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Month September 2012

Contextualizing the three rethinked*annex disciplines: integrative thinking, design thinking & positive psychology

It was a passing mention of Daniel Pink‘s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainer Will Rule The World in Tim Brown‘s Change By Design that prompted my interest in the book. If Brown mentioned it, I hoped it would help me gain a deeper understanding of some aspect of the design thinking process; which it did, although not in the way I expected. I did not learn more about the process itself but I did learn how to think about it along with Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology–three of the rethinked*annex cycles–in a more nuanced, complex and holistic way.

Pink’s argument in A Whole New Mind is based on the metaphor of the human brain’s left/right hemisphere binary. Pink calls for a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between our brain’s two hemispheres. Both the left and right brain are simultaneously engaged in most human actions and thoughts but each hemisphere is specialized in different functions and depending on the activity, one side becomes relatively more important than the other. Understanding that both sides have a complex interwoven relationship, we can simplify a bit and say that humans operate on two basic planes of thought. Left-Directed Thinking can be generalized as logical, sequential and textual while Right-Directed Thinking is best described as emotional, simultaneous and contextual.

In A Whole New Mind, Pink makes the claim that we are currently in the midst of a transition from the ‘Information Age’ , characterized by its rock stars the “knowledge workers” to the ‘Conceptual Age,’ which will be dominated, according to Pink, by creators and empathizers. In the Conceptual Age, three major forces– automation, Asia and abundance–have made many predominantly left-brain aptitudes such as seriousness, logic, and accumulation obsolete and easily outsourceable. Therefore, to remain competitive, it is crucial for us all to start nurturing and cultivating right brain aptitudes. This is not to say that left brain aptitudes will no longer be relevant, but as Pink states, they are no longer sufficient. Pink identifies and describes six essential Conceptual Age aptitudes that will help us stay professionally relevant and fully engaged and satisfied in all aspects of our lives through these changing times. The six aptitudes Pink identifies are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.

  1. Not just function but also DESIGN. It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience or a lifestyle that’s merely functional. Today it’s economically crucial personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging. 65
  2. Not just argument but also STORY. When our lives are brimming with information and data, it’s not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative. 65
  3.  Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. Much of the Industrial and Information Ages required focus and specialization. But as white-collar work gets routed to Asia and reduced to software, there’s a new premium on the opposite aptitude: putting the pieces together, or what I call Symphony. What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis–seeing the big picture and, crossing boundaries, being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole. 66
  4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. The capacity for logical thought is one of the things that make us human. But in a world of ubiquitous information and advance analytic tools, logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.
  5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games and humor. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play. 66
  6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING. We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment. 67


If your brain bugged out a tiny bit when you read over the third aptitude that Pink describes and titles Symphony, it is most likely because you realized the uncanny similarity to Integrative Thinking. Not seeing the connection just yet? Pink’s description of Symphony seems as though it comes straight out of Roger Martin‘s The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking:

Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair. 126


This puts the various elements of rethinked*annex into a coherent whole. Design thinking, (Design), Integrative Thinking (Symphony), and Positive Psychology (Play, Meaning, Empathy) all come together as contemporary aptitudes for living a fulfilling happy and professionally successful life. Each of these aptitudes has been correlated with health, social, emotional and professional successes and are key ingredients to living a fulfilling engaged and meaningful life in our contemporary state of humanity.

Therefore, instead of making the fourth rethinked*annex cycle “Applied Virtue” based off of principles laid out in Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, I have decided to make it about the Conceptual Age and use Pink’s book as the foundation for that cycle’s exploration. This is a way to tie together the three other rethinked*annex cycles into a coherent whole and make more obvious and tangible the complex interrelatedness of these differing, yet mutually reinforcing disciplines. (Aristotle fans do not despair; I think I will include Nicomachean Ethics in the Integrative Thinking cycle.)


As I said, Pink’s book did not really contribute much to my understanding of the Design Thinking process itself but it proved immensely valuable in contextualizing the discipline. Pink has a chapter dedicated to each of the Conceptual Age aptitudes and at the end of each chapter he has a little tools and resources section in which he includes recommended reading and exercises to broaden one’s exploration and mastery of each aptitude. I will follow his recommendations and tools for nurturing my design aptitude (and be sure to post results and observations on here sometime next week) but I want to save exploring the tools and resources for the other five disciplines for the Conceptual Age cycle. The Conceptual Age part of the rethinked*annex project will be the last of the cycles as it will provide a way to reflect on each of the other three disciplines as their own entity as well as identifying new connections and relationships between the three.


For more quotes from A Whole New Mind and other resources related to the Conceptual Age and Pink’s six aptitudes head over to our Aptitudes for the Conceptual Age page. Enjoy!

Source: Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. Print.

Character? It’s More Than That…

We figure prominently about our work on the development of character strengths in Paul Tough’s book on non-cognitive capacities and their influence on performance, especially in schools. I think Paul’s book is important, and I have also spent my last years focusing on this work in two independent schools. The other thing about these ideas is that they intuitively make sense. Strengths such as grit, self-control, optimism and gratitude are naturally important in work and life. However, this work does not propose that these strengths should become the sole focus of our work in schools, rather it is a matter of rebalancing our myopic focus on math and verbal ability with a broader conception of what it means to be human and successful in the most humanistic terms. In other words, finding meaning and purpose in our lives, finding well-being.

