Best Advice I’ve Received in Awhile: “Make It Up”

April 30, 2013

As part of the d.school fellowship program, we bring in experienced designers to provide feedback on issues we’re grappling with in our work.  Two weeks ago we were lucky to be joined by David Kelley, founder of both the d.school and IDEO.

I asked him about the challenge underlying my recent blog post “What Problems Are Design Thinking Useful For?”  How to rapidly increase sophistication of one’s design capabilities across two dimensions: building a robust design toolkit and integrating design with other approaches? 

While I’ve been learning a lot about using my economics training and management consulting skills alongside the design process, I’ve been frustrated with my limited design toolkit.  I know there are many methods for empathy, synthesis, etc. that I haven't been exposed to.  If the Governance Collaboratory is about teaching local innovators design thinking to apply it to their work, I’d need to understand how to better support others in acquiring these skills as rapidly as possible.

I drew a graph with design sophistication on the y-axis and integration with other methods on the x-axis, identifying where Jeremy and I have moved from nine months ago to now.  “How to get up and to the right?,” I asked.

David’s answer?  “Mileage.”   Ok, yes.  I get that.  Over a dozen design cycles in the past few months has taught me a tremendous amount about integrating design with traditional social science approaches, yet I feel stunted in my acquisition of a toolkit.

“But,” I pushed back, “I just don’t know what tools are out there, someone has to teach them to me.  Should I look to coaches?  Or read books?  Are there case studies?”  

“Just make them up!” David answered.  “We just made up the empathy map at IDEO a few years ago.  You’re out in new territory.  Figure out what works best for the problems you care about.”

What might seem like a frustrating answer has turned out to be quite liberating, but only when coupled with the mindset shift that design thinking affords.  Making it up makes perfect sense, because a designer's mindset gives you the creative confidence to experiment and quickly learn what works.  So, off into uncharted territory I go...

 

What Types of Problems Are Design Thinking Useful For?

April 29, 2013

Upon beginning my fellowship at the d.school last September, one of the biggest questions I wondered was “Which problems are design thinking good for and which are not, and why?”  

When I asked around, I got pretty underwhelming or only slightly helpful answers, like: 
- “Design thinking is good for everything.” (not helpful)
- “Problems that aren’t technical in nature” (a little helpful)
- “Problems relating to human experiences with subjective answers.” (slightly more helpful)

Surely there must be some challenges involving human experience that are more amenable to the process than others, I thought.  I started to feel like the only way I’d get a good answer to my question was to start applying design thinking to different problems myself.  A dozen turns through the human centered design process later, my understanding is starting to take shape.  

In retrospect, the question itself was a naïve one.  It presumed that human centered design was a process that you applied to different problems (which is how we generally describe it at the d.school).  But I’ve come to believe that it’s less of a process than it is a mindset empowered by a robust toolkit.  Yes, most design teams move and iterate through steps which include understanding users and context, distilling insights and abstracting design directives, conceiving of novel solutions, then experimentation to learn what works.  But a truly sophisticated designer understands how to adapt the principles and tools of design thinking to the problem at hand.  

I’ve been thinking about human centered design sophistication along two dimensions: the design methods themselves (toolkit) and integration with other approaches.  A robust design toolkit would include a plethora of research methods, synthesis instruments, ideation techniques, and prototyping approaches.  The experienced designer can draw from a wealth of tools to adapt high-level design “mindsets” (i.e. empathy, prototyping, testing) to a wide range of problems.  

The second dimension of integration with other approaches is equally critical, particularly in my world of taking design best practices into governance innovation.  I’ve always been suspicious of professionals from the private sector (be they management consultants or designers or whatever else) bringing their tools into the social sector and believing they alone can move the needle on the world’s most intractable problems.  As we’ve experimented with design in governance, we’ve always had an eye towards complimenting rather than replacing existing approaches.  We’ve already begun to see where our social science backgrounds tend to dominate over our design skills.  My suspicion is that for some types of problems we might rely largely on other approaches, with design tools sprinkled in here and there as appropriate.  For example, for macro level policy questions that rest on philosophical beliefs, insights about citizens could inform debate rather than lead to policy design directives.    

