The d.school make it easy to get started learning about design thinking by generously making available (under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license) a facilitator guide and participant materials for running a design thinking crash course – DP0 (Design Project Zero), a fast-paced project which takes participants though a full design cycle.
I’ve run the ‘gift-giving experience’ version of DP0 several times, and here are some tips I’ve pulled together from my experience….
- Allow two hours. The guidance on the d.school site suggests that you can run it in 90mins including debrief, but I’ve found 2 hours to be the minimum length of time required so that you don’t feel super-rushed and that there is enough time for participants to get value out of the debrief. The extra time just gives you a bit of breathing space to allow for participants to arrive and get settled, to do a warm-up exercise (see next point below), to allow for a brief explanation of the design thinking process (and to be able to refer back to this between the steps of the exercise), and to have a meaningful debrief session at the end.
- A warm-up activity is essential. Having some kind of an activity where the pairs get to introduce themselves (if they haven’t met before) and get to know more about each other means that the first interview exercise is much easier/deeper. The warm-up activity that I like to use is to give pairs three minutes to find three things that they have in common (which can’t be obvious things like ‘we both wear glasses’ or ‘we’re both in the same room right now’), and then to each find a way of visually representing those things (without using numbers or letters). I find it gets people talking, laughing and also warming up their creativity muscle when they’re asked to draw.
- Cover the coaching role as well as the facilitator role. The role of the facilitator is to give the instructions, explain the concepts, keep time, and lead the debrief session. But there’s also a really important coaching role throughout the course. The coach needs to move around amongst the participants while they’re working and listen in to their discussion and observe how they work. Their role is to answer questions, give a few prompts and encouragement to participants who have a ‘I-don’t-quite-understand-what-I’m-meant-to-be-doing’ look, remind participants of the instructions and give little tips. Both roles (facilitator and coach) could be done by the same person, but it is definitely easier and works better to have at least two people (or more depending on the group size).
- Watch the virtual crash course video beforehand. Jeremy and Perry have some really nice ways of explaining the process that add colour and clarity (I love the ‘be an anthropologist not a salesman’ line!), and seeing what they emphasise in their instruction is helpful.
- Have a slide showing the 5 modes (or write it on a whiteboard) and refer to it throughout the session. I use it at the start of the session when giving a brief overview of the design thinking process, and then as I move participants to each step of the exercise I refer back to it. It helps to reinforce the modes and to also ground people (especially those that really like to have a clear process to follow).
- Put together a playlist. Music definitely adds something to the session. My playlists are a bit of a work in progress, but at the moment I’ve landed on three. One for when participants arrive/leave (just a general mix of interesting and fairly up-beat music), one for when they’re having conversations or doing solo reflection/work (mostly instrumental, jazzy kind of music – kind of like a cafe/lounge bar), and one for prototyping (more up-beat, funk, with a strong beat). I got most of the initial playlist suggestions from the d.school’s list of mixtapes, but have added to them (and will continue to refine them). Spotify works well for putting together playlists and the premium feature allows you to play them ad-free and to download them for local playback where you don’t have an internet connection.
- Organise your prototyping materials. Over on my Resources page, you can find a link to a list of what’s in my prototyping kit. Getting a little bit organised and packing the different materials into labelled snap-lock bags has been great and helped to keep my kit from turning into a mixed-up box of junk.
- The debrief is the best and most important part of the session. As a facilitator, I love hearing how other’s reflect on the session and the a-ha moments that they’ve had. Each session that I do I find myself surprised (in a good way), by the different and often deeply personal insights individuals have as a result of the session. The way I like to run the debrief is to first get a couple of people sharing prototypes with the group that they really liked, and then to ask people to step back and reflect on the process. Questions that I’ve found work well are – What did you find most challenging? How did engaging with real person and testing your ideas change the direction that your solution took? What did it feel like to show unfinished work? What was it like to work with deliberately crappy prototyping materials? How did the pace feel? What surprised you about the process? What have you learned today that you can take away to apply in your work/life?
- Get feedback on the session. It’s always useful to get a sense from participants about what worked and what could be improved, especially if you’ll be running future crash course sessions. The feedback mechanism I’m finding to work really well is ‘I Liked, I Wish, and I’m Going To…’. Ask each participant to take three post-it notes and on one write something that they liked about the session, on another something that they wish could be different, and on the third something that they’re going to do as a result of the session. Not only is it good feedback, but it also forces participants to consider what they’re going to do once they leave the training room.
If you’ve run the gift-giving experience, what are the tips and advice you’d share?