Design Thinking Action Lab

After finishing the Crash Course on Creativity last fall, I’ve been itching to take another MOOC. I tried taking another one on Coursera but didn’t finish it. The course involved many long videos and the professor was speaking 50 mph. I couldn’t grasp the concepts although I passed the big quiz by searching for answers from the video transcripts. That’s not the right way to learn. I’ve done that in the past when I had to pass a required class for school. The choice to learn is up to me now. It must be up to me how I want to learn.

Then I got an announcement about the Design Thinking Action Lab from the same host of the Creativity course. The instructor is a lecturer at the d.school of Stanford University. I heard about d.school a long time ago and I would have loved to go there for my undergrad but there is no way I would get into Stanford. Therefore, I can’t pass up the opportunity to take a d.school course for free even though my day job is the busiest in the summer months.

The course kicked off before its official start date. Two simple assignments were issued right out of the gate. One of them involved creating or joining a Learning Squad in the form of a small group of students but we don’t turn in assignments as a group. Based on my previous “team” experience in the Creativity course, I decided to look for a team to join instead of starting my own. I found several that attracted my attention. I sent a few messages asking to join and only one of them responded. Another student was invited to join the same team and we ended up as a team of three.

Week 1 started off easy. We were introduced to the ideas of evaluating the space, people, and process involved in design thinking. The three assignments required us to evaluate our work space, talk with our team members, and visualize the process we came up with for a sample design challenge. I quickly dived in 100%. I rearranged my work space as suggested in the space assignment. I sent messages to my team to arrange a time to meet but that turned south almost immediately. The team lead decided to bail out on the course. The other remaining student on our team thought we will do okay as a team of two so I went along with it. It turned out to be a good thing. We figured out right away the time of day for Google Hangouts. She shared the Prezi she put together for the process assignment and it made me rethink my process. All in all, it was a good first week.

Week 2 sent us off to the hardest part of design thinking (empathize and define) and the unveiling of the overall design challenge of the course (redesign the school-to-work transition). We were presented a few videos to understand the concepts of empathize and define, however, the real learning took place in the assignment. We were asked to interview people who are stakeholders (students, graduates, employers) of the school-to-work transition, create an empathy map and define a problem statement. And all of this must be done in 7 days. When I first read the assignment, I immediately felt the clock is ticking away fast. It was suggested we interview more than one person. I went with my teammate and my manager at work who happens to have an invested interest in the school-to-work issue. The empathy map and problem statement are to be made with one person as the focus and I picked my manager for the task at hand. Additional instructions from the assignment suggested we use Slideshare or Prezi to present the empathy map. We were even given templates on each platform (here and here). The template is nice but I wanted to modify the graphics. I couldn’t download the template from either platform so I moved on to starting a Prezi from scratch. Here’s the end result:

As for the problem statement, I am going to save it for the next blog post after I complete the assignment of generating 50 solutions. Stay tuned!

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