Edutopia talks Design Thinking

A colleague of mine forwarded me this link to the Edutopia website, where they’re talking about Design Thinking, like we’re doing at my school. She’s written a compelling description of the way Design Thinking does, and I think it’s worth a read.


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But I just can’t tell you, readers, how useless any description of Design Thinking is to the process of becoming a Design Thinker, or being an instructor guided by Design Thinking.  It’s ridiculous, but Design Thinking is not something you can learn by reading it.

You have to get in the studio and make stuff.
Literally NOTHING else will do.  If you don’t have a pen in your hand — or a mouse under your hand, clicking on a digital notebook, you’re not a design thinker.  You have to be an artist, a sketcher, a creator, a sculptor, a doer.  You need the feedback process, yes.  You need to share your ideas in a physical form, a form that you can point at, scribble on, scribble out, re-draw, re-design, and re-do. Again and again and again. It’s the hardest thing about design, and until you have the sudden breakthrough where another designer looks at your work and goes, “wow!” instead of “you really should have made a different layout here on page 3,” then you’re not really a design thinker.

The last thing about Betty Ray’s work is a minor critique, one designer to another.  Her group’s last step, Present, is pretty good.  It’s almost what I have myself in our framework that we use here — I’ve described it as, Work With Others or Build a Larger Partnership. 

But then I read about the “angel investor” who swooped in with $150,000 in funding for the three best ideas — to develop and prototype the three best projects with $50,000 in grant money.  And I realized that the last step of the Design Thinking process isn’t to Present, or to Work With Others.

It’s Sell Your Idea.

This doesn’t mean you’re trying to actually get money for your idea, although in the business world it often means that.  But the last step in the design process is showing it to someone in order to get that, “Wow! I must have that!” reaction.  Seeing a design project through, beginning to end, to that level of completion, and being able to sell your idea to a larger audience, is a critical part of any Design Thinking process.

And it’s why I’m suddenly interested in Debate Class, all over again: Public speaking. Persuasion.  Argument on the Fly.  Presentation. Advertising. Self-promotion.   Explanation of Ideas.  Forward-leaning Attitude.  My Idea is so awesome you’re going to pay me for it.

A Design Thinking program needs to teach kids how to present themselves and their ideas persuasively, and help them develop the confidence in their ideas to know when those ideas are sell-able.

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