Tag brainstorming

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday  Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman


When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal ~ A new neuroscientific study shows that compassion training can help us cope with other people’s distress. Research suggests you can cultivate a compassionate mindset through encouraging cooperation, practicing mindfulness, refraining from placing blame on others, acting against inequality, and being receptive to others’ feelings without adopting those feelings as your own. via Greater Good Science Center, published August 22, 2013

Closing the Chasm Between Strategy and Execution ~ Strategy and execution is a false dichotomy, unnaturally sheared apart in order to divide labor in increasingly complex organizations. It’s an efficient approach. Alone, the shearing isn’t a problem. The problem is that both sides don’t see it as their responsibility to intelligently pull the two sides back together again. They leave a chasm, hoping that it will miraculously close on its own. The best strategists and executors don’t see a hand-off between strategy and execution. They see an integrated whole. They continuously hand ideas back and forth throughout all phases of a project, strengthening them together. via Harvard Business Review, published August 22, 2013.

How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You: Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, ‘Why Teach?’~ Mr. Edmundson reminds us of the power strong teachers have to make students rethink who they are and whom they might become. This is what a real education is all about. via New York Times, published August 20, 2013.

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity ~ The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain. Instead, the entire creative process– from the initial burst of inspiration to the final polished product– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task. via Scientific American, published August 19, 2013.

An Inventor Wants One Less Wire to Worry ~ A great profile of Meredith Perry who has the mindset and habits of a true rethinker…* via New York Times, published August 17, 2013.

Growing shoes and furniture: A design-led biomaterial revolution ~ En Vie (Alive), curated by Reader and Deputy Director of the Textile Futures Research Center at Central Saint Martins College Carole Collet, is an exposition for what happens when material scientists, architects, biologists, and engineers come together with designers to ask what the future will look like. According to them, it will be a world where plants grow our products, biological fabrication replaces traditional manufacturing, and genetically reprogrammed bacteria build new materials, energy, or even medicine. via Ars Technica, published August 18, 2013.

Make Your Work More Meaningful ~ You learn to make your work more meaningful yourself. While it helps enormously to have conditions in place that facilitate work meaning (like autonomy in deciding how you do your work), it’s important to realize that meaning is ultimately something you create on your own. Indeed, even in jobs that may look dismal from the outside, there are always steps you can take to build the kind of meaning that will make you feel better and work better. via Harvard Business Review, published August 16, 2013.

10 of the Most Counterintuitive Pieces of Advice from Famous Entrepreneurs ~ Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in what we ‘should’ be doing that we forget there are others who have gone against the grain and had it work out for them. via Creativity Post, published August 19, 2013.

What A Mallard’s Feet Can Teach You About Learning Tools ~ Often I see amazing educators using tools, apps and programs to create the most fantastic learning experiences for the students. These educators make it look easy. It is like watching a duck as it gracefully glides across the pond. The thing to remember is the graceful glide of that duck is powered by the fervent paddling of webbed feet under the water. via Teach Thought, published August 20, 2013.

“I Approached Business the Way a 6-Year-Old Would.” ~ Fast Company has an outstanding piece on the revitalization of Detroit, and all of the do-ers that are making it happen, many with little or no experience. It’s a must read for anyone launching a project. Andy Didorosi is one of the people profiled, and he shared how he started a bus company to help fill in for Detroit’s gutted public transportation system. via 99u, published August 20, 2013.

Google’s New Chat Service Connects Information Seekers With Experts ~ Helpouts by Google is a new way to connect people who need advice with experts in different fields. It consists of face-to-face video chats powered by Google+ Hangouts, where people can pay to get help from people who are able to monetize their knowledge and skills by covering areas like cooking, gardening, computers and electronics. via PSFK, published August 22, 2013.

The Magic of Metaphor: What Children’s Minds Teach Us about the Evolution of the Imagination ~ Metaphorical thinking — our instinct not just for describing but for comprehending one thing in terms of another, for equating I with an other — shapes our view of the world, and is essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent. Metaphor is a way of thought long before it is a way with words. via Brainpickings, published August 19, 2013.


7 Essential Life Lessons From Kids’ To-Do Lists ~ These sometimes-hilarious, always-adorable to-do lists written by children serve as refreshing life lesson reminders. via Mashable, published August 22, 2013.

Smart Interaction Lab Presents: TOTEM: Artifacts for Brainstorming ~ How can interactive objects encourage inspiration and dialog during brainstorming sessions? We worked together as a team of multidisciplinary researchers and designers to explore how we can improve people’s experiences of the ideation process through tangible interaction. Our solution was TOTEM—a family of three unique objects that help people get inspired and stay engaged in creative conversations and debates in order to generate new ideas. It is composed of a stack of three separate but complementary objects: Batón, Echo and Alterego. via Core77, published August 21, 2013.

