Tag feedback

“We have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways.” – Our Interview With Akarsh Sanghi, Designer …*

"We have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways." - Our Interview With Akarsh Sanghi, Designer ...* | rethinked.org - Photo Credit: Akarsh Sanghi

Akarsh Sanghi

Akarsh Sanghi is a Singapore based interaction designer. You may recall seeing him on rethinked …* a few months back when I featured his prototype for a “wearable tool to assist learning,” Grasp. Grasp, a timely and thoughtful design provocation, prompts us to question our assumptions about traditional learning practices and environments. It is representative of Akarsh’s broader body of work which focuses on projects that bridge the gap between physical and digital life by applying computational methods in design and creative contexts. I am delighted to share his interview with you today. Connect with Akarsh, @akarshsanghi.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

The latest project I have been working on is trying to understand the idea of creating urban trails in a city. Today we are able to navigate urban areas with the help of various mapping applications available on our mobile devices, but that is usually a static approach, since it is only to get a job done i.e. get you from one destination to another. But I believe there is a much stronger emotional value in exploring a city by following a trail created by somebody else. The experiences that this kind of serendipity can provide can amount to something great for an individual who is exploring a new place. This is an ongoing experiment in Singapore where I am currently based.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

The one thing I fear most is getting myself involved in a project or an organization in which I lose interest or faith in while in the middle of it. As a designer, I am constantly thinking and developing new ideas and putting them out into the world. But while being committed to a project in which I lose faith half-way through, it becomes extremely frustrating to see it through till the end. Some ways in which I try to avoid this situation is by having adequate research and knowledge about what I am getting into. Also you have to completely believe in your own vision that you are trying to achieve irrespective of what other’s have to say about it, and do your best in achieving that.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I very strongly believe in the idea of applying existing forms of technology in the most creative and innovative contexts to solve some of the most pressing problems in society. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time we are trying to create something new. There are numerous situation, contexts, problems and people who are still untapped by the use of modern technology. To cater for those segments of society, we have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways. There are times when I feel extremely disappointed while working with some big organizations, since they are constantly resisting change and are so afraid to take risks in any form.

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Everything that Elon Musk has done in the past decade, whether it is in space exploration, electric cars, solar energy and the latest idea of introducing home batteries. It is inspiring to see and entrepreneur born from the Internet Age has taken up and succeeded in businesses which were earlier restricted only to men and women in white coats working in research laboratories. His work clearly showcases that an idea however crazy or absurd it may sound at the time, can be pursued to alter the way humanity progresses.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

I wouldn’t really say that I have had one transformational moment in my life till now (I am 24 years old) but when I was able to create small projects and put them online which other people could use and give feedback was extremely enriching for me. It really motivated me to continue creating and putting ideas out in the world. You never know what form those ideas take once they are out of your system.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

At some point of time I want to look back at my life and sum up all the experiences I have collected, the journey I have been through, the people I have come across, the work I have done in one words, i.e. “FUN”

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN?

Being able to distinguish between First Principles and Intuition. Some of the most powerful entities that a human possesses can do wonders in difficult situations where one can make decisions based on formal logic or a simple gut call.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

How can we develop tools and communities to bridge the gap between physical and digital lives of people by empowering them to control the technology and not the other way around?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND?

Books

  • Evocative Objects: Things we think with by Sherry Turkle
  • Beautiful Evidence by Edward R. Tufte
  • The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard Hamming
  • Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan
  • Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono

Films

  • P.K. by Rajkumar Hirani [Hindi film challenging the traditional ways in which we see god and religion]
  • The Imitation Game by Morten Tyldum
  • Interstellar by Christopher Nolan
  • The Prestige by Christopher Nolan

Essays

  • By Isaac Asimov [access here]
  • By Bret Victor [access here]

. . . * 

THANK YOU, AKARSH!