I have been questioned why we chose these strengths rather than more lofty virtues such as honesty or respect. Again, David Levin at KIPP and I are not proposing that these “higher” virtues should not be emphasized in schools. What good school or school leader does not emphasize honesty and respect regularly in schools? However, these more “simple” strengths, these steps towards virtue need also to be emphasized and encourage in schools. They are purely a concrete means to improved work and achievement.

At the same time, the academic programs in schools need to change. We do not want to develop more grit in our students so that they can suffer more effectively through dull and boring lessons. At the same time, we need to change our classrooms to become more constructivist, more about creativity, more engaging and more useful to our future generations. As always, life is about sparks and sweat, about engagement and effort. This work on developing a language of character in schools is only part of the broad work that we all have to do. Sometimes we just have to find ways into the work. Our work on character strengths is one such way that we are using to confront the assumptions about schools and what it means to do well.

Download the Character Growth Card





In one of her newest songs, Regina Spektor, asks this question poignantly. As I think about the world we are living in and the uncertainty we face, I feel that this is our critical question, and a question that is daunting for us all. As we can see in the presidential debates, it is less a question of what Obama and Romney should do, but rather how they should do it. I think the problems are pretty evident in education, in healthcare, in our social fabric and in the world at large. Problem identification is not the issue. How are we going to tackle having to change our educational system radically? That is a much more vexing problem.

What that means is that we have to get better at tackling the “how” of things. What processes or methods do we have at our calling to bring to bear upon these problems. That is the crux of the quandary for many of us in many different fields.

I have hired many consultants in my time, and one of the issues with such consultants is that you end up hiring a single methodology. Why is it not as easy to hire a menu of opportunities in one consulting resource? Why is it that consultants often tout their results rather than their methods? I think that this is a critical problem. The outcomes of solving a challenge are not irrelevant, but they should be difficult to predict with out methods and processes. The methodology should be tailored to the specifics of the situation and, the methods and processes, should lead one to perhaps an unexpected outcomes.

That is why I am taken with design thinking as a method. I don’t think it is the only method of solving a problem, but it does allow the participants to come to a solution that meets many of their needs and is a much more democratic way to face up to a challenge. I hope that we will have design thinking as one of our menu of methods and also develop others, such as integrative thinking, reverse argumentation (deriving the challenge from the conclusion) and TbE (trial by error).

As the rethinked…* team evolves, I hope that we will develop a menu of different ways and methods to problem-solve. I hope that we develop as an adaptable, nomadic, temporary problem-solving team that can help open people to possibilities rather than impose one method thereby imposing a particular solution. How? is what we are…*


Sunday Inspiration…*





DT4E October 19/20 Conference ~ SIGN UP NOW!



UPDATE: CONFERENCE MOVED BACK TO FURTHER TBD DATE ~ We’ve received feedback that the timing of the conference is difficult for many teachers and, as a result, have decided to reschedule the conference to later in the year.  We will let you know the new dates as soon as possible. We are all very excited about the conference and look forward to hosting at a more optimal time.

Design Thinking For Educators October  19/20 Conference ~ Join IDEO, Riverdale Country School & Parsons School in NY for a two day Design Thinking For Educators workshop where you will learn and use the design thinking process, connect with other educators and have the opportunity to create a project plan where you can apply this process to your own work. This is a great opportunity to experience the design thinking process first hand and see how it can be successfully applied to education challenges. **SPACE IS LIMITED: SIGN UP NOW***

Friday Link Fest {September 7-14, 2012}

Yes, we are aware that it is indeed Saturday but due to a giant Time Warner Cable blooper (shocking, right?), we were unable to post this yesterday. But as it is/was the inauguration of a recurring weekly tradition we decided to still call it Friday Fabulosity Link Fest… it’s a little anti-climactic but we’ll take it.

Welcome to the very first edition of our weekly Friday Link Fest! We spend an inordinate amount of time on the Internet, trolling the glorious subspace highway in an unwavering quest to find ideas, things and people that make us stop in our tracks or jump up and down with unadulterated glee and help us, in some way, do what we do best and love most: rethink. Now, I like to think that every thing we share with you via Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter is 100% rethinked…* fabulous, but the truth is some things are more glorious than others. So we’ve decided to pull the crème de la crème of the articles we’ve shared with you this week–ideas, conference talks and images– and combine them into this lovely list for your viewing and rethinking pleasure.

If you are familiar with Rethinked…* you know how we feel about curation and online content: we refuse the ‘newsification’ of content on the Internet so some of the articles we share with you were published this past week, while others may be 10 months, a year, 5 years old…The common thread is that we tweeted, pinned and shared them on facebook this week.

And now, without further ado, the first ever, RETHINKED…* FRIDAY LINK FEST:


Why the world needs hackers now: the link between open source development & cultural evolution ~ We love the idea of the hacker attitude principles as rules for life. via Emergent by Design, published Sept. 7, 2012.

THE HACKER ATTITUDE(excerpted from Raymond’s essay How to Become a Hacker)

1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice.
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
4. Freedom is good.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence

the definition of ‘hackers’ are “having to do with technical adeptness & a delight in solving problems and overcoming limits,” and so ring true for anyone pursuing mastery in their chosen creative expression… musicians, artists, athletes, scientists, etc)

It seems to be the same disposition among the communities of people talking about intentional lifestyle design – those that want “work” and “life” to not suggest two worlds out of alignment, but rather are working to create a consistent underlying culture that allows each person to bring their gifts and strengths forward regardless of social context.