Feeling brain-dead? Go for a walk: Your brain on walking, in fMRI ~ fMRI scan indicating increased brain activity associated with happiness after a 20-minute walk vs. 20 minutes in sedentary mode. via Explore, published August 12, 2013.

249 Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs For Critical Thinking ~ Bloom’s Taxonomy’s verbs–also know as power verbs or thinking verbs–are extraordinarily powerful instructional planning tools. via Teach Thought, published August 18, 2013.

Play & Learn: A new interactive board game, laXmi, designed by Akshay Sharma, aims to teach illiterate Indian women about financial literacy in a fun and engaging way ~ via Design Indaba, published August 19, 2013.

Torafu’s Haunted Art Gallery for Kids at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art ~ In an attempt to better engage the youngest visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in TokyoTorafu Architects created a special art gallery just for kids called Haunted House. On entering the exhibition a few familiar artworks appear hung in frames around a large white cube, but something is clearly amiss as everything appears to be moving. via Colossal, published August 18, 2013.

How To Draw Out Your Worst Fears ~ For her Fear Project, Julie Elman asks people about their fears and then lets her illustrative mind go wild gathering and visually interpreting their fears. And in committing to the project, she confronts her own creative fears in a circuitous way. via NPR, published August 15, 2013.

Off Ground: Playful Seating Elements For Public Spaces ~ Exploring different playful elements and seating alternatives, ‘off-ground’ by amsterdam-based designers Jair Straschnow and Gitte Nygaard is made from recycled materials. The public installation is a different approach to the way public space is used and perceived, basing the design on fun and play for adults. ‘Play is free, is in fact freedom. Play is essential to our well being. Why does play most commonly associated with children? Why do all playing facilities in public spaces get scaled-down to kid’s size? Why do all seating facilities in public spaces sum-up to rigid benches?’ via Designboom, published August 5, 2013.

Matali Crasset Creates Living Pods for Modern Artists in the Forests of France ~ Parisian designer Matali Crasset has produced a series of low-impact living pods in which modern artists can spend a summer residency while working in a natural setting. via Inhabitat, published August 22, 2013


Carol Dweck on the power of “Yet” ~ It’s just one little word, but says world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it has the power to inspire your child to do incredible things. via Great Schools, published June 26, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* (January 18-25, 2013}











Firearm Disposal: Designed by Luis Prado, adapted from NPS trash symbol, from The Noun Project


How to Have a Year that Matters ~ Why are you here? Do you want this to be another year that flies by, half-hearted, arid, rootless, barely remembered, dull with dim glimpses of what might have been? Or do you want this to be a year that you savor, for the rest of your surprisingly short time on Planet Earth, as the year you started, finally, irreversibly, uncompromisingly, to explosively unfurl a life that felt fully worth living? The choice is yours. And it always has been. via Harvard Business Review, published January 22, 2013.

Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning ~ New study shows how color, lighting, and other classroom design choices can have a huge impact on student progress. via FastCoDesign, published January 18, 2013.

Why All High School Courses Should Be Elective ~ Very few of us could pass the subject matter tests we once took, or would agree that being unable to do so significantly handicaps us. How can we ignore the implications of that fact? Marion Brady asks what’s worth teaching and what’s worth learning to rethink student disengagement and institutional inefficiency. via The Washington Post, published January 22, 2012.

Bio Design In The Home: The Beauty of Bacteria “Bio Design” focuses on the growing movement to integrate organic processes in the creation of buildings and household objects so that resources are conserved and waste is limited. via The New York Times, published January 16, 2013.

The Rhythms of Work vs The Rhythms of Creative Labor ~ Work is what we do by the hour. It begins and, if possible, we do it for money. Welding car bodies on an assembly line is work; washing dishes, computing taxes, walking the rounds in a psychiatric ward, picking asparagus–these are work. Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify… Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.  via 99u.

The First Rule of Brainstorming: Suspend Disbelief ~ interview with Kon Leong, co-founder, president and chief executive of ZL Technologies, an e-mail and file archiving company. via The New York Times, published January 19, 2013.

Collaboration Across Borders Through Artist Workshops ~ Triangle is a decentralized global network of artists and arts organizations that recently celebrated its thirty-year anniversary. It was founded by artists and continues to be run largely by them. Its objective from the beginning was to connect artists across borders in order to challenge their regular studio practices, engage them in their processes, and foster an intense dialogue about why they’re doing what they’re all doing in their corners of the world. via Hyperallergic, published January 22, 2013.


Wicker-Covered Car By Ojo Obaniyi ~ ‘I wanted to prove a point that it is not only the educated elite that can make positive changes in society. We, the artisans also have talents to effect change and make a positive impact in the society.’  via Design Boom, published January 18, 2013

Space Blogger: Chris Hadfield’s Photos from the ISS ~ Colonel Chris Hadfield is  blogging from perhaps the most exclusive place around: the International Space Station (ISS). Hadfield’s Tumblr and Twitter accounts have been very active lately as he treats us with a large selection of photography from his many orbits around the earth. Often shooting from the space station’s famous cupola, he has been getting fantastically beautiful – almost painterly – images of our precious earth. via Visual News, published January 21, 2013.