Bottom line is, I no longer think it’s a question of “Where human centered design is useful and where it’s not” but rather one of “How to draw on human centered design for the problem at hand.”  The hard part is building sophistication as a designer.  I asked David Kelley for his advice on the matter last week.  His response? “Mileage.” 
 
 

A Small But Profound Mindset Shift

April 29, 2013

We talk so much about celebrating and learning from failure.  True, we should understand and share what doesn’t work.  But merely using the words “learning from failure” implies an underlying mindset that reduces the speed at which we learn.


It implies that we approach our work in the following way:
  1. I take a lot of inputs about what I know in the world and come up with a new intervention
  2. I go do that thing and believe that it will work
  3. If it fails, I reflect on why and share my learnings 


 What if instead we approached our work with the following mindset?:
  1. I take a lot of inputs about what I know in the world and come up with a new intervention
  2. I ask myself what I don’t know that is critical to the intervention’s success
  3. I go try that thing with an eye towards learning about what I don’t know
  4. I constantly reflect on what my work reveals about what I don’t know
  5. I continually update my approach based on what I've learned

This shift from “know --> do --> learn if fail” to “believe --> try --> learn constantly” sets us up for continual improvement through a much faster learning cycle.  It's a small shift in mindset, from what you know to what you don't know, but it has profound implications for the speed at which we learn and improve.

 

Cookstoves Insights from IDEO.org

April 15, 2013
 

About a year ago I Sarah Nadel wrote a guest post about the lack of designers in development interventions, using an evaluation of cookstoves as her primary example.  I followed her post with another of many on the merits of integrating human centered design into development work, with examples from the Silicon Valley.

It turns out around the same time as we wrote those posts, The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves hired IDEO.org (the social side of famed innovation firm IDEO), to look at cookstoves from a designers point of view.  The team spent 8 weeks in the field conducting nearly 70 interviews with women, cooks, charcoal sellers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs.  Check out this video on what they uncovered about what matters for cookstoves for the people who will use them.
 

The Transformational Impact of Design Thinking Mindsets

April 15, 2013
 
"Am I just in a new convert-honeymoon period with design thinking, or will I never be the same again?," I asked.

"You're finished." answered David Klaus, a former d.school fellow and most recently the Product Design Lead for Proximity Designs in Myanmar.  

I was pretty sure that was the case.  In thinking about it more over the past week, it's abundantly clear that I will never see the world the same way I did just nine months ago when I began my fellowship at the d.school.  Really internalizing the mindsets of design thinking as I've practiced it since September has led me to a couple realizations that together have forever changed how I will approach my work:

1. We base big decisions and invest significant resources on assumptions we rarely acknowledge, let alone test.
Any time we are doing something new, we are by definition venturing into the unknown.  No matter how smart or experienced you are, and no matter how earth changing your ideas sounds, it invariably rests on some major assumptions -- about your user, about your value proposition, about the system around your user, about the leverage point you've chosen to focus on within that system, etc.  Instead of acknowledging these assumptions and asking how we can learn whether they are correct, more often we charge ahead with implementation without even realizing that, as MIT Media Lab's Jessica Goldfin describes, "there are pebbles in our shoes that are going to break our ankles."  
While past experience can help us identify opportunities, patterns and best practices, it also risks blinding us to what we don't know.
 

2. We conflate "doing things" with making progress on the issues we care about.
Rockstar social entrepreneur gets funding for a new, incredibly compelling idea.  She builds out her workplan over the next 12 months and gets sign off from her funders and board.  She hires an amazing team, builds some cool software, establishes a bunch of partnerships.  She is working around the clock and so is her team.  She is meeting all of the milestones she's set with her funders.  Everyone has the delusion of progress.  But remember, her idea rests on a handful of assumptions.  If she is wrong, even though she's working hard she's actually gotten nowhere.  We have seen this plenty in the international development space: building schools or getting more students into the classroom does not mean that we are realizing the educational outcomes we care about.  Yet it doesn't seem like those lessons have translated into how to think about progress in the early stages of new, innovative initiatives.   


Once these realizations became prominent in my thinking, I started to think the world was out of it's mind. Unacknowledged and untested assumptions are literally everywhere.  We're investing all of this time into ideas we believe are good, but instead of running little experiments to help us understand if we're directionally correct, we're applauding progress against a work plan to nowhere.  

The assumptions that are everywhere and over-investment in untested ideas sets us up for a very long and expensive learning curve.  Right now, we're focused on "learning from failure."  It's a tiny incremental step in the right direction.  What if instead we were learning from constant experimentation?  What if we were highly tuned to what we know and don't know, and constantly crafting simple activities in our work to uncover the unknown?  

Now that I've realized these things, I'll never be able to work any other way.  I'm not just taking a year to design the Governance Collaboratory and executing on whatever model we determine is best.  I'll come out of the year with a new set of questions, and set up our programs to answer them.  In this mode, I'll always be getting better as what I do.  The biggest challenge now is the inevitable frustration with the dominant way the rest of the world works.
 

Where Traditional Thinking Meets Design Thinking

March 28, 2013

While Jeremy and I are enthusiastic about using design thinking for governance innovation, we are first social scientists, and second designers.  We know human centered design is not a silver bullet -- we want to understand both its utility and its limitations, and how to use in in compliment to existing approaches.  As we have experimented with design thinking this past quarter -- on real governance issues, with the people addressing them, in the field -- I have started to notice when we are primarily using our traditional frameworks and when we are leading with our design tools.  This has helped me beging to see how human centered design fits with traditional analytical approaches (what one might call "systems thinking" or "identifying a binding constraint").

Because human centered design hinges on designing for, well, a human, one has to identify specific interaction points between the innovator and the user to focus design efforts.  For example, when we addressed freedom of access to information in South Africa, we focused on various users requesting information from the government.  Information requests, however, are only one part of a much broader system linking access to information to improvements in governance.  The issue could have been not whether each user group is requesting and getting information, but what they are doing with it to hold governments accountable.

We have seen that our first step in applying human centered design to governance issues is to forget about our newfound design skills and think like social scientists.  We work with our partners to understand the problem they want to address, identifying likely constraints within the overall system and the relevant users in each area (for example, with information requests the users were activists, journalists, citizens, and NGOs).  Without doing so, we risk focusing on the wrong part of the problem, limiting the efficacy of even the most compelling ideas.  

Once we do this, we hone in on the users of interest and begin to apply the tools of human centered design by doing empathy work (interviews, observation, and immersion to uncover user needs).  We are also starting to understand, however, that this empathy work is not just about need finding, but also validating or refuting our initial hypothesis about where to focus within the system.

Take for example Embrace, the oft-cited case for the power of human centered design in international development.  Embrace is a $25 infant warmer for premature babies, which relies on a wax packet that is warmed in water and retains heat (and thus does not require electricity).  Embrace came out of the work of a student team in the d.school course Design for Extreme Affordability.  We use the Embrace example at the d.school to show how design thinking can lead to a complete reframing of the problem.  The students were originally given a design challenge focused on building a lower cost incubator for clinics in Nepal, but when they went to do need finding, they realized that babies never made it to the hospital.  Most premature babies were born in rural communities and died before they could get anywhere due to high transportation costs and the babies’ inability to keep themselves warm.  The Embrace team realized that they should instead focus on the rural mother in need of a way to keep her baby warm, instead of a clinician in need of a cheaper incubator.

This was a systems insight that came out of the team’s need finding work, not a user one.  The biggest mortality issue for premature babies wasn’t in the hospital with clinicians; it was back at the village with mothers.  Human centered design, particularly its tenets of rapid prototyping and iteration, allowed the team to then develop a product that could work for in a rural setting: very inexpensive, not requiring electricity, and easily sanitized.  The tools of ethnography embedded in design thinking then, are as critical for determining binding constraints in a system as they are for identifying user needs.

We find ourselves relying on our political science and economics backgrounds in ideation as well: both brainstorming and selection.  Our foundations in political and economic theory help us identify ideas that are compelling not just because they meet the identified user needs, but also because of their implications for systems dynamics and human behavior.

We are still very early in our thinking of how human centered design compliments other approaches and where it is most effective (and why).  But these early realizations start to show us how much traditional thinking is actually embedded in human centered design; through systems level analysis during need finding and putting people on design teams who have the expertise to think about ideas in complex ways.

 

Disrupting Education with Competent Kids, the Internet, and Experimentation

March 7, 2013
The TEDWeekends team asked me to write a blog post responding to this year's TED Prize winner. The following is my contribution to a set of posts reacting to Sugata Mitra's wish (link to his TED talk here). 
 
Two years ago, Salman Kahn took the stage at TED and completely upended my sense of what is possible when it comes to innovation around education.  Yesterday Sugata Mitra did that again.  This year’s TED Prize winner doesn’t just turn our current model of education on its head.  He blows it completely out of the water.  

What if, instead of transferring content from teacher to student, the role of the teacher was to provoke students with questions and to encourage but not directly instruct?  What if learning took place primarily in groups, as students worked together to uncover content and solve problems using the Internet?  What if the teacher, rather than evaluating learning, focused on admiring findings?  Moreover, since we live in an increasingly broadband connected world, what if the teacher sat in New York while his students sat in rural India?  

In retrospect, some of Mitra’s most fundamental ideas were right under my nose.  As the mother of a 22 month old, I’ve spent the past six months consumed by preschool applications.  When my husband and I researched different philosophies, we were drawn to the Reggio Emilia methodology.  At the core of that approach is the view of the child as a capable, competent individual.  The teacher serves as an experienced observer and guide.  The curriculum emerges as educators respond to students’ cues, leading and following in turn, down unexpected paths of interest.  A rock discovered at the playground gives rise to an extended exploration of geology.

Emergent, child centric preschool just makes common sense to my husband and me.  Children are not just naturally curious; they are literally programmed to learn.  A dynamic curriculum amplifies a child’s natural learning modes, whereas a structure that forces all students to move from A to B ignores it.  Motherhood has shown me how tremendously competent children can be.  Yet, the vast majority of programs that adults have design for kids grossly underestimates what they are capable of.  To ensure that no one in the TED audience missed this point, Mitra’s talk was bookended by a 12 year old Kenyan inventor and a jaw dropping bluegrass performance by a 10 year old and his teenage siblings.

Mitra extends the ideas of competent children and emergent curricula beyond preschool and rethinks education to reflect the 21st century context.  Two massive changes in particular distinguish today from the time when our current systems of education were designed during the British Empire: 1) much of the world’s information is available via the Internet and 2) a child in rural India can connect to a teacher anywhere in the world.  Sal Kahn is taking the Internet and making lectures as scalable as textbooks, freeing up time in the classroom for hands on, interactive learning.  Sugata Mitra suggests we should do away with lectures altogether and let the learning take place as groups of students embark on Internet-enabled adventures to themselves answer meaningful questions.  Strikingly, Mitra prescribes a complete upheaval of education in an argument that is not only simple but also seemingly obvious in hindsight. 
 