Transformative Learning In the Design Studio ~ Jon Kolko on how ‘the design studio provides an exemplary model for how experiential learning can occur in all disciplines, based on a fundamental learning theory called transformative learning. via

In a design studio, it is generally accepted that knowledge is produced, not disseminated.

transformative learners move towards a frame of reference that is more inclusive, discriminating, self-reflective, and integrative of experience… [To] facilitate transformative learning, educators must help learners become aware and critical of their own and others’ assumptions”  This is, fundamentally, what happens during a design studio and why the studio is effective. Students have an experience, and they have controlled the majority of that experience. This means they have approached the learning from within their own frame, a place of comfort. And then, in an emotionally safe environment, they have been nudged outside of their own frame into a place of discomfort.

Design education is the constant cycle of iteration and reflection, making and critique, comfort and anxiety. The design-studio approach helps learners shift their frame over time, resulting in the generation of new knowledge and a new view of the world.

No Adult Left Behind ~ Michael Hodin’s rallying cry for Americans to collectively rethink…* the notion that school is just for the young. Via HuffPost Education

Simply put, education needs to be re-imagined for twenty-first century society — a society in which, for the first time ever, the old outnumber the young.

With more people over 60 than under 14 by mid-century, the notion that school is just for the young has become dangerously obsolete. Both public and private pensions are running short on cash, and people are saving far too little to retire in their 60’s. Boomers and other “seniors” need to be given opportunities to continue with their educations so they can remain relevant, but, right now, those opportunities are too scarce.

Now, it’s time to forge a new partnership, one that can re-invent how and where education is delivered to prepare the older adults who will become tomorrow’s leaders. And in the process, we can give a more profound and lasting meaning to the term, “Back to School.”


Meet A Master Of The Dying Art Of Hand-Drawn Type ~ Find out about Job Wouters (a.k.a. Letman), a graphic designer based in Amsterdam, who is on a one-man mission to sustain the dying medium of hand lettering, churning out meticulously executed forms that pay tribute to the versatility and beauty of good penmanship. via FastCo.Design, published Sep. 7, 2012

Charlie Todd On The Shared Experience of Absurdity ~ On Learning that there’s no right or wrong way to play: Charlie Todd,  the creator of Improv Everywhere, causes bizarre, hilarious, and unexpected public scenes: Seventy synchronized dancers in storefront windows, “ghostbusters” running through the New York Public Library, and the annual no-pants subway ride. In his talk, he shows how his group, Improv Everywhere, uses these scenes to bring people together. via TEDxBloomington, Nov 2011

You know, as kids, we’re taught to play. And we’re never given a reason why we should play. It’s just acceptable that play is a good thing. And I think that’s sort of the point of Improv Everywhere. It’s that there is no point and that there doesn’t have to be a point. We don’t need a reason. As long as it’s fun and it seems like it’s going to be a funny idea and it seems like the people who witness it will also have a fun time, then that’s enough for us. And I think, as adults, we need to learn that there’s no right or wrong way to play.

Kelli Anderson On Design, Physics & Apple Pie ~ Kelli Anderson uses physics and apple pie to explain her design philosophy in this charming Creative Mornings Talk. New York, July 2012. via

I think that there’s real magic in how physical things in the world work and I think there’s real magic in how we make these new symbolic vocabularies from bits and pieces of culture. So this forms the basis for how I approach design.

What I always come back to is how is it that were able to use flaps and colors and shapes and lines together on a piece of paper and have it mean something to someone else. Why can we access these deep repositories of cultural meaning far beyond the reasonable powers of our paintbrush or pen or whatever and to answer this we have to go back to Carl Sagan and his apple pie. “If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe” And what I think he means by this is that behind the process that we can witness is this immense behind-the-scenes infrastructure of other processes at play.

If you think you’re making an apple pie from scratch, you’re full of shit. Because really when we make things were not making them on our own. When we make things we initiate a collaboration with the preexisting conditions of the universe. And that goes for design too. We humor ourselves to think that we’re in charge, that we’re the creative heroes making the meaning with our fancy computers but, you know, as they say, were really standing on the shoulders of giants; the shoulders of this vast, underlying infrastructure of visual culture. Which is kind of this amazing thing that works to our advantage because with any single visual experience we make, were able to exhume these repositories of cultural meaning and play off of our audiences innate capacity for visual language.

We are extremely sophisticated visual consumers, like to a scary extent. The capacity we have for retaining and categorizing visual symbols is razor sharp and it seems to be innate.

Tom Shannon : The Painter & The Pendulum ~ TED visits Tom Shannon in his Manhattan studio for an intimate look at his science-inspired art. An eye-opening, personal conversation with John Hockenberry reveals how nature’s forces — and the onset of Parkinson’s tremors — interact in his life and craft. via TED in the Field, Feb. 2010

Joshua Prince-Ramus: Building a Theater that Remakes Itself ~ Joshua Prince-Ramus calls for more architectural agency. He believes that if architects re-engineer their design process, the results can be spectacular. In his talk, he walks us through his fantastic re-creation of the local Wyly Theater as a giant “theatrical machine” that reconfigures itself at the touch of a button. via TEDxSMU, January 2010.