Korean Students Speak Their Mind Through Written Signs ~ ‘STOP printing out students as if they’re ROBOTS. Let them be humane’ ~ Korean Students Speak tumblr. via My Modern Met, published January 18, 2013


TEDxTalks Roundup: 4 Fascinating Talks on Education ~ four talks examining advancements in education: Preventing forgetfulness after the test: Jamshed Bharucha at TEDxCooperUnion; Where is the research and development in education? Jim Shelton at TEDxMidAtlantic; The impact of desegregation on learning: Rucker Johnson at TEDxMiamiUniversity; An end to age-grouping in the classroom: Mary Esselman at TEDxSarasota. via TEDx

Printing 3D Buildings: Five tenets of a new kind of architecture / Neri Oxman ~ 1. Growth over Assembly; 2. Integration over Segregation; 3. Heterogeneity over Homogeneity; 4. Difference over Repetition; 5. Material is the New Software. via Archdaily, published January 18, 2013.

Big Hugging ~ Giant Bear Hugging Video Game ~ Big Huggin’ is a game played with a 30 inch custom teddy bear controller. Players complete the game by providing several well-timed hugs. It is an experiment and gesture in alternative interface. Instead of firing toy guns at countless enemies or revving the engines of countless gas guzzling virtual cars, why not give a hug? A hug is simple gesture. It is one of the first physical expressions of affections a child learns. It is a gesture for the familial through the romantic. It is a gesture of mutual benefit. The game is designed to offer reflection on the way we play and cultural benefits of alternative play. via Kickstarter.

This Airplane’s Been Repurposed Into a Classroom ~ Creating a “kindergarten where the children would not want to go home.” via GOOD, published December 5, 2012

Rethinked*Annex ~ Design Thinking the Ordinary & Daily Life Prototypes

CORRECTION: (11.8.2012) I mistakenly wrote that the prototyping/implementation phase of rethinked*annex’s Design Thinking cycle had ended. This was a misreading of my calendar, the Implementation/Prototyping phase actually goes through to November 13th and the last two weeks of November are for reflection. WOOHOO for more ‘official’ prototyping time.


This may seem obvious but I feel it bears repeating: the rethinked*annex cycles are just a framework to get the ball rolling. The idea behind rethinked*annex is to seamlessly and holistically integrate tools and resources from three disciplines (Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking, Positive Psychology) into my every day life to enhance and optimize my daily existence. So while technically yesterday marked the end of the Implementation/Prototyping phase and the beginning of the two week ‘Reflection’ period for the Design Thinking cycle of rethinked*annex, it is in fact just the beginning. Having a timeframe has helped me move past my fear of execution and was established as a way to ensure that I would start Doing rather than stay perpetually in the thinking stage. It certainly does not mean that this Doing is going to end now that the Implementation phase is over. I hope to carry out some of the things I have learned these past three months for the rest of my life. As I reflect on my experiences these past three months and move on to the next cycle of rethinked*annex, I will continue to evolve these ideas and prototypes.



  • Learn how to cook good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Make dinnertime a date each night
  • Nurture and engage in meaningful conversations
  • Eat 5 home cooked dinners each week and have snacks in the apartment.


  • Catering to two different diets (carnivore & vegetarian)
  • Finding motivation/pleasure in grocery shopping/preparing a meal/doing dishes
  • Coming up with ideas for what to cook every day of the week
  • Limited resources: financial, space, time, skills


  • Eat good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Bond
  • Relax
  • Be more environmentally friendly
  • Have a healthy balanced diet
  • Save money



While I have not yet been able to prototype my little herbs garden as I had hoped, I did engage in some ‘crafty’ kitchen time by making my own pumpkin seeds (after hacking a pumpkin with a kitchen knife…steep learning curve, folks). I have also been making a green juice each morning, which has helped me feel much more proactive about my health. Finally, I have started a flavor association notebook, which I keep in my kitchen and in which I note different food pairings that I enjoy while trying out various recipes. The aim of the journal is to help me become more observant of individual flavors in the hopes of one day being able to create my very own recipes ‘from scratch’. Other ideas I will be prototyping these next few weeks ~ Making my own: nut milk & pates, jams and sauerkraut


Interestingly enough, in the two weeks or so of home cooking that I have done, I have finally discovered (yes, discovered) rhythm. I would without hesitation name balance as the overall core challenge of my life. I am terrible at balancing whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally. I am an over thinker with a chronic handicap in the execution/doing department. I have this highly unhelpful belief that things are not worth doing unless they are perfect. I have been trying to reframe this belief for years but find I have made little progress. I still spend far too much time thinking and much too little time doing. (Something which I think has been apparent during these past three months engaging with Design Thinking, but more on that in a later post.) Anyway, it turns out cooking is very therapeutic and for one of a handful of times in my life I have been able to feel, concretely and tangibly, the delights of rhythm and balance. I shared in previous posts my creative and emotional tensions surrounding cooking, notable among which my intense desire for ownership of the meals I cook and desire for creative expression through the act of cooking. I shared my feeling that since I was unable to cook an entire meal from scratch, I have often dismissed the act of cooking as a whole. Yet in the past couple of weeks, I have been made aware of the immense grey area that lies within the practice of cooking. Some meals are quick and easy to make while others require much more time and craft. I found that once I redefined a successful meal as something pleasing to my taste buds and health and which did not come in a container brought to my door by a delivery man, I could be much more relaxed about defining ‘creativity’ in the kitchen. There are days when I’m tired and want to focus more on the comfort of eating than the creation of a meal, on those days I pick simple and quick recipes and even if I do not create the recipe or the meal from scratch, I still feel creatively fulfilled by the actual act of creation–of combining (even if the formula is not my own) various elements that come together to create a whole greater than its parts. On days where I’m feeling more relaxed and have more time, I experience a different though equally satisfying sense of creative expression, by making an entire meal from scratch. Other ideas that I plan to prototype in the coming weeks include:

  • Paint & Idea Frame ~ I originally thought it would be terrific to cover our kitchen in Idea paint and use the space as a giant whiteboard to write down ideas etc. but my boyfriend is not as writing-on-the-walls friendly as I am so we’ve come up with the following compromise. We’ll paint the walls with regular paint (I’m not a fan of the white in the kitchen and would like something a bit more stimulating and warm) and then we’ll go buy an old wooden picture or mirror frame, paint it and put it up on the wall. The area enclosed by the frame is free game for writing and drawings. This way I still get to write on the walls but it’s contained to a small (and manageable for Matt) space.



So fantastically pleased to announce that in my past two and half weeks of home cooking I have not had to throw ANY food away (not even the usual wilted Swiss Chard usually found whimpering in some dark recess of my fridge). That’s right, by planning out meals for the next few days and buying only those ingredients necessary I have managed to eat everything in my fridge before it went bad. This has made me feel infinitely better and more motivated to continue cooking my own food. The prototypes that went into this were as follow:

  • Fresh Direct ~ Done dreading the grocery store (and consequently never going). Once a week, Matt and I sit down in front of the computer and browse the recipes I am continually accumulating on Rethinked’s Food Pinterest board. We choose recipes for the next four to six days and buy all the groceries online through Fresh Direct. I was a little worried at first about the quality of the food that would be delivered but so far we have used Fresh Direct three times and I’ve been extremely satisfied with the service each time. I also had some concerns about how ‘eco’ friendly getting my groceries delivered by truck was, but they have this great feature for when you schedule your delivery where certain time slots have little green leaves to show that Fresh Direct is already delivering to your neighborhood on those time slots. I also figured that  whatever carbon footprint I was leaving from having the groceries delivered was probably still a lot smaller than the total once you add up the plastic containers, utensils, brown and plastic bags involved in each meal being delivered.
  • Virtual Cookbook via Pinterest ~ LOVE THIS. This has been a real testament to the power of small ideas. There is really nothing revolutionary behind using Pinterest as a cookbook, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference it has made. I find browsing recipe by image alone works really well for me.
  • Green Juice: I’ve mentioned this one already, but it fits my need in a range of themes. I have started a daily morning green juice tradition where I juice an assortment of vegetables, I usually include kale, celery, cucumbers, carrots, ginger and lemon but I can easily throw in any other vegetables I have not had time to cook or consume yet and which might be going bad. What now, Kale!   

Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni  


If you’ve been keeping up with my rethinked*annex progress, you’re most likely aware of my dinners from around the world idea. I did a very quick and basic iteration of this idea a couple weeks back by ordering sushi, which we ate while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I would very much like to make this a weekly tradition (along with a Sunday morning feast). Because things have been so crazy these past few weeks I have been unable to keep this up but will be continuing to refine this prototype in the coming weeks.

Baked Tomatoes, Squash, and Potatoes


I have not yet had a chance to work on the ‘sensory’ palettes I wanted to create, I did however ‘step up my game’ so that cooking does not just mean preparing food but also setting a nice table and attending to the ambiance. These few small changes (adding candles, napkins instead of paper towels and making sure that the silverware and plates all match) have already worked wonders to make our eating experience feel more holistically pleasing. I am still very much interested in trying out my ‘sensory palettes and will be focusing on that in the coming weeks.


So far I have identified various ambitions, challenges and motivations behind the design thinking challenge:


  • Reframe our perception of winter
  • Engage in winter activities


  • Avoid feeling down emotionally
  • Enjoy winter’s unique attributes
  • Not dread winter’s coming


  • Dealing with the cold
  • Lack of sunlight/colors
  • Walkability goes way down with snow, rain and slush
  • Shorter days and longer nights
  • Holiday tourists
  • Feeling trapped ~ Indoor spaces seems to all be packed. Winter feels very claustrophobic.

