect right out of the gate. And it's rarely going to be perfect for all stakeholders. The design process is non-linear and forever overlapping. Refinements take place throughout, and cycling between the 3 spaces never stops.
Ok. Maybe that wasn't super quick. Forgive me. But really, given all the nuances and intricacies, it was relatively succinct.
Within each of those spaces are about 50 hours of additional detail. The mindsets that facilitate the work. The methods that make up the work. The accelerators and pitfalls you might run into each step of the way. Identifying the very important fence posts that advance innovation rather than inhibit it. Human-centered design is so dependent on the human; it has to be imperfect, and messy, and ambiguous. And yet structured and methodical in its approach. And also fun. And scary. Invigorating. And exciting.
It's a lot of things. It's great.
We first tried our methodology with a team of 9th and 10th grade teachers. Our very first "design studio" with a group of willing and slightly confused guinea pigs. The design studio was our version of applying our 3D Design model to support teachers in designing engaging work and learning experiences for students.
I could lie to you (because hey, it's the internet after all!) and tell you everything went perfectly that day. It absolutely didn't. This was January of 2016, and I can tell you now in retrospect that we made so many mistakes as facilitators that were completely oblivious to us at the time.
It didn't matter. We were hooked. I was hooked. The teachers were hooked. So many hooks.
From then on I've had the incredible privilege to work with dozens and dozens of teams redesigning elements of our district to both deeply innovate, simply improve, and everything in between. Everything from our HR and Business office redesigning the way they communicate and work together, to teams of teachers entirely redesigning the school experience for their groups of kids. Small, "just do it" designs, to fundamental shifts that require us to rebuild from the ground up. It's still very much a work in progress how we scale human-centered design across our organization, day to day, to keep the customers and users and stakeholders districtwide at the forefront of our focus.
But despite the continuing work ahead, I couldn't be prouder of the progress our organization has made. Chief among that being the belief that no matter who I am in our district, I have the capacity to generate incredible ideas to meet the needs of my learners and users, and the responsibility to create meaningful change.
So that's the short of it. A fun, ongoing journey.
If you're interested in joining in on or learning more about our journey, don't hesitate to reach out and leave a comment or a message (@elizeducation).
I'd love to partner on the work I love.