Developing the Design Mind

Over the past two years, I’ve challenged myself to develop an understanding of the design thinking process.  Most of my work has been long hours of independent study, but my grasp on the process has been greatly aided and influenced by working with Christian Long, Trung Le, and Melanie Kahl of The Third Teacher+, Laura Deisley of The Lovett School, Jeff Sharpe from Austin, Texas and Steve Turkes from the design firm of Perkins+Will in Chicago.

I’ve long sought a process for engaging in creative problem solving that could be used to rethink the way in which the organizations I work with and for could address the fundamental issues that confront them.  It’s my belief that schools today suffer greatly from a lack of imagination, and that the ability to imagine has been lost long ago, buried by legislative mandates, and blocked and impeded by the entrenched views of  mainstream educational culture, thought, and practice.

I wonder about the difficulty organizations experience when trying to develop a course of action for change.  What type of processes do organizations use to prepare for, initiate, implement, and evaluate their change efforts?  I’m almost certain that the process looks different in every school district, and that each district experiences some success and some failure with their prescribed methodology. And I’m almost certain that the process utilized, whatever that is, is deeply rooted in their culture.  In other words, it is my belief that most organizations have “their way” in which they try to address the issues they face, and that they have mixed success.

How does your organization address its issues or needs?  Do you form a committee to study and make recommendations?  Does your principal or superintendent lead the way?  Or, do your department chairs do that?  Perhaps your teachers? How does your organization develop a solution, and how is it supported and evaluated?  And if that initiative, or solution fails or is ineffective, how does the organization respond?  Is another approach tried?  Does it stay the course? Does it simply move on? And most importantly, is the solution that is used to address the need ultimately part of a solution set that has been used before, and one that the organization is comfortable with?  Does your organization try to meet the changing demands of education in 2012 with a set of legacy strategies from 1987?

More questions.

How does your organization seek to improve?  What’s the process?  Most importantly, is your organization capable of the change required to improve?  Does it know the direction of that change, does it recognize its own true North?  Beyond capability and direction, does your organization have the desire?

Those questions apply to the individual level as well.

And, how does your organization visualize, dream, and take steps forward to innovate, and create things that are new?

That question also applies to you.

On one hand, improve what you have.  On the other, create new things.  That’s important too.  And have a process that enables both.

For me, design thinking represents a systemic methodology for doing just that.   By using the process, I’ve been challenged to think beyond what I was comfortable with, and to reconsider my education absolutes and to think beyond them.  I now continually ask myself “What If” and I am a now a fierce supporter of those individuals who have an idea and have a need to be heard, especially in the face of organizational “yeah buts.”  I’ve become more creative, more capable of generating ideas, and most importantly, more confident in expressing those ideas, especially in situations where they might be not the most welcome .  I’ve been reminded that ideas themselves are highly generative, and give rise to others- perhaps just the one idea that makes all the difference.

It’s my opinion that the process can re-ignite the imagination.

Developing a design mind requires that an individual, or collectively an organization, begin to see every problem as a design challenge.  For the record, that’s Christian thought, and something to consider deeply.  It’s a disposition, and you can’t get there overnight.  The essence of developing such an approach is rooted in the desire to rethink the way you think, to once again imagine, and to address the problems of education in an open, collaborative, human and creative manner.

It’s just what education needs right now.

CannonDesign ‏@CannonDesign
Fantastic quote … RT @johnmaeda: Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer.

Workspring ‏@Workspring
#Ideas are any man’s greatest asset. Harvey Firestone


Need a start on design thinking?  Start here, with the’s  Bootleg Bootcamp

Going to Educon? Consider attending Developing a Design Mind: An Introduction to Design Thinking, with Christian Long and Laura Deisley, First Session, in the Drama Room Studio, Saturday, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM, at the Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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