Harnessing design thinking so students can design meaningful journeys

Design thinking has been a hot topic over the last few years and applied well outside of the design world. Businesses that are household names have incorporated the principles. What’s the basic idea behind design thinking? According to the Design Foundation, “designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way – in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, in our lives.”  Which is why universities are increasingly interested in adopting this framework as they help students in designing their post-graduation journeys.

At Journeous we’re big advocates of design thinking.  We weave prototyping, typically step 4 of the design thinking process, into our work with students and university partners.  In our case it’s career prototyping: students develop career prototyping action plans that leverage class projects and roles, volunteer experiences, internships and jobs. Once they understand their Values, Interests and Strengths, they identify experiences or jobs they’re curious about, develop ways to quickly test them and reflect on what they’ve learned about the fit for themselves. Based on these reflections, they refine what they want to test and repeat the process. This intentional approach helps students generate invaluable clues into what’s personally meaningful well before making a major career decision.

Proving the Value of Getting Into Action

While it can be tempting for students to spend time trying to think their way to the ‘right’ or ‘best’ career path, there’s no substitute for action. Here’s a great example of why, coming from the book Art and Fear. A ceramics class was divided into two groups. Half were graded on quantity; the other half on quality. When grades were distributed, it turned out that the highest quality ceramics were created by the group being graded on quantity. The quantity-focused group appears to have learned from their mistakes, improving subsequent pieces, while the group graded on quality was focused on perfecting each piece, missing the opportunity to apply their learnings about what didn’t work. Perfect indeed is often the enemy of the good.

If you’re interested in more about design thinking, here are a few resources:

  • Want to go straight to the granddaddy of design thinking? Then you’d have start with Ideo.  They’re the leaders in the space. Having worked with a number of former Idean-s, I can attest that they are the ones to learn from when it comes to design thinking
  • More of a visual learner? Take a look at this video on how Ideo approached evolving hardly the most exciting of technologies: the shopping cart
  • What does design thinking school look like? No question it’s different.  Check out the Stanford design school, or d school as they hiply call themselves.
  • Interested in testing out design thinking with a team? Here’s a nice variety of offerings that can help teams at all stages of the adoption process
  • Curious how this approach is being implemented in education? This may be relevant for thinking about the integration of career readiness into curriculum

Design thinking relies on creativity and innovation to address challenges. When you consider that 65% of the kids in elementary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, it’s clear that gaining design thinking skills and understanding how to prototype their careers will be invaluable for future grads. Learning the process now will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.

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