Ideation

In class this past week we devoted two periods to thinking of ideas in response for our “How Might We…?” statements. Our group is focusing on Comcast, and the first class period we focused on what Comcast might do in order to improve the customer experience by making their services more understandable and accessible to the average consumer. We came up with a lot of great ideas, but while our solutions may have made Comcast a better company, or improved service to their consumers, our solutions were not very focused on the sustainability aspect of our project.

The next class period, we refocused our efforts. We discussed how we could move into a better direction with our project, and spent some time coming up with “How Might We…?” statements that targeted sustainability more specifically. We then spent the majority of class time ideating, and met over the weekend to form our ideas into a more cohesive concept. We were able to successfully come up with a few related ideas that address both environmental and social sustainability.

During both sessions of ideating I found the exercise where we forced “bad” solutions to our “How Might We…?” statements very challenging. Challenging in a positive way — I think this activity forced us to really think outside the box. I had trouble during both Ideation sessions because I found myself screening my thoughts (through filters of feasibility and potential) before I could even write them down. I feel like I’ve been programmed to think inside the box — and so the parts of the exercise that challenged that default mode of thinking were very helpful, even though I found it a bit challenging.

Defining

In class last week we moved from the exploration stage (Discover) to the Definition stage. Our group worked really well together, and we were able to easily lump our ideas together under four bigger definitions of the problems that Comcast faces currently. I am excited about the future of our project, the problem areas we defined in class offer a lot of room for creativity in the ideation stage.

It was helpful to make the definition process as visual as possible. Color-coding our ideas with sticky notes allowed each group member to contribute and for our team to have a balanced conversation. The opportunity to physically move ideas around on the board made it much easier to organize our thoughts. Once we had individually brainstormed, we began to categorize our ideas. We moved our stickies into different parts of the whiteboard to distinguish between potential ideas for innovation, conceptual problems versus tangible problems, and discarded the ideas that were irrelevant and too broad.

While I did appreciate aspects of the individual brainstorming process, I work better when I’m able to talk through my ideas in a small group. This may be an individual preference, but I think others might also enjoy working together to correctly articulate an idea. In the process of Defining, using precise language is essential, and I find it easier to come up with the  correct wording and language when speaking with others. We did sort of have an opportunity to do this when we came together to categorize and further develop our “how might we…” statements, but I would have found a short group brainstorming opportunity to “talk it out” very helpful.

I think that Define may be the most important step of this process, because reaching an effective solution depends on a full, comprehensive, and sometimes interdisciplinary understanding of the problem. In our case, many of our problems had to do with customer service, but also with the technology provided by Comcast. The nature of internet service provision links these two components, and so defining a “how might we…” statement that encompassed both elements was the goal of our class time. I think we worked really well as a group, and I am really excited to see what ideas and innovations we come up with Monday in class!

 

Design Thinking – After the process

I so enjoyed our class experience in Design Thinking. To reiterate my last post, I’ve never felt this engaged in class material in such a long time. It takes a lot of energy, but I felt that it was time and effort well spent.

I could see myself running into trouble with the fluidity of the Design Thinking process. I usually like to have things lined up and organized in a linear way, so in this exercise I had to try very hard to break that habit. But I think that having a more fluid and cyclical process is much more beneficial to the product, and I enjoyed the challenge of thinking in a new way.

I enjoyed the challenge of being made to show and not tell. I spend so much of my time writing and speaking, but often it can be more effective to create a tangible model that someone can experience. Funneling my energy into the physical making of an idea was a challenge, but I made new discoveries and improved my idea in the process.

The constant feedback given in the process was the most helpful aspect. I didn’t have time to get very attached to my work, and so I was able to rework without the sting of rejection. As a twamp, I feel that fear of failure is so deeply ingrained in me that it sometimes inhibits the risks I take in many different areas of life. It can hinder the learning process, because taking risks and trying new things are discouraged by fear. The Design Thinking process forced me to act instead of dwell on possible negative feedback or outcomes, and the result was something I’m really proud of.

Lynn and I made a very good team, and we are both so excited about our products of the Design Thinking exercise. I think adopting a design thinking mentality would result in better schoolwork, and maybe a broader and more creative personal outlook.

First Experience in Design Thinking

Design Thinking workshop

I have a little exposure to Design Thinking – Molly Adair did a weekly workshop over the course of last spring for AidData where I am a senior research assistant. We didn’t dive too deeply into the process, so the Design Thinking bootcamp we participated in last class was a much more comprehensive experience. I was really enjoying the time I spent working with Lynn, and I’ve been reflecting on the exercise since. We made significant progress, and I am really excited to come back to class and finish the great work that we started. As we were picking up momentum, the number of nods and smiles and yes’s increased, I lost track of how much time was left in class, and I thought: “I haven’t been this engaged in what I’m learning in a long time.”

My favorite things are to learn about people, connect to people, and to help people. The Design Thinking process let me do all of these things. I really like the empathy part, digging into the deeper problems – its almost like an anthropological study. The collaboration effort – pitching ideas, getting feedback, revising, repeat – was so engaging and dynamic. We had a great flow of conversation and ideas – I really liked being able to collaborate and connect in order to reach a creative and meaningful solution to a real problem. I felt like I was meeting a need of another person while also fulfilling my own creative desires – it was such a great balance, and I cannot wait to jump back into the process.

I am struck by how engaged I was in this activity. The Design Thinking process combines many of my values and strengths – and I really enjoyed it. Lately I’ve been really struggling with the future, because I’ve realized how much I’m bored by or just generally dislike the work I do or the subjects I’m studying. I’ve not been excited to look for grad schools and jobs because I felt tied to my current involvements – which I’m just not that pleased with. But this class (in the 6 times we’ve met) might be the link for a future I could be excited about.

The Business Perspective

I honestly am completely new to all things business. My parents do not work in anything even related to business, I’ve spent my undergraduate career studying the intricacies of government, and when I tried to take accounting last spring…I crashed and burned into the fiery pits of a W. I would classify myself as business illiterate, and I’m facing a bit of a learning curve in this class.

That said, our discussion last class gave me the history behind business that I needed in order to form a solid base for further business knowledge. I like to know the background and the big picture – and that was exactly what we talked about. I was able to connect business with other subjects I’ve studied in depth – government and sociology. These connections really helped me to gain a firmer grasp on business concepts.

I started thinking about how business will change in the future, and which business models will flourish and which will fail based on the big picture trends. I like the concept of a business model that can “grow anywhere,” (hence the title of the blog). A business that can be mobile if needed, provides a service, and with sustainable units could grow anywhere. I don’t have an idea yet of what service this business could provide, but I’m sure as we learn more about the products and service that will be needed and highly valued in the future the ideas will come.

On Happiness

The first time I watched The Happy Movie was last July, and I remember being most struck by the co-housing community living arrangements in Denmark. I really loved the idea of a support network for families, with the added benefits of living more sustainably as well. The second time around, I find myself thinking about the concept of simplicity and how it relates to happiness. It’s difficult to live simply just because of the nature of our society, but maybe we would be better off without as many material possessions; instead what if we invested our money in experience?

The past couple of years I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about what it means to be happy, and how I define my own happiness — at the end of the day it really is how you personally define being happy. I’ve found that I feel most content and at peace when I try to live according to the following four ideas:

1. Become a human. By this, I mean invest in and spend time developing yourself. Become a true individual. Inward reflection is important, and learning what you enjoy and what you don’t, and all the while taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically are a natural outcome of the reflection process. Find activities you like to do, learn how to spend time with yourself, learn to like who you are when alone. Realize all the little complexities about yourself and define and redefine your likes, dislikes, interests, passions, purpose, etc. Never stop asking yourself questions.

2. Find where your joy meets the world’s deep need. I’ll admit, I stole this from my roommate last year, Charlotte. I like this because it acknowledges the importance of the individual while placing it in the greater context of the world. Find where you fit.

3. Be Kind. This is kind of a no-brainer. You get back what you give. If you’re making a conscious effort to pump good things into the world, it’ll come back around. It’s also important to remember that everyone else is just as complex and as weird and as human as you are. If you don’t like someone, or are constantly annoyed by someone, or don’t respect someone, remember that all of those things are your problem, not theirs. Get over it, let it go, and stop wasting time on all of that negative energy.

4. Give the best away. This goes back to the first idea, “Become a human.” Develop yourself, make stuff, create, fill yourself up, invest time in yourself…but then the most important thing you can do is give it away. Once you’ve figured out how to be a human, you can fill yourself back up again. Most things get better when shared – happiness expands when shared.

I know I’m just a 21 year old, very privileged college student, and that I am probably the smallest fish in all the ponds. My relative significance in this world is not any larger than any. But these four things help me stay happy, content, and at peace.

Things, they are a-changing.

Thinking about the future can be really scary, especially as a senior with only a year left of guaranteed food, shelter, community, and nothing to do all day but learn. The bubble we’ve been living in at the College will pop, and “real” life, “adult” life, will be harshly felt for some of us. Everything feels so uncertain. We long for clarity and security in our decisions after graduation, but both are in scarce supply.

Sometimes it seems like all we (college students, Americans, humans) ever do is prepare for the future, save for the future, try to predict the future, try to control the future. Most of us want the future to be better than or equal to the present, but we forget to enjoy what the present brings. We spend our time obsessed with what-who-and-where’s next, obsessed with the very thing that scares us most: the uncertainty of the future. The terrifying reality is that there are only two things certain in the future, death and change.

I won’t spend time talk about death in this post, honestly thats a library’s worth of material in and of itself; rather, I’ll focus on change. Change in the future is certain, a fact illustrated by Jorgen Randers in his article “8 Ways the World Will Change by 2052.” Randers spends much of his article forecasting the future, something that generally annoys me, but his delivery is frank and full of dry humor, which I appreciate. Two of the most important topics that he addresses, in my own opinion, are the inequity between the rich and poor, and the importance of life satisfaction as a measure of how well we are doing as a species. He forecasts change in each of these areas.

There is a difference between inequity and inequality. Inequality is inevitable, people are different, and humans naturally rank and teleolgically categorize each other. In addition, the natural distribution of resources of the planet ensures plenty of differences between communities. But inequity is another story. Inequities are disparities between people that are a result of systemic, avoidable and unjust social and economic policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity.These are the social and economic policies put in place by the elite, the privileged few, the one percent. Whatever you call them, they exist, and the gap between these elite and the rest must close, the status quo must change, if we are to move towards a more sustainable way of living.

Randers also focuses on life satisfaction as the measure of comparison between now and the future. I like life satisfaction as a measurement because it is an internal measurement. Many times when we try to gauge our progress it is in relation to other people, groups, or nations; these comparisons are the root of most conflicts, or at least unhappiness, in the world. The whole idea of keeping up with everyone else, or trying to pull ahead of everyone else, is the central motivation of many. These are external measurements. Life satisfaction however, is a subjective measurement unique to each individual. To assess life satisfaction, people must reflect inwardly (something that doesn’t happen enough), and gauge progress based on individual goals.

In the next 48 years, we will face incredible challenges as we test the limits of our planet, of our economies, and of ourselves. The future is scary and uncertain, and the task at hand for our generation is to deal with everything coming our way. My hope is that we are able to take action, that we find time for inward reflection, and that we don’t let the fear of the future overwhelm everything else.