Design Thinking course week 3-4

This is part of a series of blog posts in regards to the online class, Design Thinking Action Lab offered by Stanford University. Click here to check out the entire series.

Week 2’s assignment Empathy and Define was the first one that required peer review. There was a long list of criteria and rubrics. My submission didn’t score as well as I hoped but it’s not the score that mattered. It was the experience. Based on my review of other submissions, I discovered the phenomenon of students in India being forced to study engineering even when some of them don’t want to. The world can use a lot of engineers but I think happy engineers would do more good than the unwilling ones. In terms of my submission, I need to work harder on capturing everything from the interview of a stakeholder. My auditory learning mode has always been my weakest link.

The second half of this course is where I know I will excel since I have taken the Creativity course last fall. Week 3 is about Ideate – generate many ideas for the problem statement we defined in the previous week. The assignment asked for 50 ideas. I thought it would be easy after putting together 100 ideas for the Creativity course in which we were working on a “sleep” challenge. The last 10 or so ideas took a little bit of effort. Brainstorming for the school-to-work transition is not as concrete as coming up with ideas for a physical challenge like staying awake. In addition to generating the ideas, I am determined to try harder with Prezi. The zooming presentation service has a lot of potential. It requires thinking visually in terms of movements in addition to text and images. I took quite a bit of time to assemble the Ideate Prezi. What do you think?

Two days after submitting the assignment, I had the good fortune to be selected to participate in a Google Hangout with the course instructor and a few classmates. Just being chosen for the hangout makes me feel special! I’ve taken a ton of webinars, courses and one and a half MOOC so far. This course is by far the most interactive. The teaching team adds a lot of forum postings every week to supplement the concepts discussed in the weekly lectures plus other aspects of the course. The weekly Google Hangouts have made the whole experience more tangible. We email, tweet, facebook with just about everyone nowadays but none of those interactions can beat having a real conversation. Reading about having classmates from all around the world is not the same as having a live video talk with folks in all sorts of time zones. It makes this journey more real and fascinating. It’s not just learning through cyberspace. We are connecting with real people. I can go on forever about this. I should probably stop here and get back to business.

The Ideate assignment also required peer review. The review process was slightly changed from the last round. The names of the reviewers are no longer anonymous. I found out my submission was reviewed by students in Texas, Virginia, India, Portugal, and Chile. The diversity of the students amazes me. Anyhow, my scores were much better this time around mainly because I had a full list of 50 ideas and there were some crazy ones like TV shows, online games / apps. Out of 50 ideas, we had to identify three of them under the criteria of most practical, most disruptive (i.e. the biggest impact regardless of feasibility), and a favorite. One or two of them became the assignments for week 4 in regards to Prototype and Test. The main idea of prototyping is low resolution and fast – at the speed of thought. As for the testing phase, it’s all about failing forward. Testing with cheaply built prototypes allows us to learn from our mistakes early and spend minimal amount of resources to rebuild or start over. The assignment came with a lengthy toolkit offering a range of options for prototyping (sketching, building, role-playing, videos, paper prototyping) plus a reference to the “Pretotype It” manifesto by Alberto Savoia. Although I haven’t read through the 70+ page manifesto, the subtitle alone is fascinating: “Make sure you are building the right it before you build it right.” I can’t agree more!

Back to the assignment, we are required to build two prototypes. Either build both prototypes for one of the three ideas we singled out in Ideate or build prototypes for two ideas. I selected to do the latter by making sketches for the most disruptive and my favorite ideas. Making the sketches forced me to remember how to draw. I started out with pencil and then went over everything with ink. It’s not exactly at the “speed of thought” but since this assignment also has a peer review, I want to make sure the sketches are readable on screen. I tested both prototypes with my boss and another coworker. Some of their feedback is similar while other comments are based on their personal experience interacting with young people through the school-to-work transition. It was another eye-opening experience. The prototypes and tests are summarized in two Prezi’s. By the way, the TV show is my favorite.

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