Sunday, January 29, 2017

Connecting the Dots - Design Thinking - #dtk12chat

What is at the nexus of the things that we have learned.  Yesterday I attended a Design Camp.  A one day design thinking conference-ish learning, mind blowing, experience.  It was an amazing experience.  The learning and ideating through design thinking was phenomenal.  However, one of the things that stuck with me most came from a single comment the night prior.

The evening before the conference, there was a meetup to get to know each other.  Honestly, one of the most important thing that I learned was the connection that happens just because of the empathy involved in the process.  It was here that I met Grant Lichtman, author, keynote of the conference, design thinking guru.  As we talked, he asked about my story.  Throughout the process of telling the story, I mentioned about 5 different that I wore and buckets that I lived in through my career.  He let me know that I had done this and asked, "Why not just call yourself an educator?"

It is 3 days later and I can't get that out of my head.  I like the buckets that define the type of educator that I am.  Not because I think it limits what I know, but because it adds lenses that I have used to critically examine the art I call education.  They have also constructed my current roll.  I enjoy the fact that I have come from several different areas and have experiences with conflicting ideas of what education should look like. I think of each of the experiences that I have as a dot.  Every time I learn something new or engage with someone new, about a topic, I get a dot.

I have a lot of dots. Not as many as some that I have met, but I enjoy the fact that my dots are scattered. I have dots that seemingly contradict.  I use these dots to look at similar problems through different lenses, and each of the dots alone may provide drastically different solutions. I even have dots that, taken alone, would view some challenges that I face as solutions to other challenges.  I have come to think that, like the empathy in design thinking, I need to understand and be able to empathize with people who exist solely in one of the dots that I have. I guess that I view this as an internal conversation with my experiences occurring in my brain.

So is our job to just go and learn, accumulate a bunch of dots to understand different points of view in regards to the problems we face. No.  I think that our job is to connect the dots.  When we connect the dots, we connect our different lenses and our experiences to the challenges we face.  Once we have done that, we take the input and critically make the decision in the our best interests.

Notice that if we connect the dots, the solution (orange dot in the center) lies "within the box" defined by our experience. (sorry about the molecule, but I was a chemistry teacher.

So is that the design thinking process?  Not really, the way that I understand it, the design thinking process is realizing that there are stakeholders who have completely different dots. Ones that you will never know unless you ask, empathize, and work with to solve a problem.  When you bring people together, empathize with them, accept their prior experience and knowledge (their dots) and incorporate that into the problem solving process, you get a different solution.  An out of the box solution.

Bringing more than one person's ideas to the table brings another set of dots.

When this happens the solution (black dot) is somewhere else.

The more people, the more empathy, the more expertise that you bring to the challenge, the more dots you have and the more outside the box the solution may be.  I say "may" as bringing together people with the same dots can bias the process and yield a manufactured solution.  Through this method we can create more outside the box thinking, innovative ideas, future-ready solutions, and think for the future rather than think about it.  

I hope that this is a complete over-simplification of the process, especially for those who have been doing this for years, but this is my brain hashing it out.  As I am thinking through this, I wanted to clarify some things.  
  • The dots are not static.  They flow as we continue to learn.  It is only when we stop learning that our dots stop moving. 
  • If the dots keep moving, then does the solution change?  Yes, the solution is based on a snapshot of where our dots were at that point in time and what dots we found related to the problem.  That is why there are so many solutions to the problems that we have and so many applications and processes for this method.  
  • Lastly, notice how the last picture show, though the black solution dot is outside the "box" of each individual person, it is inside their collective "box."  Ideas, experiences, and imagination beyond reason create moonshot ideas that, though they may not be the answer, are a catalyst for moving the solution outside the box of participants.
I am not arrogant enough to think that this could be a dot for you.  My goal is that you comment and add another point of view to my jumbled brain mess and help me turn it into a deeper understanding of the process that has had my brain running since I learned about it. 

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