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10 lessons from Design Thinking that can be applied to digital learning

January 13, 2016

By Tess Robinson, Director, LAS

A few weeks ago I attended a fabulous workshop by Sally Spinksdesign thinking from Ideo. If you haven’t heard of them before, they are a design consultancy headquartered in California but with offices throughout the world. They use the design thinking methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences. We have a bit of an organisational crush on them if we’re honest.

Here are my top 10 takeaways:

  1. Start with the human need – get into your learner’s space, put yourself in their shoes. Don’t just look at what they say and think but also what they do and feel, as these things can be quite different.
  2. Look outside – find analogous situations to inspire solutions. If you’re looking to get learners to share, think of situations where sharing happens well, for example a nursery or a group counselling meeting. Approaches from these do not have to be exactly replicated but you may find that there is some concept or methodology that can be translated to your project.
  3. Hook into what people are already doing – there may not always be a need to reinvent the wheel, it may be that small adaptations are all that’s needed to produce the desired behaviours.
  4. Prototype – this one is really important. Prototype early and at low cost to mitigate risk and to build your business case.
  5. Talk to your people as humans. Give people permission to be themselves, rather than corporate robots. You will be rewarded for it.
  6. Design not for people but with them. Engage your learners in innovation and they will become supporters.
  7. Look for patterns in behaviour or actions that will help you gain insights and spot opportunities.
  8. Brainstorming is a great tool but certain rules must apply – defer judgement, encourage wild ideas, build on the ideas of others but always stay focussed on the topic.
  9. Celebrate failure. As my husband said to my little boy when he was upset by making a mistake in his homework – ‘if everyone gave up when they failed, we would all still be living in caves’. Don’t be afraid to get things wrong as that is how we progress. Failure should be allowed and even encouraged.
  10. Evolution becomes inevitable when you use a design thinking approach.

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