The Visual Case for a Growth Mindset – Striking Demonstration of How Intelligence Grows Just Like A Physical Muscle …*

The Visual Case for a Growth Mindset - Striking Demonstration of How Intelligence Grows Just Like A Physical Muscle ...*

“Your intelligence can actually be changed. What we’ve learned, what researchers have taught us, is that our brains are actually a lot like a muscle. We know that you can grow your muscles by going into the gym and doing exercise and straining your muscles. You don’t just work on things that are easy for your muscles to do, you do things that your muscles have to struggle with, that your muscles have to strain with and then they rebuild themselves and they come back stronger. By struggling, it’s a signal to your body to devote more resources to that part of the body. And we see that exact same thing with the brain. “

Growth mindset, as you likely know by now, is the belief that intelligence, personality, and any number of other cognitive or emotional capacities–think creativity, empathy, optimism, etc.– are not fixed but learnable, and growable with effort and practice over time.

The idea that emotional and cognitive capacities function much like physical muscles that become stronger and better developed through effort over time is a common analogy pervading the field of psychology. Numerous studies looking at a vast range of capacities support the idea that these strengths are indeed dynamic and learnable. If you want a good starting point to review some of the research, I highly recommend Carol Dweck‘s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. But if you want a quick and very powerful way to drive home for yourself the validity of a growth mindset, watch the video from Khan Academy embedded below.

“The big takeaway from this whole area of research is you absolutely can change your intelligence, that your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And that the best way to grow it, isn’t to do things that are easy for you, that might help a little bit, but what really helps your brain is when you struggle with things. And actually, research shows that you grow the most not when you get a question right, but when you get a question wrong. […] research tells us: when you get something wrong, when you challenge your brain, when you review why you got it wrong, when you really process that feedback, that’s when your brain grows the most and that if you keep doing that, you’re well on your way to having a stronger more able, and I guess you could say, smarter brain.”

reframe adversity as growth & flourish …* 

{ The Good Life vs. the Pleasant Life } Building Psychological Capital By Investing In Experiences That Produce Flow …*

{ The Good Life vs. the Pleasant Life } Building Psychological Capital By Investing In Experiences That Produce Flow ...* | rethinked.org

Last week, I wrote about the different types of happiness in the present: the pleasures and the gratifications and dove into various ways to enhance and amplify the pleasure in one’s life. Today, let’s focus on the gratifications, specifically on how they differ from the pleasures. The distinction is important as it frames the difference between the ‘Good Life” and the “Pleasant Life”–a life of growth and authenticity versus a life of ephemeral pleasures.

PSYCHOLOGICAL COMPONENTS OF THE GRATIFICATIONS

While the pleasures are about the surging of positive emotions, the gratifications are characterized by a complete lack of emotion– a full immersion in the moment and lack of self-consciousness. As I mentioned in my post last week, what Seligman calls the gratifications is, essentially, interchangeable with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s concept of flow

From Csikszentmihalyi’s research, we know that the experience of the gratifications/flow is characterized by the following components:

  • The task is challenging and requires skill
  • We concentrate
  • There are clear goals
  • We get immediate feedback
  • We have deep, effortless involvement
  • There is a sense of control
  • Our sense of self vanishes
  • Time stops (116)

PLEASURES AS CONSUMPTION, GRATIFICATIONS AS GROWTH – A THEORY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL CAPITAL

Seligman makes a fascinating analogy with the field of economics, suggesting that in the same way that we can accrue economic capital – “resources that are withdrawn from consumption and invested in the future for higher anticipated returns,” we may be endowed with a capacity for accruing psychological capital. And the way in which we build this psychological capital is through pursuing the gratifications.

When we engage in pleasures, we are perhaps just consuming. The smell of perfume, the taste of raspberries, and the sensuality of a scalp rub are all high momentary delights, but they do not build anything for the future. They are not investments, nothing is accumulated. In contrast, when we are engaged (absorbed in flow), perhaps we are investing, building psychological capital for our future. Perhaps flow is the state that marks psychological growth. Absorption, the loss of consciousness, and the stopping of time may be evolution’s way of telling us that we are stocking up psychological resources for the future. In this analogy, pleasure marks the achievement of biological satiation, whereas gratification marks the achievement of psychological growth. (117)

I find this idea of psychological capital growing from engaging with activities that produce flow rather intuitive, but Seligman backs it up with research:

Flow is a frequent experience for some people, but this state visits many others only rarely if at all. In one of Mike’s [ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ] studies, he tracked 250 high-flow and 250 low-flow teenagers. The low-flow teenagers are “mall” kids; they hang out at malls and they watch television a lot. The high-flow kids have hobbies, they engage in sports, and they spend a lot of time on homework. On every measure of psychological well-being (including self-esteem and engagement) save one, the high-flow teenagers did better. The exception is important: the high-flow kids think their low-flow peers are having more fun, and say they would rather be at the mall doing all those “fun” things or watching television. But while all the engagement they have is not perceived as enjoyable, it pays off later in life. The high-flow kids are the ones who make it to college, who have deeper social ties, and whose later lives are more successful. This all fits Mike’s theory that flow is the state that builds psychological capital that can be drawn on in years to come. (117)

THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD QUESTION: ASKING “WHAT IS THE GOOD LIFE?” RATHER THAN “HOW CAN I BE HAPPY?” 

To summarize, we now know that there are two very different qualities of happiness in the present: the pleasures and the gratifications. Further, we know that the former produces evanescent positive emotion while the latter builds up our psychological capital. Back-rubs and pumpkin pie are wonderful and should be savored, but if we want to grow our psychological reserves we need to be seeking out and creating experiences for ourselves that produce flow. Yet, so many of us routinely choose the pleasures over the gratifications–spending our evenings mindlessly flipping through the channels instead of writing a story, painting a portrait or otherwise engaging in activities that require the activation of our strengths. This is a question of motivation, the pleasures are cheap and easily accessible while the gratifications require effort and hold the possibility of failure and stress:

To start the process of eschewing easy pleasure and engaging in more gratification is hard. The gratifications produce flow, but they require skill and effort; even more deterring is the fact that because they meet challenges, they offer the possibility of failing. Playing three sets of tennis, or participating in a clever conversation, or reading Richard Russo takes work—at least to start. The pleasures do not: watching a sitcom, masturbating and inhaling perfume are not challenging. Eating a buttered bagel or viewing televised football on Monday night requires no effort and little skill, and there is no possibility of failure.  (119)

But if we want a full life, a life of growth and directed change, we must be willing to endure and, in fact, seek out the challenges that produce flow:

Such people [those seeking the pleasures exclusively] ask, “How can I be happy?” This is the wrong question, because without the distinction between pleasure and gratification it leads all too easily to a total reliance on shortcuts, to a life of snatching up as many easy pleasures as possible. I am not against the pleasures; indeed, this entire chapter has set out advice on how to increase pleasures (as well as the entire panoply of positive emotions) in your life. I detailed the strategies under your voluntary control that are likely to move your level of positive emotion into the upper part of your set range of happiness: gratitude, forgiveness, and escaping the tyranny of determinism to increase positive emotions about the past; learning hope and optimism through disputing to increase positive emotions about the future; and breaking habituation, savoring, and mindfulness to increase the pleasures of the present. (120)

When an entire life is taken up in the pursuit of the positive emotions, however, authenticity and meaning are nowhere to be found. The right question is the one Aristotle posed two thousand and five hundred years ago: “What is the good life?” My main purpose in marking the gratifications off from the pleasures is to ask this great question anew, then provide a fresh and scientifically grounded answer. My answer is tied up in the identification and the use of your signature strengths. (121)

We’ll examine the signature strengths next Tuesday–what they are, how to identify them and how to build them up.

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ 8 Tips for Making …* } When You Make New Things, You’re Joining In the Most Ancient Dialogue That Humans Have Ever Had

{ 8 Tips for Making ...* } When You Make New Things, You're Joining In the Most Ancient Dialogue That Humans Have Ever Had | rethinked.org

Right in time for all your weekend projects, here are eight of Mythbusters’ Adam Savage‘s ten commandments of making, which he shared at this year’s Maker Faire. I’ve transcribed my favorite eight below (the last two being rather technical — measure carefully so that you know when to use high tolerance versus loose tolerance and use more cooling fluid.) These are some great tips that apply across most creative endeavors, whether you are making a tangible object or ‘thinkering’ out an idea. You can view the full speech here, Savage shares his ten tips on making in the first ten minutes and spends the remaining forty minutes answering questions from the audience.