I’m going to speak to you today about architectural agency. What I mean by that is that it’s time for architecture to do things again, not just represent things.

Actually take positions. Take joint positions with your client. This is the moment in which you as the architect and your client can begin to inject vision and agency.But it has to be done together. And then only after this is done are you allowed to do this, begin to put forward architectural manifestations that manifest those positions. And both owner and architect alike are empowered to critique those manifestations based on the positions that you’ve taken.

Now, I believe that one really amazing thing will happen if you do this. I’d like to call it the lost art of productively losing control. You do not know what the end result is. But I promise you, with enough brain power and enough passion and enough commitment, you will arrive at conclusions that will transcend convention, and will simply be something that you could not have initially or individually conceived of.


When I Grow Up ~ The kids of Kalamazoo talk about college and other plans. Via New York Times Magazine. September 13, 2012

The Great Wall of Mumbai: Street Art and the Entrepreneurial Spirit ~ Victor W. Hwang on rethinking how we conceive of entrepreneurship. via published Sept 2, 2012

We usually think of entrepreneurship at the level of individuals: those who take great risks, work harder than others, and overcome all odds to succeed in building a business.  There is much truth in this.  But there are other “lenses” we can use to look at entrepreneurship.  These other lenses, such as culture, give us different insights into how entrepreneurial economies function.  One of those useful lenses is that of popular art.

These young street artists are, in effect, claiming ownership of their city and their nation.  And isn’t that what entrepreneurship is about, too?  Artists and entrepreneurs are essentially saying the same thing: “I see a better way, and I have the power to make that vision become real.  I can make the future.”


On Why Defining a Challenge is an Act of Leadership

Design Thinking is a mindset but it is also a process and an inherently collaborative process at that. The collaborative part has me stumped a bit on my quest to use Design Thinking to address challenges in my own life. I have to be the interviewer and the interviewee for the discovery period, riff off my own ideas in the brainstorming/prototype phase of the process, create and heed my own feedback during evolution and try to bring a fresh and outsider perspective to the fabric of my everyday–the myriad moments and acts that are such an integral part of my daily existence that they often occur on some level rarely noticed by my conscious mind. I have been trying to define a few challenges to focus on next month, a process which has given me a whole new appreciation for what is meant by “defining a challenge is an act of leadership”.


IDEO’s tips for discovery

Understand Deeply: Encourage people to reveal what really matters to them.

Pay Attention: Ask participants to show you the objective or space that they are talking about, or suggest participating in their activities.

Try to Understand Intents: Keep asking “why?” in response to consecutive answers.

Get their perspective: Ask people to “tell you a story about a time…”

Know what to look for: Understand the tools people use to interact with their environment. Look for cues in the things that people surround themselves with or the way they carry themselves.

Experience Fully: Capture what you see. Take lots of notes and photos of what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste during a field visit. Capture direct quotes.

So how do I adapt these tips for discovery to my solo quest? I decided to start with a giant rant session. I took out a piece of paper and prepared to transcribe an avalanche of oh-so-insightful and fruitful complaints that would be crafted into brilliant DT challenges. Unfortunately, my usually strong and reliable complaining abilities failed me entirely. I sat and waited staring at my blank page, unable to list even one thing. In two weeks, I managed to enumerate five complaints, none of which seemed particularly fruitful nor insightful.

My list:

-Poor closet organization (kitchen/wardrobe)

-Horrible eating habits

-Smelly trashcans outside the building

-Awful smell and feathers all over my street from the poultry slaughterhouse

-Bad life balance

I decided to experiment with various ways to group my complaints into meaningful categories, hoping to discover some larger common thread uniting various problematic elements in my daily life. Here’s what I came up with:




Obviously, SMELL is not an adequate category for this list. So I renamed that category QUALITY OF LIFE. But then they all fall under that category to some extent, so I thought I should change it once more to NEIGHBORHOOD. At this point my list looked like this:


-Smelly trashcans outside the building

-Awful smell and feathers all over my street from the poultry slaughterhouse


-Poor closet organization

-Horrible eating habits


-Bad life balance

I wasted another two hours trying to decide whether bad life balance belonged in the self or relationship category. Finally, I realized that categories were unhelpful and I was spending too much time worrying about language rather than substance.

So I tried a different approach. Every design thinking challenge begins with a “How might we”—a one sentence description of the challenge. When I began to think about my complaints in those terms, I chose to focus on the ‘horrible eating habits’ issue as it seemed to be the broadest yet most concrete of the problems I had identified and thus the most promising HMW challenge to be.

What do I mean by horrible eating habits? I eat little if anything other than coffee all day and order in at night. More often than not my boyfriend and I eat our delivery on the couch, bent over our plastic containers, sitting side by side. Because of how ridiculously impractical it is to eat out of these containers on our (white) couch, we often fail to make eye contact for most of the meal, focusing our eyes on our knees where the food is balancing precariously. It’s uncomfortable being hunched over and usually our mindset when it comes to dinner time is let’s just get it over with and then we can go back to interacting. Eating has become a chore, which rather than bringing us together into meaningful conversations and exchanges, isolates us into a sense of overall discomfort and mild stomachaches.

