Design Thinking Development

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Over these past few weeks, I’ve been filling out college applications, where I’ve really been talking a lot about my design thinking experiences. But it wasn’t until just now that I realized while I’ve been talking about what happened, I haven’t been focusing too much on what I’ve learned from those experiences. Looking back, it’s so crazy to think how much I’ve grown from each experience. I remember in 9th grade when I was originally introduced to the design thinking methodology in Innovation Diploma. I was so confused and in disarray, because I had not idea what I was doing or even if I was doing it correctly. However, as I began to utilize it more in Innovation Diploma and within my classes, everything started becoming a little more clear.

I wouldn’t recognize it then, but later I would realize that I had gone through a mindset shift. It was then that I became aware of how important design thinking had become to me. From it, I had learned observation skills that I had lacked before, along with the ability to better empathize with others. I was able to also expand my thinking and become more open-minded to newer ideas, and to the idea of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. I could prototype something and not become so attached to it because I realized that my first idea wouldn’t always be my best idea and that being able to accept feedback is an important part if you want to iterate on your prototype. However, all of these learning moments and skills didn’t just come to me at once. I gradually developed them through participating in, coaching, and facilitating design thinking flash labs.

The design thinking experience that has allowed me to grow the most definitely has to be the Global Leadership Summit Empathy workshop I planned with Emmy, an alumni now of Innovation Diploma and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. We worked together to not only plan the workshop, but also to facilitate it in Davos, Switzerland. Planning it really made me understand how much effort is put into creating a flashlab. We set deadlines constantly, had to plan meetings with the coaches that fit in with everyone’s schedules, designed the slide deck, and created how we wanted the workshop to flow. Not only did I learn how to plan a workshop, I also discovered how hard it is to implement and lead one. Those who are more adept at leading others through the design thinking process make it look like it’s a piece of cake, however, it’s a lot harder than you’d think. During the actual flashlab, as a facilitator, you need to be able to have the skills to judge the atmosphere of the room and be able to tell whether or not someone needs help with the process. The most important thing I learned, though, was that you have to be very flexible because not everything will go exactly as you planned. For example, with the GLS Empathy workshop, we had expected everyone who participated to be able to grasp design thinking easily, but we found that we needed to explain more things than we thought. We ended up needing to take more time in explaining more of the instructions and the reason why they were doing what they were doing than we had originally planned for.

Although it seems as if I’ve already learned all I can about design thinking, I believe there’s still so much more for me to learn. Moving forward, I would like to facilitate more design thinking flashlabs in order to get an even deeper understanding of design thinking. I’d also like to become more aware of how I can use it more in my daily life, whether that means working on empathizing with those around me or getting more comfortable with the idea of failure. I hope that as I continue to grow and learn, the skills I have gained from design thinking also continue to develop.

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