But an idea is the lesser ingredient to change; implementation is the larger challenge.  What I find most compelling about Mitra’s wish is not the persuasive and revolutionary nature of his ideas, but rather his approach to bringing his vision to life.  He doesn’t purport to hold a silver bullet for education.  He doesn’t ask the TED community to give him funding and support to scale his ideas.  On the contrary, Mitra’s wish is a call for experimentation.  He wants to set up is an India-based learning lab where he can test his approach; but his agenda for prototyping and testing doesn’t stop there.  He’s also created a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) toolkit, which enables schools, parents, and communities worldwide to experiment and learn from each other.  This distributed method for prototyping and testing big ideas is an enormous idea in and of itself.  

One man can’t have all the answers to something this massive.  But one can imagine that independent testers, each encountering different pieces of the puzzle, can start to put the big picture together.  Along with every TEDster I’ve spoken to since Mitra’s talk, I can’t wait to see where this year’s TED Prize winner leads us.  
 

Key Learnings from Cape Town

March 7, 2013

 
We just returned from three days in Cape Town testing prototypes for the Collaboratory with mySociety and the Open Democracy Advice Center (we posted a summary of the experience here).  Below are some of the big learnings we’re taking away as we continue designing the Governance Collaboratory this year:
  • There is a different level of energy and enthusiasm when people are focused on their own problems.  We saw the same thing in Nairobi as teams turned to their own issues during the final day of the workshop.  As much as people enjoy learning design thinking by applying it to interesting problems, they really light up when they fold it into their current approach (even though they are often forced to confront the shortcomings of their existing methods).
  • People working on their own problems bring significant priors into empathy work, which was consistent with that we saw in Nairobi.  This can make them resistant to learning even if they don’t realize it (which they usually don’t).  When experts alone engage in design thinking, it can be challenging to dig deep enough to uncover unexpected insights.
  • When you start with an solution versus a general problem space, a lot of ideas feel more like features vs. radically different solutions.  Even though we backed the team up to to the more general problem of freedom to information in South Africa, many ideas were still very much in the solution space of the platform.  It was hard to get the group to think beyond the idea of a web interface for PAIA requests, though many of the ideas drawn from the empathy work are likely to make the interface far more effective.  We experienced the same thing when we began brainstorming for the Governance Collab, given that we had strong initial ideas about how it might look.
  • Outsiders add an enormous amount of value to a pre-existing team by bringing a fresh perspective and unexpected reference points from other domains.  Outsiders are especially important because they challenge the biases and assumptions of the insider.  This indicates that the optimal design team includes both insiders and outsiders whose strengths balance the other’s weaknesses.
  • Examples and modeling are really important when teaching design thinking.  As we mentioned in our post on our iHub prototype tests, design thinking is tough to translate.  This way of work is foreign, and the vocabulary is new, especially when working outside the United States.  It’s critical as teachers that we not just explain the steps of the design process before the teams do it, but also give clear examples and model the activities.  When I returned and spoke to the Exec Ed team here at the d.school, they said they’ve come to the same conclusion, even when working with design familiar execs from the United States.
  • Our value-add is not just in teaching and coaching design thinking, but also in applying the systems level understanding that comes from our backgrounds in political science and economics.  As powerful as the human centered design process is proving to be in innovation around governance challenges, design is not enough when you’re addressing complex social issues.  Of course we knew this, but now we’re starting to get a clearer sense of how the pieces fit together.  We’ve found it key that we put on our hats as social scientists when framing the design challenge and discuss the overall theory of change, which helps us understand how and where our users fit into the broader system.  Likewise when we turn to ideation, our ability to place the ideas into a broader systems context helps us generate and identify the truly transformational opportunities.  

And with that, we headed back to Stanford, exhausted and invigorated.  More than anything we were thrilled to finally roll up our sleeves and apply design thinking to the issues that we’re most passionate about, alongside the local actors who are ultimately going to make change happen.  

 

Testing the Collab in South Africa

February 25, 2013
 
We headed from Nairobi straight to Cape Town, South Africa for a second week of testing models for the Governance Collaboratory.  Our prototype in Cape Town was intended to test an incubator model: working with a pre-existing team that has an idea they are poised to execute.  We partnered with mySociety, a UK-based non-profit that builds user friendly products which make it easy for citizens to engage with and improve their communities and societies.  MySociety has been working with an increasing number of organizations from other countries to localize its products, which present ideal opportunities for us to test an incubator model for the Collab.

The mySociety team connected us with Gabriella Razzano, who leads the Research Unit for the Open Democracy Advice Center in South Africa.  Gabriella’s work focuses on South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) which advances citizens’ right to access information about their government.  Although PAIA represents progressive reform, usage is extremely limited -- there were fewer than 200 requests for information in the entire country last year.  Gabriella is in the early stages of developing a portal to facilitate greater usage of PAIA by creating a simple interface for requests and by storing information received from the government in an easily searchable repository.  Her belief is that by increasing the volume of requests, the government would improve internal processes for storing and retrieving information.  The portal would include an adaptation of a mySociety product called Alaveteli, so our core team was Gabi and two of her colleagues alongside Paul Lenz and Dave Whiteland from mySociety.

We opted to pull the team a step back from their portal and focus our design efforts on the broader question of how citizens engage around the right to information: Redesign the experience of citizens requesting information from the South African government, in a world where citizens have legal access to the information but do not utilize available means to get it.  Our sense was that a broader framing might bring unexpected insights around the central problem the team is addressing while equipping them with the design skills to address the specifics of the portal moving forward.

There are a number of relevant user groups for PAIA, in particular watchdog organizations, NGOs with grassroots networks, journalists, and ordinary citizens.  In a short two and a half day design workshop, we only had a half day for empathy work, but we were able to split the team in two and interview individuals from each of the key user groups.  We had an early morning meeting with a leading independent journalist and NGO activist.  Then one team went to engage an NGO working on women’s rights, and the second team visited the University of Cape Town to interview law students, which turned out to be eye opening.  Even law students hadn’t heard of PAIA!

We returned to the office for an intense session unpacking the interviews and developing POVs.  We wanted to leave the team with as many insights and directions for brainstorming as we could in the short time we had with them.  We dug deep on three distinct users: an NGO leader frustrated with the difficulties she faces getting the information she needs from the government; a national activist who relishes in confronting the government but rarely uses the information he receives from PAIA requests; and law students who need their formal legal training to feel confident and empowered enough to do something about the performance of their government.  

We generated a long list of exciting ideas.  The team chose to focus the remainder of their time prototyping and testing an “angry button” which users could click after reading an article about their government to access more information and make PAIA requests.  We were particularly compelled by the idea as it engaged citizens unlikely to be PAIA users at a point where they were feeling dissatisfaction with their government, coaxing them towards deeper engagement.  It was based on a critical insight from the empathy work: with low knowledge about PAIA even among the most educated users, and a sense of disempowerment among the least educated, it was essential to catch ordinary citizens when they might be in an emotional state to take action.  The prototype included a mock-up of a basic interface that users would come to after pressing the angry button.   

It was great to get out and do testing, which we didn’t have time for in Nairobi.  Jeremy and I were thoroughly amused watching law students push the angry button balloon!  We were particularly struck by the different responses to the angry button from white students from the suburbs and African students from the townships.  The angry button resonated with the latter, but turned off the former.  

As we returned back to the office for a final debrief, the team was excited to put the design tools we had employed to use.  I was particularly thrilled to hear their enthusiasm for low resolution prototyping!  We’re looking forward to supporting them and learning about the successes and challenges they encounter as they do so.  

 

Bringing Design Thinking to Nairobi

February 25, 2013
 
The following is a guest post by Mark Kamau, lead of the iHub’s UXLab and our partner for a recent prototype we tested in Nairobi.  We asked him to reflect on his experience participating in our design challenge and how it fits into his broader mission to foster a design thinking community in Nairobi.


 
When we set out to do the first user experience lab in Africa, we were convinced that there are enough Africans smart enough, who cared enough, to help solve Africa’s problems.
 
Kenya is a country that epitomizes such energy and entrepreneur spirit. Over the last decade, hundreds of startups and social enterprises have emerged earnestly churning out products and pushing them to the market for their commercial or social value. As the market matures and the landscape forms, it is possible to take a look and analyze what we have been doing right and what we can improve.
 
One of the main challenges we have is that we far too often jump to code, enterprise or social cause with energy and vigor, but without a user centric approach. We develop solutions based on assumptions. My observation recently (and with a lot of relief) has been that people don’t do that because they are arrogant, but often because they don’t know how to go about engaging the people they are designing solutions for.
 
This lack of design thinking knowhow is the one of the largest threats to the African entrepreneur, social or commercial. Fewer of us than should be are succeeding. This clearly cannot continue and that is why we set out the iHub UX Lab to help address this gap between solutions and the people they target. To help these solutions people focused.
 
Last week we had an eye-opening design thinking workshop with Jenny Stefanotti and Jeremy Weinstein from Stanford University. We used a healthcare design challenge to learn design-thinking methods. We had participants from techies to organizations working in the democratic/governance space including SmartVote Kenya and Ushahidi.

The lesson for me begun before the class; determining the design challenge was a collaborative and insightful process. Eventually we arrived on a challenge focusing on the health care system in the slums.  

The highlight for me was the empathy work we did in the slums of Mathare (it is one of the most impoverished and dangerous slums in Kenya), where a mother of two was kind enough to speak to me and my colleague and explain the challenges she faces from her own experience. I was particularly surprised by a local health care provider with a burning passion to help people.  He had helped many for nothing and had a desire to do even more.  My assumption that unlicensed health care givers were out for a quick buck taking advantage of desperation in the slums was in this case blown out of the window.  So was my assumption that the mother of two, being illiterate, had no way of telling who sold counterfeit medicine or not. These were some of the many insights the whole group uncvered, showing how important it is to engage people.

In the end, tough as it was to be back in a slum I literally grew up in and seeing the grip poverty has on people, the empathy work formed a perfect example why design thinking is so important as we try to address Africa’s challenges. People matter. Whoever you are, whatever you design, people matter.  It might break your heart, make you excited, blow you away… Whatever the case, it forms an informed perspective.
 
As we brainstormed and formed ideas along the design process from dschool, the energy in the room was palpable.  We knew who we were designing for and having a face to the challenge meant something.  It was no longer just an assumption, but a clear, social problem with human faces.  That was the most powerful fuel!
 
At the end of the day, we were clearly moving from step to step forming so many ideas and we could trace all of them to a specific, human challenge with a face. To me, design thinking is one of the most powerful tools for developing ideas and one I will do my best to expose as many Kenyans and Africans as I can to.  Whatever it takes.  We can solve Africa’s problems, one at a time.  As long as we invest ourselves and energies in a smart way.
 
Imagine all the energy and effort we have been putting into designing solutions thus far. Now imagine us doing it smarter.  It excites and energizes me to imagine how much more we can achieve with design thinking!  It is the iHub UXlab’s raison d'etre.
 
The icing on the cake was a talk on how Max Ventilla, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Jenny’s husband, has been able to practically apply design thinking with a resilient, forward moving, constant improvement attitude.  It beautifully tied in the workshop to true startup experience.  His talk totally changed the way I am going about setting up the first user experience design lab in sub Saharan Africa.  Instead of waiting for the perfectly kitted lab, I am buying the minimum basic components and I will use these to get started.  It might sound obvious, but my ambition and idealism had gotten in the way of my vision: to help develop a user centric design culture in Kenya and in Africa.  

Thank you Jenny, Jeremy and Max for an amazing experience and for sharing yourselves with us.
 
What a week!