In France, especially in the South where I come from, food is perceived as being much more than fuel for the body. It is an integral part of social and family life. It is an experience crafted with love and intent to satisfy all the senses: smell, touch, sight, etc. A meal is judged not merely in terms of the quality and taste of the food but also based upon the quality of the ambience, the conversation and the degree of conviviality inherent in sharing the experience. Cooking is seen as a sensual pleasure and a nurturing activity, a way to make one’s love apparent and tangible; consumable. This is how I grew up; this is what I was taught food, cooking and eating meant. So what happened?

When I went off to college, the idea of me cooking for myself seemed about as ridiculous as committing to wearing underwear on the top of my head for the rest of my life and I survived mainly on pretzels, bananas, instant miso soup and Goldfish. I moved out of the dorms and into a tiny, if charming, studio apartment with my boyfriend, Matt. The ‘kitchen’ part of our studio was slightly less wide than my arm span, and consisted of a sink, a stove barely big enough to store two pairs of shoes and a miniscule fridge, which I suspect had been manufactured long before I was born. There was no space to cook and no space to eat, so our diet consisted mainly of take out and delivery, eaten on the couch.

We moved to a 1-bedroom apartment about three months ago, with a magnificent, ‘real’ kitchen, filled with counter and cupboard space, a two-door fridge and an oven large enough to fit a full-grown and rather stout adult. Yet delivery is still the norm. Sure, we have the ‘talk’ every couple of weeks or so where we both agree that our eating habits are ridiculous and pledge to start cooking our own meals and eating them, like most people, sitting in a chair at a table. We go grocery shopping where I insist on buying tons of fruits and vegetables, filled as I am with a renewed commitment to health each time I enter the grocery store. We go home, unload the vegetables and feel great about ourselves until dinnertime when we open our newly filled fridge and are greeted with a forest of scary looking vegetables (lacinato kale?), which I have no idea how to cook or combine. So I try to be creative and throw things in a bowl together, mixing with gusto, praying that I will not have to throw it all out because of how badly it tastes. We sit down at the table, still eat quickly and for the most part in silence, both of us quietly wishing we had just gotten delivery. We keep this up for about two days until one of us caves and suggests delivery “just for tonight”.  And just like that we’re back to weeks of eating out of plastic container hunched over on the couch. We no longer have the lack of space excuse so why has nothing changed?

That was the key insight for me, it’s not about changing eating habits through sheer will-power nor is it simply about changing kitchens, it’s about rethinking the eating experience entirely. I have to rethink the physical aspects of my kitchen to make is a pleasing place (paint the walls, add decorations, get candles and nice lighting, etc.) but I also have to reframe the intangible aspects of the cooking/eating experience (make it a bonding time, a celebration and affirmation of our love for each other, a time to unwind, take refuge from the demands of the outside world and engage in meaningful face time).

Once I had that nugget of a how might we/I, I found IDEO’s tips for discovery much more helpful. I went around the kitchen taking pictures and noting the various sensorial stimuli I encountered. I felt a rush of ideas on how to improve things I hadn’t even realized needed improvement and started thinking about a holistic way to revamp the entire experience.

I tried to go back and repeat this process with my other four complaints but have been unable to formulate helpful How might we/I so far. Haven’t lost hope yet–practice makes perfect as they say. I’ve also been brainstorming different ways to approach the defining a challenge process:

-Wear a camera around my neck for a week to film my daily life, in the hopes that by seeing/experiencing it through the mediation of a screen, I might be able to get more insights into what challenges affect my everyday.

-Making a What Matters Most to Me list, after all there is no reason why Design Thinking should be confined to problems, why not use it to significantly enhance the positives?

-Asking people who are close to me to list (perhaps anonymously?) what they perceive as challenges in my own life.

Tips and suggestions would be massively appreciated…*

Let’s talk about design thinking…*

For those of you keeping up with the rethinked*annex project, you know that September is dedicated to learning as much as I can about the design thinking process. Here are links to all the articles and talks I have encountered and found useful in my quest to become better acquainted with and more comfortable using the discipline. I am constantly updating our ‘Design Thinking‘ page’ so be sure to check in with us often.

What talks and articles have you found most useful in explaining the design thinking process? I would LOVE to hear your suggestions as I continue my research into the discipline.


Design Thinking for Scholars (DTFS) Webinar on Design Thinking for Scholars, held on June 20, 2012. Design Thinking for Scholars is an ongoing effort to develop and test a framework for challenge-based research. This is being driven by the efforts of the Network of Leadership Scholars, a community of practice affiliated with the Academy of Management (AOM.) This project builds on an existing product/process that has a shown initial success and potential.

Roger Martin on Design Thinking ~ Roger Martin, a leading proponent of design thinking in business, makes the case that we can understand innovation through a new model of how businesses advance knowledge over time, and that businesses fail to innovate when they show greater concern for producing reliable (predictable and reproducible) outcomes than valid ones that actually meet objectives. Martin argues that businesses can do a better job at innovating—and advancing knowledge—if they embrace design thinking. Using examples such as Procter & Gamble, RIM (BlackBerry) and Cirque du Soleil, he examines how companies transform themselves into successful design-thinking organizations. via AIGA Make/Think Conference, October 2009.

How To Lie With Design Thinking ~ Dan Saffer’s (hilarious) critique of Design Thinking at the Interaction Design Association Conference 2012.