What will you be making? Send us some pictures!

make & rethink …

MAKE SOMETHING – ANYTHING }

“The first rule of making, I will say, is make something–anything: cook, weld, carve, sculpt. Anything that you need to make, it’s important that you make it. Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals: we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once–you’re telling a story about your desire, you’re telling a story about something that you want, you’re telling a story about something you see needs to be made and you are using your tools to improve yourself and improve the world around you. When you make new things, you’re joining in the most ancient dialogue that humans have ever had.”

MAKE SOMETHING, OCCASIONALLY, THAT ACTUALLY IMPROVES YOUR LIFE }

“From a toilet paper holder that actually works to a toaster that’s slightly improved. When you make something that you use every day as opposed to something that’s useless, I can’t even tell you how good it feels. Even like a handle on a drawer, you make a handle on a drawer and you’re using it every single day, the patina of your use that it gets feels really good. And it’s another story.”

START NOW }

“Start now. Start right now to do the thing you want to do, there is no time like right now and do it with the things in front of you. If you want to weld a car frame but you don’t have a welder or a car or a frame, go ahead and mock it up out of cardboard.”

{ LEARN SKILLS THROUGH PROJECTS }

“I can’t learn any skills unless I have a project to learn with. I need a goal. […] I can’t learn to weld just by someone showing me that it should sound like frying eggs and you set the dials like this. I need to end up with Wolverine claws or a sword or a pair of stilts or something like that. Always try to find a project that will get you interested in the thing that you want to build.”

{ ASK- ASK QUESTIONS, ASK FOR HELP, ASK FOR ADVICE, ASK FOR FEEDBACK }

“Ask for advice and when you find someone you trust, ask for feedback. I’ll tell you, it’s very funny, among adults we rarely actually turn to each other and say, ‘what do you think of the work that I’m doing?’ And it’s because that places us in a very vulnerable spot. But again, if you can find a teacher or a mentor or someone whose opinion you really respect, asking them very specifically about how they think you’re doing can give you incredible insight. I’ve done it a few times in my life and every single time, I’ve gotten a tremendous perspective on what I was actually doing.”

{ SHARE

“That is really important. There is nothing that makes me angrier than when somebody does something beautiful and you ask how it’s done and they say it’s a secret. No secrets! What are you protecting? Nobody’s going to take your technique. Nobody has a monopoly on being you and if you think that your technique is what makes you interesting, you’re being ridiculous. So share your techniques because when you do, someone is going to come back to you with a better way of doing it and you’re going to learn something from them.”

{ RECOGNIZE THAT FAILURE & DISCOURAGEMENT ARE PART OF THE PROCESS }

“Please recognize that discouragement and failure are part of every single make project. Not something that happens every now and then–in every single project you will find yourself discouraged and you will fail at some point. If you recognize that, if you recognize that you’re going to fail, at least when it’s about to happen–when you are getting discouraged because you hit a snag and you don’t have the part and it’s Sunday night and it’s four a.m.–at least then you know that that’s part of what’s going to happen. And that the next morning it may be a little harder to get started but if you know that mechanism, you can actually keep going. I personally, and I’ve said this many times before, whenever I’m making something, about 70 percent of the way in, I actually think I have no idea what I’m doing and I hate what I’m building. And Fellini even said that he knows that one of his films is almost finished when he totally despises it. And frankly, that 70, 80, 90 percent mark–the closer you get to the end, the more scared I get because it turns out that I hate finishing things. I’d much rather keep working on them and keep getting that endorphin rush of the Ebay research and finding that part that I didn’t know existed. Actually getting all the way to the end is a little bit difficult but if you recognize what your mechanism is, where the places you’ll get frustrated, they are your friends. You can welcome them in. This is also part of mindfulness and meditation–understand that those thoughts are going to happen and embrace them. Look, they still are going to suck, I’m not gonna lie to you, it sucks to fail, it hurts to cut yourself, but it’s going to happen in every single project.”

{ MAKE THINGS FOR OTHER PEOPLE

“I can’t even describe to you, how much pleasure I get when I make something and then I give it to somebody else and they get a story, they get the thing that I’ve made. They get the fruit of a couple of hours of my time and concentration and they get to possess it. It does make you vulnerable when you give your stuff away, you should recognize that. Giving your stuff away does actually place you in a slightly vulnerable position but it is also a really magical one. So occasionally, when you’re making something, give it away. Give it to other people.”

*

[Hat Tip: Adam Savage’s 10 Commandments of DIYing via Lifehacker, published May 20, 2014]

{ A Knowmad’s Perspective } A Nuanced Take On The Classroom Versus Online Education Debate, From An 11th Grader…*

“In recent months, online education has been a hot topic full of impassioned arguments. On one side, some have said things like, “the ivory towers of academia have been shattered to their foundation.” On the other side, people have said that online learning will promise to “make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is.” After a year of learning online, I don’t agree with either of those extremes. Here’s what I think: classroom education shouldn’t be fully replaced by online courses, but it can draw on what works well online. Huge online courses have many virtues but need to do better at fostering the sort of side by side back and forth collaboration that we all need to learn.”

In the short video below, eleventh-grader, Sophia Pink, shares some of the insights she gathered while spending tenth grade learning from home, using a mix of online learning courses and independent projects.

While Sophia is far from being the only student who has decided to take her learning into her own hands–it seems there’s a new TEDx talk about a kid somewhere attempting to rethink….* his or her education in my YouTube stream every day–I find her ability to reflect upon and deepen her understanding of her own learning truly remarkable. While I applaud the sense of agency and motivation that many of these other young independent learners possess, I have been a bit put off by how narrowly a lot of them seem to define their options and opportunities for learning. It seems many of them have unfortunately taken the national conversation at face value: schools are good or bad and just attempted to confirm that bias, aping and repeating what the ‘adults’ are saying. Sophia didn’t set out to confirm a bias, she set out to rethink…* the terms of the conversation altogether–the mark of a true rethinker…* Sophia’s year off {on} was not about trying to prove that the classroom is obsolete or that online learning courses are ushering in the end of rigorous learning and academics, it was about experimenting with different learning strategies and figuring out how they could be integrated into a new more fluid, fulfilling and productive whole.

For more of Sophia’s insights on learning during her sabbatical, be sure to check out her article in the Washington Post: Why I Spent 10th Grade Online.

 

learn & rethink…*

Robert Steven Kaplan On Why You Need To Be Aware of Your Failure Narrative & Other Tips For Reaching Your Potential

“You’ve got three stories, I’m only interested in one of them. There’s the facts of your life story: where were you born; where did you go to school; your parents; your family–just the facts. There’s a second story, which you’ve got a lot of practice at, it’s called your success story, which is the story of how you overcame obstacles, excelled and got to where you are now. It normally has drawbacks, it has failures, it has terrible things that happened to you and you said, “I will not stand for that! I will overcome that and I decided right then, I was going to do this and then I went and I did it.” There’s a third story, this is not one that you’re telling in your job interview and this, I would call, is your failure narrative. And every one of you has got one and it’s based on the same facts of your life. “

 …*

I first heard about Harvard Business School’s Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Robert Kaplan’s, concept of the ‘failure narrative’ last week while watching this short excerpt of an interview he did with Big Think. I was thrilled to hear him stress the importance of writing down one’s perceived narrative to drive awareness and facilitate change as I’ve been experimenting with a similar type of cognitive intervention entitled Self-Authoring these past two weeks (more on that next week).

In the video below, Kaplan elaborates on the failure narrative while highlighting the key steps of the process he outlines in his new book, What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential, to help people reach their unique potential.

Kaplan argues that the reason why so many of us don’t reach our full potential is that we don’t understand that it is an ongoing process, instead we “tend to think of it as a magic answer or a destination.” Kaplan notes that most of us would find it a bit ridiculous if one of our friends told us that they were trying to lose weight and wanted to go on this diet and then never have to worry about their weight again. Obviously, that wouldn’t work, change needs to be maintained. Same thing with growth–reaching our potential is a never ending journey, not a destination. Here Kaplan highlights five critical steps of the process necessary to reach one’s full potential, while providing tips on how to put each of them into action.

1. Assess Your Skills ~ Reaching your potential starts with an honest, accurate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses relative to a job. You need to learn to get in the habit of writing notes down, relative to a job and seeking the feedback of those that observe you so you can do it accurately. 

2. Find Your Passions ~ Passion is the rocket fuel that allows you to work on your weaknesses, makes you get advice from people and helps you do all sorts of other things, bad days, bad months, bad years–tolerating adversity. Passion is the rocket fuel that lets you do it but you do need to know what tasks you’re passionate about. You’ve got to be able to write that down. It is hard to perform at a very high level for a long period of time unless you’re passionate about what you’re doing. 

3. Understand Yourself ~ Why do people fail? Why do people fail to get feedback? Why do they fail to be able to understand their passions? Why don’t they go for it when they see something they want to do? Why do they keep quiet when they should speak up and act like owners? Normally, it’s doubt. 

  • What is that doubt for you? 
  • Can you write it down?
  • Are you aware of it?

The reason why being aware of your own failure narrative is so crucial is that, as Kaplan points out, “The biggest issue many people have is they don’t understand themselves.” We can’t always explain our rationale for our decision making and behavior. To develop more productive habits and further our chances of reaching our full potential, we need to be aware of our own beliefs. We need to examine what it is that is holding us back and triggering the self-doubt that we all feel throughout our lives.

Injustice happens. The key is, for most people, it feeds into your childhood, maybe events growing up, injustices that happened to you, maybe a difficult boss feeds into your self-doubt. And all of you have a narrative that’s in your head, whether you’re aware of it or not, right now that says, “I’m not good enough, I can’t do this. I doubt that I’ll ever be a _____ at ___, I don’t think I can.” And if you don’t think you’ve got [ a failure narrative], let me give you an assignment: write down your failure narrative. And the reason I urge people to write this down, this is [a narrative] that’s not politically correct to talk about, you’re not sharing it with your peers. Most of us wear a mask every day but we have self-doubt about something. And I might ask it to you this way: what’s your biggest fear? What is your biggest area of self-doubt? What is it you can’t do? And for many people, they’re not even aware that it’s in their head, but I can tell you it’s affecting what you do every day. It’s affecting your ability to reach your potential. Write it down, it may surprise you. 

Here’s the reason I like talking about the failure narrative. First of all, if you have the failure narrative always in your head, it might make you feel better to know, you’re not the only one. Everyone, to varying degrees has one. Most people think that their failure narrative is unique to them and they’re the only one–not so. Everyone has a failure narrative that is in their mind much more than you would believe. Now, they cover it over, they look great and their hair is nice and everything is great but I’ll tell you, if you watch them enough and you see what they can do and where they just can’t do it–that failure narrative is there. So step one is to realize you’re not the only one–there’s not something wrong with you because you have a failure narrative. Step two is, do you know what it is? And then step three is, how is it affecting your behavior now? And then you get to a question: do you need to be a prisoner of it? You’re not going to get rid of it, by the way, I have no clue how to get rid of one, but I do believe, if you’re aware of it and you try to address it, you don’t need to be a prisoner of it.

4. Performance and Career Management ~ What’s the vision? What are the top two or three tasks you must do well? Can you write them down? You should gear your skill development against those. Your dream job–you’ve got to think about the tasks you would dream about. You need to take ownership of thinking about these things. 

5. Good vs Great: Character  & Leadership ~ Once you’ve done strengths, weaknesses, passions, your story, matching all that to the job you’re in and what’s most important–do you act like an owner? […] Do you stick your neck out, appropriately? Do you help others who need help even though you don’t get any credit for it? This is what makes the difference, in my experience, between the people who are decent or good and great. Great companies are built around people who act like owners. Do you? 

via AtGoogleTalks, published on YouTube, August 9, 2013.

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation ~ Free 5 Week Course Brought To You By Acumen & IDEO.org

Rethinkers rejoice, here’s a great new learning opportunity brought to you by Acumen and IDEO.org ~ a free five-week online course focusing on Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation.

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation is a five-week course that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and help you use the design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. No prior design experience necessary.

Please note that registration for the course ends on July 3rd and that you must register as a team of at least two. Team members must be in the same location as you will need to be able to physically meet for workshops.

