Hidden Brain’s Getting Unstuck: Design Thinking in Life

A few months ago, I started listening to Hidden Brain, a podcast that “reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships,” hosted by Shankar Vedantam. I find it fascinating!

A few weeks ago, I heard the episode Getting Unstuck, which was all about Design Thinking in life. The concept of Design Thinking comes from tech start-ups in Silicon Valley. It is the process they use to develop solutions and new products. Dave Evans, a former Apple employee who was tasked with designing the single-button mouse, summarizes Design Thinking in the podcast as a two-part problem, where the “first challenge is figuring out what problem needs to be solved, and the second challenge is solving the problem.” There are multiple steps to this two-part problem that involve researching the issue, developing a prototype, testing the prototype with the people who will use it sooner than later, gathering feedback, iterating on the prototype to improve it, rinse and repeat. Dave says, “design relies on the empirical process of iterating multiple ideas with prototypes. So going out into reality- not just in your head- and trying something out.”

Design Thinking has become a pretty big topic in education for good reason.  In fact, ISTE’s new Student Standards require students to be an Innovative Designer (Standard 4), which surrounds the concept of Design Thinking to solve problems in the classroom. The first and second drafts of the new ISTE Teacher Standards also indicate that teachers will be expected to design and create these types of experiences for students (obviously, or how would students be able to implement Design Thinking?). My first real exposure to Design Thinking was through the Google Innovator Academy at Google’s headquarter in Mountainview, CA. With Design Thinking, students are immersed in the material and forced to apply the information and think outside the box, or at the very least if they are still inside the box, they must think. for. themselves. (cue the celebratory music)!

The following image is the design process in education as described by the Design Thinking For Educators website, which offers a multitude of resources for implementing Design Thinking into the classroom.

This image is from the Design Thinking For Educators website at https://designthinkingforeducators.com/design-thinking.

In the podcast, Dave goes on to describe the two types of problems we face throughout life. The first type of problems are called tame problems, which are problems we know how to solve. The second type of problems are wicked problems, where the criteria are changing all the time, the solution may not be used over and over, and conditions to the problem change frequently. Examples Dave gives for wicked problems are education, poverty, and raising a child. Dave said, “Design Thinking is particularly good for [wicked] problems,” because of their complex nature.

The Hidden Brain episode focuses on the usefulness of Design Thinking when people start to feel stuck in life. This is especially true when it comes to choosing a career. When Dave talks to his students at Standford in his Design Thinking in Life course, he tells them “there’s more than one of you in there, so there are many more than ‘one right answer’ to what your life looks like.” In one exercise he does with his students to get them to realize there is more than this one right answer, he has them write three completely different variations of their lives that they would be happy with. This helps people to see that there really is more than one option for their life… or problem. I recommend listening to the whole episode, which I’ve embedded below; it’s less than 30 minutes. I think if we can all become more comfortable with concepts of Design Thinking in our everyday life, we will feel much more comfortable creating a classroom environment for our kiddos that uses Design Thinking regularly.

To get started introducing Design Thinking to your students, check out some of these resources:

I’ll leave you with one last comment from the Podcast. Dave said, “Designers aren’t necessarily more creative than everybody else, they’re just better at getting unstuck.” Don’t we want this for our students- the ability to get ‘unstuck’ no matter what problem they face in life- personally, academically, and professionally?!

Have you used Design Thinking with students? If so, what did you do? How did it go? What would you do differently? If not, what’s holding you back? Please share in the comments!

Tech To You Later!

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