Frameworks for Design Thinking Stanford Innovation Masters Series 2011

Eddie Opara on Design Thinking Design Thinking Foundations 2012

Jon Kolko on Design Thinking Design Thinking Foundations 2012

John Hockenberry: Why We Are All Designers TED 2012

Emily Piloton Teaching Design for Change TEDGlobal 2010

Tim Brown Urges Designers to Think Big TEDGlobal 2009

Tim Brown Tales of Creativity & Play Serious Play 2008

Tim Brown From Design to Design Thinking 2008

Design & Thinking: A Documentary About Design Thinking ~ Design Thinking was applied as a term and methodology by a design firm in 2008. It was received as a tool to solve every problem, from daily life decisions to business challenges to world hunger problems. Attention and debates followed; some insisted on design education in all K-12 schools, some declared it is just marketing tool for that firm, some hoped it would turn his company into Apple. Some said it’s nothing new, just a new packaging of how creative people do things.


Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, is interviewed on the subject of ‘design thinking’—approaching managerial problems as designers approach design problems—and its potential impact on management education. Under a design-thinking paradigm, students would be encouraged to think broadly about problems, develop a deep understanding of users, and recognize the value in the contributions of others. In Martin’s view, the concept of design thinking can potentially address many of the criticisms currently being leveled at MBA programs. The interview is followed by a discussion and critique of the themes Martin raises. via Academy of Management, Learning & Education 2008

Demonstrating the Value of Design Thinking by Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel Difficult interactions between design teams and business leaders represent a big stumbling block in the development of breakthrough ideas. How often is innovation stopped short by number-crunchers who don’t understand the process of design or the insights afforded by it? And how often do business folks moan that designers lack even the most basic understanding of costs and strategy, of how to turn ideas into dollars? via Between: Journal of the Billy Blue College of Design, March 2010.

Your Start-Up Life: Design Your Thinking ~ 2012 Interview with Tim Brown via Huff Post: Business.

Why Decisions Need Design part I ~ More than anything else, the modern corporation has become a decision factory, observes Roger Martin. Find out how to be a great corporate decision designer by using Design Thinking mindset and methodology. via Bloomberg BusinessWeek Online’s Innovation Channel, August 2005

Why Decisions Need Design Part II ~ More than anything else, the modern corporation has become a decision factory, observes Roger Martin. Find out how to be a great corporate decision designer by using Design Thinking mindset and methodology. via Bloomberg BusinessWeek Online’s Innovation Channel, August 2005

Overthinking Design Thinking ~ by Jody Turner. ‘Recently Portland’s Design Management Institute conference (DMI) ended with a bang by asking a panel of experts, “Is Design Thinking Dead?” As I look over the conversation, it is clear that thinking is changing but not in large ways. It seems everything is getting abbreviated, perhaps because we are getting better at it, perhaps because we are tired of the hoopla. Either way, this review of the panel shows the range of considerations occurring in the design profession’. Fast Company August 2012

Design Thinking as A Leadership Toolkit ~ Observations on some ‘truths about the connection between design and leadership that emerged from ‘trying to contextualize design thinking as a leadership skill – to nurture leaders grounded in human needs, able to identify and formulate insightful problem statements, capable of generating rich and viable ideas, and the agility to pivot when things (inevitably) turn out different than you think.’ via Learning is Leading. August 2012

To Design is to Understand Uncertainty James Self explores uncertainty and what contributions it can make to design activity and design thinking. via Core77 August 2012

Tim Brown on Design Thinking ~ Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes—and even strategy. Harvard Business Review 2008

Writing is Design Too The Atlantic July 26, 2012

“Design Thinking” Isn’t A Miracle Cure but Here’s How it Helps The term has come in for a lot of scorn. But it’s because we haven’t been clear about what it actually entails, argues Helen Walters. FastCo.Design 2011

Thinking About Design Thinking Find out why Fred Collopy grows “more bothered by the week with the phrase “design thinking.”” And why he thinks “it is an unfortunate term for describing what designers have to offer to other disciplines, which seems the most common reason for using the term. As is a way of talking about what designers can contribute to areas beyond the domains in which they have traditionally worked, about how they can improve the tasks of structuring interactions, organizations, strategies and societies, it is a weak term. FastCompany 2009

Design Thinking Battle–Managers Embrace Design Thinking, Designers Reject It ~ Bruce Nussbaum on “the clumsiness of the term Design Thinking” and the power of doing embedded in the discipline, “It is a way of thinking about doing on a strategically big scale–a new learning experience for all children, a better health-care experience for older people, a more honest political system for voters.” 2009

Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment. So what’s next? Bruce Nussbaum, one of design thinking’s biggest advocates, is moving on to something new. Here, he begins defining creative quotient. FastCompany 2011

Design Thinking…What Is That? The methodology commonly referred to as design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results. Mark Dziersk, FastCompany 2006


Design Thinking to Help Reverse a Difficult Deformity Find out how a team of students have channeled Design Thinking to rethink and redesign braces for Clubfoot children in the developing world. via SmartPlanet 2012

Thoughts on the Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~Insights and observations from a two day workshop on design thinking for educators

Classroom Redesign Videos ~ Watch as both 2nd and 5th grade Riverdale Country School students describe their classroom redesign projects and the reasons behind each of their ideas.

First Grade Inventor Projects~  In this video, a first grade class of Riverdale Country School students presents the results of weeks of work, studying and thinking about inventors and thinkers.  They looked at how and why inventions were made, what inspired the inventors and discovered a common thread – their inventions solved problems.  The students were challenged to think about a problem they wanted to solve and what they might invent to help them solve that problem.  We used basic recyclable materials, craft supplies and a lot of imagination to create a multitude of inventions.

Classroom Redesign ~ After gathering insights on how the students feel about their classroom, a Riverdale Country School class of elementary students comes together to explore a design challenge based around rethinking their classroom” “How Might We create a more comfortable classroom that promotes learning?” “How Might We create a classroom with more personal space?

Classroom Prototypes ~ After a full day of prototyping, our students are near completion. They spent a majority of Friday working in small groups to prototype one of three possibilities.  Groups focused on improving their classroom desks or chairs while other groups worked on creating a reading loft for the classroom.  Their creativity was amazing!  From built-in water bottles and pencil sharpeners to headphones for listening to laptops and teacher directions, the students truly embodied functionality and imagination with attention to saving space. Stay tuned for more pictures of completed prototypes.  Up next, feedback from current third grade students!

Prototypes Continued ~The students are almost finished with their designs and ready for end user feedback.


Design Thinking For Educators 

Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~ Free Virtual course (7/30 – 8/31) offered in partnership between Edutopia, IDEO & Riverdale Country School

Design Thinking For Educators~ October Conference: Join IDEO, Riverdale Country School & Parsons School in NY for a two day Design Thinking For Educators workshop where you will learn and use the design thinking process, connect with other educators and have the opportunity to create a project plan where you can apply this process to your own work. **SPACE IS LIMITED: SIGN UP NOW***


Initial Thoughts on Change by Design

rethinked*annex Design Thinking Kickoff 

On the Power of Full Engagement

In their book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz draw on years of experience helping some of the world’s greatest athletes perform at their best to help the rest of us achieve full engagement and high performance in whichever task we are engaged in.

The central claim of The Power of Full Engagement is that energy, rather than time, management is the key to high performance and full engagement. This claim is based on their understanding of the human as an oscillatory, rhythmic being who, by her physiological nature, must oscillate between periods of energy expenditure and energy renewal. Loehr and Schwartz identify four core interrelated areas in which human beings expand their energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The opposite of a balanced rhythmic life is a highly linear life where “we assume that we can spend energy indefinitely in some dimensions—often the mental and emotional—and that we can perform effectively without investing much energy at all in others—most commonly the physical and the spiritual. We become flat liners.” 30

Loehr and Schwartz establish four core energy management principles underpinning their theory:

I. Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. 9

II. Because energy diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal. 11

III. To build capacity we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do. 13

IV. Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance. 14

They also set out a three-step program to achieve lasting positive changes, which they refer to as Purpose-Truth-Action. The book is packed with resources, including the complete Full Engagement Training System that Loehr and Schwartz administer to the various CEOs coming to them in the hopes of improving their performance, engagement and life satisfaction. The training system takes the reader through the three stages of the change process, providing prompts to deeply examine strengths and weakness in the four core energy areas (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual), as well as defining precise steps to enact positive and lasting change.

Loehr’s and Schwartz’s thesis is immensely helpful to the rethinked*annex project as I believe it is of crucial importance that the various ideas I experiment with not be isolated into imagined silos. Everything is interrelated and energy management, rather than time management, provides a way to integrate the various aspects of one’s life into a coherent, balanced and fulfilling whole. I am excited to complete the engagement training system and hope it will help me engage fully with the different but inherently interrelated ideas of the project. Check back in the next few weeks for a follow-up post on my progress with the engagement training system.


Source: Loehr, Jim, and Tony Schwartz. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. The Free Press: New York, 2003. Print.


Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skillful management of energy. 17

Great leaders are stewards or organizational energy. They begin by effectively managing their own energy. As leaders, they must mobilize, focus, invest, channel, renew and expand the energy of others. 17

Full engagement is the energy state that best serves performance. 18

Principle I: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. 18

Principle II: Because energy diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal. 18

Principle III: To build capacity we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do. 18

Principle IV: Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance. 18

Making change that lasts requires a three-step process: Define Purpose, Face the Truth, and Take Action. 18


Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy. We call this oscillation. 46

The opposite of oscillation is linearity: too much energy expenditure without recovery or too much recovery without sufficient energy expenditure. 46

Balancing stress and recovery is critical to high performance both individually and organizationally. 46

We must sustain healthy oscillatory rhythms at all four levels of what we term the “performance pyramid”: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. 47

We build emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity. We must systematically expose ourselves to stress beyond our normal limits, followed by adequate recovery. 47

Expanding capacity requires a willingness to endure short-term discomfort in the service of long-term reward. 47


Physical energy is the fundamental source of fuel in life. 71

Physical energy is derived from the interaction between oxygen and glucose. 71

The two most important regulators of physical energy are breathing and eating. 71

Drinking 64 ounces of water daily is a key factor in the effective management of physical energy. 71

Most human beings require seven to eight hours of sleep per night to function optimally. 71

Going to bed early and waking up early help to optimize performance. 71

Interval training is more effective than steady-state exercise in building physical capacity and in teaching people how to recover more efficiently. 71

To sustain full engagement, we must take a recovery break every 90 to 120 minutes. 71