I have yet to come up with themes like I did for the Rethinking…* the eating experience. Matt and I did however come up with some ideas we’d like to prototype just from looking at what we have gathered thus far as being part of the winter challenge topography (users, activities, environments, objects, interactions & activities) ~

  • Memory frames ~ we thought it would be fun to write down some of our favorite memories of winter moments spent together, frame them and put them up on the wall during the winter months. A visual reminder of all the fun time had in winter.
  • Seasonal eating ~ this is a hybrid prototype that works for both rethinking the eating experience and winter. Eating seasonally and locally.
  • Weekly Game night ~ I love board games and it seems winter might be the best time for me to finally convince my friends to play Monopoly or Apples to Apples. I think it would be great to make this into a winter tradition and have friends over every week for some food, winter cocktails (hello Grogs!) and games.
  • Dinner parties ~ I realize that most of my prototype ideas for rethinking the winter experience revolve heavily around food, but it seems like from November to about March food (and sleep) are front and center in my brain. The dinner party idea is an offshoot of the weekly game night idea mentioned above. It’s a way to emphasize the aspects of winter that I actually do enjoy (food, coziness, and human warmth).
  • Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter/ Soup Kitchen ~ Like most people, Matt and I find it particularly difficult to pass by a homeless person in the dead of winter and not feel deep despair for this other human being less fortunate than we. We are unable to give money to each homeless person we pass and the amount we are able to spare is much too small to improve that person’s life past getting a warm drink. By volunteering regularly, we would be able to enact more proactive and helpful change on a sustainable level.

Rethinked*Annex Status Update: Pattern Recognition & How Might We’s

This past week I started the brainstorming phase of my design thinking challenge for rethinking…* the eating experience. After visually laying out the topography of the eating environment, I wrote down memories and associations for each item as well as reflected on memorable eating experiences. I then spent some time trying to figure out how they all come together in various themes important to me as the intended user. The aim of establishing these themes is to better articulate HMWs to approach the challenge.

Rethinking the eating experience…*

CREATIVITY ~ How might I make the act of cooking feel more creatively fulfilling and productive? One of the themes that emerged is the creative tension, or lack thereof, that I feel whilst cooking. In my mind, the act of cooking takes two different but equally frustrating forms. The first is following a recipe word for word, which I hate, because it feels like working your way through someone else’s checklist– a chore more than anything. The second is to improvise and ‘create’ one’s own recipe, which could be fun if not for the fact that every single time I have tried to get ‘creative’ in the kitchen it has resulted in a catastrophic pile of undercooked or burnt and inedible chaos.

Potential Solution:  I am very interested in exploring the idea of the kitchen as studio—a place of craft, raw materials, design and creativity. I spent October 6th, global day of play, working on making a mockup of my kitchen out of cardboard and other recycled materials lying around my apartment to use as a ‘set’ for a 2-minute long character arc video, which I will be completing next week.

OWNERSHIP ~ How might I find ways to feel more connected to the food I cook and consume? I am a perfectionist, to the point of handicap. If I decide to make a pie from “scratch” for example, in my ideal world, I would be the one raising the chickens to get the eggs for the pie. From that stance it is impossible for me to feel as though I have really ever “made” a meal. Obviously this is a two-part problem: first, I need to address my issues with perfectionism. Secondly, and this might be easier, I need to find ways to feel more authentically connected to my food than merely picking it up off the shelves of a grocery store and transporting it, sealed and packed, to my own fridge.

Potential Solution:

-Growing my own indoor herbs garden.

-Learning to make jams/canning/homemade wine and other such crafty kitchen endeavors.

WASTE ~ How might I waste and throwaway less food? I’m that person that will finish every last bite on her plate, no matter how full or nauseous for the simple reason that I cannot bear to waste food. Because of how terrible I have been at planning meals and following through on cooking the things I do buy, I usually do end up wasting a lot of food, which makes me feel terrible about myself and taints the whole eating/cooking/grocery shopping experience.

Potential Solution: Go grocery shopping more often and buy less; decide on recipes for the next three days and buy only what you need to make these recipes. One idea I had to make finding recipes and actually trying them out more fun and sustainable was to make a virtual ‘photo-album’ cookbook. Pinterest is a platform particularly well suited to the task. I can browse food blogs, and pin images of the recipes that fit my nutritional requirements (i.e. vegetarian, proper food combining, ingredients I like, etc.) Then I can set up a recurring planning/grocery shopping time, maybe twice a week, to browse the images in my Pinterest ‘cookbook’ board and select recipes–which I already know fit my nutritional requirements and tastes–based on color or ingredient by quickly getting a visual sense of the entire meal.

  prototype of my Pinterest photo album cookbook idea on an iPad

TRADITION How might I continue as well as start new positive and meaningful rituals around food and eating? When I was younger I would spend parts of every summer with my grandparents at their beach house on the French-Spanish border. Each morning, I would sneak into their bedroom and cuddle in the middle of their bed. At which point my grandfather would get up and come back 10 minutes later with a porcelain bowl filled with black coffee for my grandma and a tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for me. Mamie and I would emerge slowly from our dream states, sitting next to each other in bed, the sun pouring in through the window, sipping our respective drinks. Eventually, we would move outside to the terrace for our breakfast of baguette slices, butter and my grandmother’s homemade jams. Now, when I think of the word breakfast I am flooded with precious memories of that time. I have several other “food’ traditions–Christmas feasts, my mother’s crepes for the Chandeleur, my father’s cacio e peppe at the first real chill of fall— but all come from my childhood and I haven’t experienced many of them in a long time. My grandmother has now passed away and I no longer live with my parents, it’s time for me to carry on and recreate these traditions that structured my childhood on my own.

Potential Solution: Start a dinner from around the world night. This is something I wanted to do as a kid, when I used to daydream about “grown-up me”. Each week pick a different country, find traditional recipes from that country and make a dinner around it. Matt and I could each do a little research on something intriguing from that country (artists, writers, cultural phenomena etc.) We could then share and discuss our findings with each other over the meal. (Nerdy and proud!)

HAPTIC ~ How might I make the eating/cooking experience more pleasant and stimulating to all of my senses? I spent quite a bit of time in the past two weeks reflecting on my favorite all time meals and then trying to identify what it was about those meals that made them so memorable. The meals that stood out have been the ones that came along with their own little worlds like my mother’s dinner parties where she crafts the meal, conversation, decor and ambiance to all organically reinforce one another and form a whole, much greater than its parts, that creates a magical moment outside of time and the ordinary.

Potential Solution: Make ‘sensory palettes’ around different meals and ingredients. In my “Tradition” theme heading, I described my morning breakfast ritual with my grandparents. This ritual was not just about the food we consumed, or the togetherness and bonding inherent to the situation. This tradition comes with its own ‘sensory palette’ of tastes, smells, sounds, etc. For example, when I think of breakfast I think of the wind in the branches on the terrace, the crispness of the sunlight pouring into my grandparent’s mauve bedroom, the birds chirping nearby hoping for crumbs, the white of my grandmother’s nightgown and porcelain bowl, the dust dancing in the sun… I think it would be interesting to create palettes of various sensory stimuli connected to different meals and ingredients. By creating these sensory palettes I would be able to make more of a conscious effort to play on memories and associations already formed and deeply engrained to optimize my eating experiences. I’ve noticed, for example, that drinking black coffee out of a white porcelain bowl is distinctly more satisfying, for me, than drinking it out of any other types and colors of receptacles.

 Rethinking….* Winter

Laying out the topography for this challenge has been a little different than the other. Because winter is a season and therefore so large in scope, I struggled a bit with defining objects, activities, users, environments and interactions so I decided to focus on the elements of winter that I liked and that were relevant to my life in all of these categories. I am still working on this list.

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…*

rethinked*annex ~ Design Thinking Kickoff

Drumroll please: the design thinking stage of rethinked*annex has officially begun!

The next four weeks will be spent in the discovery/brainstorming stages of the three month Design Thinking cycle. This is a time to learn more about design thinking–its key players, key detractors, successful case studies, etc. A time to learn from experts and novices alike; a time to engage in authentic conversations and research as to what design thinking is and what it can become.

In terms of conducting this research I am planning on starting by making use of the amazing virtual crash course in design thinking resources over on the d.school website. There is a recommended reading list of books on the design thinking process, which I will be reading throughout the next three months of the design thinking phases of rethinked*annex. I hope to round out my individual research with conversations about design thinking with as wide a range of diverse people as possible.

The aim is that by the end of these four weeks I will feel ready and capable of implementing tools and concepts from design thinking to my own daily life. The implementation phase will last a total of six weeks and I am hoping to work my way up from simple tangible problems (such as, for example, rethinking how I organize things in my home) to more nuanced and abstract ones (relationships, neighborhood/community issues or dreams).

After the implementation/prototyping phase, I will spend the next two weeks reflecting on my experiences with the design thinking process, what worked, what didn’t, what I learned and how DT has (hopefully) changed my stance about the world and my place within it. This will also be a time to outline future iterations of prototypes built over the implementation phase and, if I do end up doing a community/neighborhood design thinking project, it will be an opportunity to delineate further steps moving forward.

I will be providing a status update each week, here on our blog, on what I have accomplished the week before and what I am hoping to get done for the coming week. I am also hoping to do a salon type of meeting in the hopes of taking the wonderful virtual conversations going on about design thinking out into the physical world. I am planning on going to a park, bringing a sunflower to be easily recognizable, (hopefully being able to get some other rethinked team members), perhaps a picnic and engage in discussions surrounding design thinking all day with anyone interested in joining the conversation. I will provide you with more details on this as soon as I sort out the logistics and let you know the place and date here on our blog as well as on our Twitter and Facebook.

Comments, questions and obsessions welcome as always.

Thoughts on the Design Thinking For Educators Workshop

First of all a huge thank you to the Riverdale Country School (RCS) and IDEO for putting together the Design Thinking for Educators Workshop, what a brilliant two days!


The workshop started Thursday morning on the sunny RCS campus. Designers, students, teachers and administrators gathered together in the RCS multi purpose room filled with IDEO’s colorful rolling desks. We started the workshop with a 45-minute challenge designed to give us an overview of the design thinking (DT) process.


We partnered in groups of two and were tasked with redesigning our partner’s morning commute. Together we went through the five phases of the DT process (Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation, Evolution) to identify the challenges our partner faced every day as part of their commute in order to come up with tangible solutions for them.




We were given a list of tips for the discovery process, to allow us to engage with our partner’s reality in an empathetic way.  We were urged to not solely gather facts but to get at the moments, the stories behind the facts because design thinking, at its core, is about the human experience. It’s about improving our moments by challenging the status quo and placing the human, as an individual rather than a statistic, at the center of every experience.

I told my partner, Pia, a learning specialist at RCS, about my commute and enumerated my many complaints: the overly crowded subways, the unpredictability of the G train, the frustration I feel every morning as I try to manage a modicum of personal space, stuck in a mass of tired, cranky, coughing, sneezing people all in a hurry to get where they are going. In retrospect however, after having seen Pia’s prototypes of the solutions she came up with for my morning commute, I realized all of these complaints are the facts of my commute, shared by thousands of others taking the NYC subway. They do not reveal anything specific about my needs or my personal experience of the commute.

Armed with IDEO’s tips on discovery, Pia was able to identify the real story of my morning commute: I’m not a morning person. I’m actually not really a person at all in the mornings until I’ve had my second cup of coffee. And I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I absolutely hate having to be crammed so close to strangers that I can feel their breaths on my face, it sends me into a whirling state of paranoia about all the many diseases floating around the subway car, waiting like predators to get me sick.

So Pia designed a subway that would have Purell dispensers as well as cup holders and coffee machines in every subway car. It was a simple, elegant solution and it was such a salient insight into the overarching challenge of my commute. What amazed me was that through the DT process Pia was able to identify my morning commute challenge better than I could myself.




It was astounding to see the quality, breadth and creativity of the ideas produced in such a short amount of time. From bike helmets that protect your hair do, to a digital butler that bounces ideas off with you about things you’re interested in while you’re driving, the prototypes were amazing. (MTA, if you’re listening, coffee machines and cup holders in the subway are pure gold…get on it).

Our next challenge, which was to be the core of the workshop, was to reimagine the 21st century library.

1. DISCOVERY: I have a challenge. How do I approach it?

We were split up into groups of five and sent off on different field trips to analogous places and on interviews with students and their families. One group went to Starbucks, another interviewed students, another a family and so on. This was all part of the discovery phase. Discovery is about being inspired and energized. The goal of discovery is to achieve a state of ‘informed intuition’ meaning that an intellectual grasp of the challenge is not enough, we want to become aware of the various aspects of a challenge at all levels (emotional, physical, empathetic, etc.).

When all the teams returned from their interviews and observations trips we broke for lunch, excited for the next phase of the process.

2. INTERPRETATION: Learned something. How do I interpret it?

After lunch, we were ready to begin the interpretation phase. We were first asked to write down the information we had gathered on post-its notes. One thought or quote per post-it. It was interesting to see how all the members of my group, despite having all been in the same room and having participated in the same interview with a family of three, had identifying such different insights. After getting all the information we had gathered out onto the post-its, we began to group them by themes.



We then arranged the themes into “How Might We”s (HMW). In this step we rephrased the problems we had identified into possibilities. For example, we realized that the students found it difficult to navigate the library and find the resources they were looking for. This insight was translated into a HMW: How might we redesign the ways in which books are grouped to ensure that students are able to find the books they seek?

3. IDEATION: I see an opportunity. What do I create?



Once we had identified some HMWs, we were reorganized into groups of 15 and voted on two HMWs that the aggregated group wanted to focus on. We then had to come up with as many ideas as possible, which we jotted down on post-its and put up on a board. Our goal was to come up with at least 100 ideas in the allotted time. It was an amazing experience seeing the ideas slowly trickle out at first before spurting out in a seemingly endless flow.



The second day of the workshop was split between prototyping the ideas we had come up with during ideation and examining our real life challenges through the DT lens.

4. EXPERIMENTATION: I have an idea. How do I build it?

The experimentation phase of the process is about thinking through an idea. It’s about getting ideas out of your brain so they don’t become too precious in your mind and making them tangible so that you can evaluate them and get rapid responses from stakeholders. The prototype can be executed in any form; it doesn’t necessarily have to be in physical form, it can be role-playing or any other type of representation that successfully illustrates the idea.

