As you may well know, I am an educational leader. Yes, I’m an educator in a PreK-12 Public School District. I love my vocation, but it has been a challenging 18 months as we have strived to educate students during a global pandemic.
The pandemic created a multitude of issues for education. For example, how to implement CDC protocols for social distancing or educating students in face-to-face classes and online at the same time.
Because of the pandemic, one of the most significant issues facing education today is how to close the learning gap caused by the pandemic. As we moved through the pandemic, students, faculty, and staff struggled to stay focused and positive. Therefore, students had unfinished learning.
Recently, I had the privilege to facilitate a session on unfinished learning at a national education conference. Using the design thinking methodology, district leaders and vendors moved through the methodology to develop potential solutions to address unfinished learning challenges facing educators.
What is design thinking? According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.”
First mentioned by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon, any industry can use design thinking. The purpose of the design process is to deal with ill-defined or unknown problems, called wicked problems, to generate out-of-the-box or ground-breaking solutions.
So, can you, as a leader, use design thinking in your organization? Of course, you can. The process consists of five stages. The stages can be executed sequentially or parallel. They are:
- Stage 1: Empathize – Research Your Users’ Needs. In stage one, spend time listening, researching, and interviewing to understand the users’ perspectives and needs related to the problem.
- Stage 2: Define – State Your Users’ Needs and Problems. Stage two aims to define the problem by collecting information to build a solid knowledge of the problem. After your team has gathered information, you will develop personas to keep the human connection to the problem.
- Stage 3: Ideate. Challenge Assumptions and Generate Ideas. Stage three is where the ideas flow as the team brainstorms potential ways to view the problem. The goal of stage three is to be creative and innovative in finding multiple solutions.
- Stage 4: Prototype – Start to Create Solutions. Stage four is the experimental phase because you start to create solutions. First, identify the best solutions to address the problem. Then, once you select your solution, create scaled-down prototypes of the solutions.
- Stage 5: Test – Try Your Solutions Out. Test and evaluate your prototypes. Make changes, refinements, or adjustments as needed to select the ideal solution.
As you can see, the protocol is rigorous in terms of researching and defining needs, challenging assumptions, generating ideas, developing and implementing solutions. Design thinking is very structured.
Now for the rest of the story…
In the time allocated for the session, we were able to complete the first three stages of the design thinking protocol. Although we did not complete the fourth stage, everyone left the session with multiple ideas to take back to their organizations to prototype and test.
“Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”-Herbert A. Simon
While design thinking takes time, it is time well spent. Using the methodology will save you time in the long run because you will create better solutions.
Are you using design thinking to create better solutions?
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