Design Thinking Class #1

We are being taught Design thinking by Tracy Brandenburg, who is an anthropologist and Design Thinking enthusiast. She learned the IDEO method of problem solving from Stanford, where she now also serve as a coach. She is very free-spirited and loves having fun with Design Thinking. When I applied to the course, I was put on a wait list, as apparently Design Thinking is a very popular course open to all graduate students at Cornell University. Luckily I got off the wait list and I am very happy to be part of this experience.

To kickoff the course, we were given the challenge to design the gift-giving experience for a partner. The partner was another student in the class sitting next to you. The whole activity was very fast paced with 9 different tasks, during which you interview your partner multiple times to understand their gift giving process – what your partner tries to achieve when they are gifting someone, what kind of emotions are they going through during that experience – essentially you try to get insights and understand your partner’s thought process. The objective is to gain empathy. At the end of activity, you build a solution for your partner and then get feedback on whether it works for them or do they have any feedback to improve it. A crash course using the same gift giving activity can be found on the Stanford website.

I think the essence of the activity was rapid prototyping. The tasks were time bound ranging from 3 to 5 minutes. And then in the end you have to come up with a tangible solution. I think they are trying to teach you a process in which you quickly think about a solution, after understanding user needs. Then rapidly come up with a prototype, get feedback and improve it. An important learning for any entrepreneur here is the idea of “fail-fast”. Because the process is so fast, you can quickly come up with a new solution if the previous one fails.

Near the end of class, we were assigned a team of 4-5 students. Students are from different graduates programs such as MBA, Engineering, Architecture, Labor Relations, etc. People from different background and professional fields usually have different approach to a problem, which enriches the Design Thinking process. I am looking forward to working with my team in coming weeks on some an exciting project.


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