We were split back into groups of five and each group selected two to three ideas to prototype. To build our prototypes we had access to anything in the room (chairs, tables, water bottles, etc.) as well as an assortment of arts and crafts materials.



Once the allotted time for building our prototypes was up, each group was given two minutes to present their prototype to the whole group as well as a panel of RCS students who provided feedback on each of the prototypes.




Each of the prototypes was breathtaking; no idea was too big or too small to be represented. One group designed a set of ‘bibliospecs’, which would function similarly to Google glasses whereby the wearer would see personalized information and set of resources tailored to her as she navigated the library. Another group designed a new type of librarian position that would hand deliver special invitations and VIP event invitations at the library to students. Yet a third group redesigned the library to include within it a large tree, hammock reading nooks, modular furniture and information kiosques. Each of the prototypes brimmed with wonder, imagination, whimsy and possibility.

5. EVOLUTION: I tried something. How do I evolve it?

Evolution is an ongoing process, a way to refine your ideas and concepts over time. All products, services and systems are constantly in the evolution phase. Nothing is ever done or perfect; as our needs evolve so too should our environments and interactions.

While we did not physically evolve our prototypes, getting the feedback from the students did give us a good idea of further steps in which to take our solutions to better meet their needs.

The rest of the day was spent focusing on the individuals in the room and their specific education challenges. We partnered up in groups of two and unleashed our specific complaints, changing them together into How Might We’s and coming up with a project plan to enact tangible solutions to the problems we face.



As the workshop came to an end, it was amazing to reflect on all that we had learned. We had acquired a new skill set (design thinking), we had gathered insights on students’ needs and preferences, and we had learned about ourselves. We tend to take our mindsets for granted because the opportunities to question deeply how we think are so rare and far between. All systems, to varying degrees, instill in us a sense of immutability. As we experienced a new methodology of thinking, we were all forced, to some extent, to realize our own biases and assumptions. It was an incredibly empowering experience to be reminded, for it seems we often forget, that our experiences as individuals matter. We do not have to passively accept systems, services, products and environments that do not meet our needs. We do not have to wait for solutions to be handed down to us by ‘experts’. With the people around us and a simple yet powerful method, we have the power to take ownership of our experiences and effect tangible changes for ourselves. Design thinking is a set of tools but it is above all a mindset. It is about rethinking problems into possibilities; it is about being human and making the most of it.

If you couldn’t make it to the workshop, don’t worry you can still experience design thinking for yourself. Check out designthinkingforeducators.com where you can get a free 94-page toolkit, which details the design thinking process as well as presenting real case studies of how the process has been used in schools to enact positive changes. Be sure to check back here with us and on our Twitter and Facebook page for more pictures of the workshop and announcements regarding upcoming initiatives.

As always, we’d love to know what you’re thinking. Whether you were at the workshop or not, let us know what’s on your mind: comments, questions, case studies, feedback…we love it all.



Classroom Redesign

Over the course of the last two weeks, our students began a classroom redesign project.  We began by having a very structured group conversation where we shared likes and dislikes about the chairs in which the students currently sit.  The children shared in a whole group setting a variety of reasons why they like their chair, it is a safe place to sit and it does not crack, and reasons why they dislike their chair, it is uncomfortable, there is no cushion, it does not move easily, and it digs into their backs.  We then continued our conversation a few days later, this time based around our desks.  Again the students shared their likes and dislikes. We heard the students share that they like their desks because it is their own personal space, there is storage and everything is easy to reach.  They dislike their desks because they do not move easily, it is hard to see what is inside, and there is no space to display their work.  After the students got the idea of how to be critical of items in their environment, we asked the students to use post-it notes to share one like and one dislike about their cubbies, bulletin boards and finally their classroom in general.  After the students shared their likes/dislikes, we bucketed their ideas into common strands.  Through the bucketing process, we learned that the students do not feel a sense of privacy and personal space in their classroom.  We also learned that they do not feel comfortable while they are working and learning.  From this information, we developed two questions for the students to brainstorm possible solutions. How Might We create a more comfortable classroom that promotes learning? How Might We create a classroom with more personal space?  Let the wild ideas flow, stay tuned!

brainstorming rules…

DEFER JUDGMENT Don’t dismiss any ideas.
BUILD ON THE IDEAS OF OTHERS No “buts,” only “ands”.
ENCOURAGE WILD IDEAS Embrace the most out-of-the-box notions because they can be the key to solutions.
GO FOR QUANTITY Aim for as many new ideas as possible.
STAY FOCUSED ON THE TOPIC Always keep the discussion on target.
ONE CONVERSATION AT A TIME No interrupting, no dismissing, no disrespect, no rudeness.

taken from IDEO’s brainstorming rules

…contrary to what one might imagine there are rules for brainstorming…and yet, how difficult is it to follow these rules…

%d bloggers like this: