It’s my pleasure to share this post from Upper School Science Chair, Michael Mitchell.
For many teachers, the summer is a time of rest and relaxation. I was looking for something more exciting. Something disruptive. I found what I was looking for at The Design Thinking Bootcamp. Offered through the Stanford Graduate School of Business, bootcamp was the best kind of disruption—opening my mind, expanding my thinking, and redefining how I approach problem solving.
Bootcamp started with a greeting from David Kelley, founder of both the Stanford d.school and IDEO, who gave a quick history of both organizations to the 70 bootcamp participants. We were then introduced to our coaches, who were either d.school faculty or recent graduates of a similar workshop who had gone on to live design thinking in both their personal and professional lives.
Split into small groups, we were immediately introduced to the basic structure of design thinking—empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test—through a 90-minute exercise during which we interviewed partners about their experiences in a new city and then prototyped a product that would enhance those experiences. Now somewhat familiar with the lexicon and process, we began our actual bootcamp experience: to redefine the city experience outside of the hotel walls, for Hyatt Hotels. The rest was almost a blur.
Over the next two and a half days we bussed into San Francisco to interview random strangers about their love of the city. Back at the d.school, we had to ideate and prototype our ideas, and showcase these ideas to more random strangers and then to executives from Hyatt. Just as we were wrapping up, our coaches again surprised us. There were a few hundred people outside who had signed up for a 90 minute design thinking workshop, and we were going to be their coaches. Whoa.
After returning from d.school, I have three main goals. The first is daily practice of the behaviors I learned. The second is to offer similar bootcamp experiences to both students and faculty throughout the year. And the third is to work with the Center for Leadership to launch our own designLab at St. Luke’s this winter. Mark described our vision perfectly in his summer letter to families: the designLab will be an interdisciplinary hub for experiential learning. Here, teachers and students will engage in design thinking, problem solving and teamwork. Through cutting edge technologies and project-based learning the designLab will set the example of education driven by real-world problem solving and practical application of skills.
I have already run my first bootcamps with several members of St. Luke’s administrative team, and a faculty group as well. On the student side, my engineering courses are revolving around a semester-long design challenge rooted in design thinking. Students will design a toy for a Middle School teacher that helps teach a concept. I also plan to work with Student Government and other student organizations as they tackle challenges over the year that could benefit from design thinking.
My whole d.school experience was transformative. The most exciting takeaways are new problem-solving tools we can share with students. There is a sign hanging in the d.school that reads, “the only way to do it is to do it.” And that’s what we’re doing.