In order to perform at our best, we must access pleasant and positive emotions: the experience of enjoyment, challenge, adventure and opportunity. 92

The key muscles fueling positive emotional energy are self-confidence, self-control, interpersonal effectiveness and empathy. 92

Negative emotions serve survival but they are very costly and energy inefficient in the context of performance. 92

The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership. 92

Access to the emotional muscles that serve performance depends on creating a balance between exercising them regularly and intermittently seeking recovery. 92

Any activity that is enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming serves as a source of emotional renewal and recovery. 93

Emotional muscles such as patience, empathy and confidence can be strengthened in the same way that we strengthen a bicep or a triceps: pushing past our current limits followed by recovery. 93


Mental capacity is what we use to organize our lives and focus our attention. 108

The mental energy that best serves full engagement is realistic optimism—seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome or solution. 108

The key supportive mental muscles include mental preparation, visualization, positive self-talk, effective time management and creativity. 109

Changing channels mentally permits different parts of the brain to be activated and facilitates creativity. 109

Physical exercise stimulates cognitive capacity. 109

Maximum mental capacity is derived from a balance between expending and recovering mental energy. 109

When we lack the mental muscles we need to perform at our best, we must systematically build capacity by pushing past our comfort zone and then recovering. 109

Continuing to challenge the brain serves as a protection against age-related mental decline. 109


Spiritual energy provides the force for action in all dimensions of our lives. It fuels passion, perseverance and commitment. 127

Spiritual energy is derived from a connection to deeply held values and a purpose beyond our self-interest. 127

Character—the courage and conviction to live by our deepest values—is the key muscle that serves spiritual energy. 127

The key supportive spiritual muscles are passion, commitment, integrity and honesty. 127

Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to a purpose beyond ourselves with adequate self-care. 127

Spiritual work can be demanding and renewing at the same time. 127

Expanding spiritual capacity involves pushing past our comfort zone in precisely the same way that expanding physical capacity does. 127

The energy of the human spirit can override even severe limitations of physical energy. 127


The search for meaning is among the most powerful and enduring themes in every culture since the origin of recorded history. 146

The ‘hero’s journey’ is grounded in mobilizing, nurturing and regularly renewing our most precious resource—energy—in the service of what matters most. 146

When we lack a strong sense of purpose we are easily buffeted by life’s inevitable storms. 146

Purpose becomes a more powerful and enduring source of energy when its source moves from negative to positive, external to internal and self to others. 146

A negative source of purpose is defensive and deficit-based. 147

Intrinsic motivation grows out of the desire to engage in an activity because we value it for the inherent satisfaction it provides. 147

Values fuel the energy on which purpose is built. They hold us to a different standard for managing our energy. 147

A virtue is a value in action. 147

A vision statement, grounded in values that are meaningful and compelling, creates a blueprint for how to invest our energy. 147


Facing the truth frees up energy and is the second stage, after defining purpose, in becoming more fully engaged. 164

Avoiding the truth consumes great efforts and energy. 164

At the most basic level, we deceive ourselves in order to protect out self-esteem. 164

Some truths are too unbearable to be absorbed all at once. Emotions such as grief are best metabolized in waves. 164

Truth without compassion is cruelty—to others and to ourselves. 164

What we fail to acknowledge about ourselves we often continue to act out unconsciously. 164

A common form of self-deception is assuming that our view represents the truth, when it is really just a lens through which we choose to view the world. 164

Facing the truth requires that we retain an ongoing openness to the possibility that we may not be seeing ourselves—or others—accurately. 164

It is both a danger and a delusion when we become too identified with any singular view of ourselves. We are all a blend of light and shadow, virtues and vices. 164

Accepting our limitations reduces our defensiveness and increases the amount of positive energy available to us. 164


Rituals serve as tools through which we effectively manage energy in the service of whatever mission we are on. 181

Rituals create a means by which to translate our values and priorities into action in all dimensions of our life. 181

All great performers rely on positive rituals to manage their energy and regulate their behavior. 181

The limitations of conscious will and discipline are rooted in the fact that every demand on our self-control draws on the same limited resource. 181

We can offset our limited will and discipline by building rituals that become automatic as quickly as possible, fueled by our deepest values. 182

The most important role of rituals is to insure effective balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal in the service of full engagement. 182

The more exacting the challenge and the greater the pressure, the more rigorous our rituals need to be. 182

Precision and specificity are critical dimensions of building rituals during the thirty- to sixty-day acquisition period. 182

Trying not to do something rapidly depletes our limited stores of will and discipline. 182

To make lasting change, we must build serial rituals, focusing on one significant change at a time. 182

Getting started…* 2012-2013

We are getting started with the school year and that means that the rethinked team is becoming active. Elsa Fridman is starting her experiment in living ideas through the rethinked*annex. The rethinked team (Carmen James, Ronah Harris, Jean-Pierre Jacquet and Joy Hurd) are starting their consulting projects with teachers at Riverdale. After all our thinking and reading this summer, it is great to get active. I am working with IDEO and Parsons to get the Design Thinking for Educators conference organized and planned for October 19-20th at Riverdale and Parsons. We hope that will be a great experience for all attendees.

As always, the start of the school year allows for rethinking one’s assumptions, starting anew and making resolutions. It is great to work in schools where this opportunity exists to rethink afresh every September…* Wishing you all the best as we get going.

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