Learn more about the course & register here.

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

If anyone in NYC is interested in forming a team for the course, please let me know in the comments section below or send me an email at elsa@rethinked.org.

Rethinked* Annex: Dinners From Around The World Prototype 1.0

Those of you who read my update on rethinked*annex from last week will be aware that I have fully embraced my inner nerd and have come up with a Dinner from Around the World solution to my Rethinking…* the eating experience design thinking challenge. The idea behind this is based on one of the themes that I identified from my observations of the aspects of eating and cooking that are meaningful, enjoyable and important to me. The theme is tradition: I noticed that many of my most memorable eating experiences were embedded in tradition- 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.

One Potential Solution that I articulated last week for this theme was to start a dinner from around the world night. This is something that 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.

I made a very basic prototype of this experience last night. We ordered Sushi that we ate while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, David Gelb’s documentary on Jiro Ono, owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant and considered one of, if not the best, sushi chefs in the world. (Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a terrific documentary and highly recommended for anyone interested in notions of craftsmanship, transmission within families, work ethic, food and the quest to reach the ‘next level’.)

FEEDBACK & NOTES FOR FUTURE ITERATIONS

Given that the whole point of my redesign is to NOT eat distractedly out of plastic containers hunched over on the couch while watching movies…the part of the prototype that did just that needs to be reworked. Next time if we want to watch a movie for our Dinners From Around the World, we should screen it before dinner and then discuss it sitting down for our meal.

It was a good way to test the idea as a whole. Setting up these weekly dinners seems like a fun idea in theory but would it translate in praxis? It would seem so as both Matt and I enjoyed the experience and had an interesting conversation.

I think the experience could have used a little integrative thinking. While the documentary by itself was great and led to us having an enjoyable and intriguing conversation, I wish we had had another aspect of Japanese culture to integrate with the documentary. That’s why I like the idea of both Matt and I researching one thing each and then sharing over the course of the meal, it seems like it would create an even more fertile environment for fantastic conversation.

If Only There Were More Time…

Is there a way to give teachers the time to experiment with their lessons and their classrooms?  Most teachers try out new ideas every year, so we could just say that experimenting happens, and that’s that–no problem to address.  But at the DT4E conference we were exposed to a different type of experimenting that demanded rapid prototyping, uninterrupted focus, and time to reflect.  As the group reimagined a library for the 21st century, we covered the Riverdale cafeteria with models and full-size sets, all made in less than an hour.  The creativity was remarkable, and I think that everyone felt more optimistic about successfully incorporating new ideas into their own teaching.

It’s hard to see teachers experimenting during the school year the same way we did at the DT4E conference or the same way they would in an explicitly experimental setting.  That doesn’t mean that teachers can’t experiment in their classrooms during the year; it’s just hard for them to experiment as deliberately and thoroughly as they might during a less harried time.  School days are crazy and frenetic, and finding time for reflection and analysis is no easy task when there are papers to grade, meetings to attend, and emails to answer.

Fortunately, schools have three months of every year when they aren’t in the go-go-go mode that makes authentic experimentation so difficult.  What if schools used their campuses as educational laboratories during the summer?  This program would be more than the summer day camps that many schools offer during the summer.  It would require students to be participants in K-12 research, and the focus would be on teacher enrichment, though the students would learn plenty as well.  One school could gather teachers and students from many surrounding schools so that the program would feel different than the academic year, with a different mix of people and a different sense of purpose.  Younger students could be enrolled in what looks like a summer camp, causing little change to their plans.  Older students could be paid an hourly rate to be in laboratory classes for a few weeks each summer.  These days teenagers are in need of jobs (teen unemployment was at 24.6% at the beginning of June), and plenty of teachers would be willing to sign on for some extra productive work during the summer months (stipend provided, of course).  Teachers could try new ideas, get feedback from real students, adjust their approach for the following class, and prepare for the coming school year in authentic, innovative ways.  Rapid prototyping, tailored for education.

Just an idea, one obviously in need of some further thought (and some funding), but it could easily lead to some fantastic new ideas in K-12 education.  Then again, maybe this idea has already been implemented elsewhere.  If it has, please post the info.

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.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: