tool wall

I’ve been shopping for a new tool, lately.  I’ve spent time doing the research.  I’ve read (and continue to read) books, I’ve talked to people and I’ve played with ideas, but this weekend, I got to take one out of the box and actually do something with it.  I’ve been working within a Canadian Accredited Independent Schools Leadership Institute course entitled Design Thinking for School Innovation.  Our fearless guides on this journey have been Justin Medved and Garth Nichols.

What I’m coming out of the course with, besides new friends, leadership skills and sleep deprivation, is a new tool to add to my toolkit in terms of how I work with information, knowledge and ideas.  My question then becomes, when I get this tool home, where do I put it in my tool room?  What other tools do I have that are similar?  Where am I going to go looking for this?  When am I going to need it most?  What tasks is it best suited for and what other tools might I use it in combination with?

Guided Inquiry Design Process

One tool that I wonder about is Guided Inquiry.  How do Guided Inquiry and Design Thinking work together?  Or do they accomplish different things?  The more that I’ve tossed these around in my head the more that I think that they are similar in many ways, but they do have significantly different uses.  Guided Inquiry is very much about posing a meaningful question and seeking an answer.  It is about finding information, playing with ideas, and communicating your new thinking out into the world.  Design Thinking is about solving complex problems through understanding (empathizing with) the problem, and coming up with one “best” solution.  You might use a Guided Inquiry model to answer a “How might we…” question and you might use Design Thinking to re-frame and solve a research problem, but there are aspects of both models that are better suited to different kinds of questions.

Design Thinking Model

There is certainly a strong inquiry element to Design Thinking, but this model spends much of it’s time on the iteration phase.  That is, once you’ve done significant inquiry (Empathize), you define your problem and then try things out.  The research here is self or group generated brainstorming of ideas and then prototyping one or two of the “best” ideas to get it to where you need it.  Guided Inquiry, on the other hand,  does often involve building a product in order to demonstrate and communicate learning.  We wish that students would be OK with the idea of iteration in the Create phase.  Nothing is ever perfect the first time (whatever perfect is…).  But the Create phase is more about communication than it is about problem solving (although if the Guided Inquiry question is a problem, a way of communicating learning might very well be through building a solution and a Design Thinking process might overlay on a portion of the Guided Inquiry process…).

I think (and I am thinking this through as I write) that, like previous discussions about the relationship between Guided Inquiry and PBL, the emphasis in these thinking models is different and they serve different purposes.  While there are situations in which you might use a different tool for the job or you might use both to accomplish something more nuanced or complex, Guided Inquiry and Design Thinking are thought processes that serve different purposes.  I’m reminded of an idea that my mentor, David Loertscher was playing with a couple of years back where he’d mapped out a bunch of different things that we think about and different thinking models that tend to serve each.  I’m not sure if that went very far, but it did emphasize to me that there is no thinking omni-tool, but if one knows enough about enough different ways of thinking, then one can use tools interchangeably to serve one’s purposes and find the best tool for the job.  It also reminds me of Loertscher’s uTEC model for makers where one learns to use, tinker, experiment and create with each tool gradually moving from using a tool for only it’s intended purpose to knowing the tool so well that you could open a wine bottle with a sledge hammer, if the situation warranted it.

I’m not sure if this post is of use to anyone else.  As is so often the case, I use my blog to work through my own thinking.  I often feel like there are so many “new” ways of thinking out there that I really do need to figure out where each fits in my tool box so that I can use the best tool for the job.  Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment!

4 thoughts on “Design Thinking – A New Tool

  1. well, you probably knew that I’d chime in… 😀

    I agree with you that these are tools for different purposes. When we are looking for a thing that serves a human need, such as in industrial design, then empathy is the way to begin. For industrial designers the designers must have a clear understanding of their client and must empathize with the problem presented so that they can have the information (or gather the information) that they need to accommodate that or find a solution to that problem.

    For example- my kid watches her iPad on her lap all the time we need a case that is sturdy, can you help us? In order to solve that problem, they have to watch the kid with the iPad, she where she goes what she does and EMPATHIZe with the kid to get at what SHE wants rather than what the designer might have in mind or think she wants. We have to empathize to get to new solutions that we might not have come to on our own, in our studio thinking about the problem. And then this is created as a result of that exact Industrial design process.

    Thing is, the client COMES to the industrial designer WITH a problem or a question and that they are looking for solutions. The industrial designer doesn’t always have to come up with the problem. Their job is to solve the problem, typically.

    The Industrial Design process works when you are looking to change something to make the human experience better, and more aesthetically pleasing. I can see that sometimes, in school we might be looking to do that work, especially connected to science & math inquiry.

    I suppose this can happen organically for a designer as they think about something and tinker and examine something to make the human experience better, as well. In which case, making fits in really well with this too. But my greater interest as you can imagine is how this connect with GID! 😀

    The other tool you mentioned is our Guided Inquiry Design. Thanks for seeing it as a major tool in your shed. GID is a process used to support academic inquiry, research and responding. You’re right, it’s is all about having students ask an interesting question about the content of the curriculum. And then digging in deeper to an area of interest in a way to get deeper into the content. This you already know. So , these are two separate processes, for very different things.

    Could they interweave? Yes, I think so.

    The Wonder Expo is a great example of a time when these could weave together in ways that kids could benefit from both processes. So we begin with an Open that gets skids thinking about how science can help humans (7th Neighbourhood theme on next year’s wonder expo) Then they Immerse in the possibilities of that idea. They Explore to expand their understanding and think about what might be realistic in the time that they have. Next students Identify an area of interest, a question or hypothesis.

    Moving into GATHER is where these processes merge and support two things, academic deeper knowledge of a content area as well as creation of a new thing that solves a specific problem. SO students Gather information from human resources as well as written material. In Gather students are moving into the first phase of the Industrial Design process of Empathy where they gather information from people about the problem, current use of something or existing state from a human’s perspective- but they are also gathering information from books, website and other resources to understand a variety of perspectives about the problem. Technicalities, scientific fact about the way things work, mathematical connections… and so on.

    Through Empathy, they define the problems and begin to understand some possible solutions to it. Create is where they IDEATE and generate ideas and solutions, using scenarios and their information from Gather. They begin to create something new. Then they have to see if it would work- so prototype and test. All come in GID Create phase. Once they have the eureka moment, they are ready to share, and evaluate. Though those phases could come in to support the revision process of the Create.

    It’s fun to think about how these processes work together on their own and with other “tools in your shed” Thanks for letting me think along. Now, I’m wondering what the meld of problem based learning would fit into this scenario!

    Also on one more side note, GID was created through research that started with empathy for the users of information in school- trying to find a better way to interact with students when they came to the library to do research… how cool is that??? so GID was created using a form of research aligned to industrial design that DEFINITELY had to do with empathy and bettering the human experience of research.

    Don’t cha just love me… haha!

    1. Yes. You took me by complete surprise by replying, Leslie! 😉

      I like how you lay GID and Design Thinking models on top of each other. I might extend that by thinking that the process of the “client” would be the Open through to Identify in the GID model. Then Design Thinking does parallel well through Gather, Create and Share. Of course, the student can play both the role of the client and designer when they are asked to find problems worth solving, exploring them and framing them in a way that a client might propose to a design firm.

      I also like you comment about the role empathy played in the development of GID. It speaks the to role of teacher as designer. Maybe the provincial or state government establishes the curriculum and the teacher designs the experiences that the students engage in to learn the curriculum, which, of course, has to start with empathy with the student.

      This is why I love blogging. Not that I do it enough, but when people like you push my thinking further by engaging me in conversation around the posts topic, the whole process is powerful!

      THANK YOU!!!!

      1. I really appreciate you making the connection to push my thinking on it. So it goes both ways! Thanks Marc! Glad you’re enjoying the ride! 🙂

        1. I keep thinking about this… new thoughts to ponder- GID can be used as the instructional design frame for a class or course in which the industrial design frame is employed by students. Hmmm give that a minute to sink in…
          The industrial design process wasn’t really created for learning, but making something. GID is a learning centered instructional design model.

          Happy Wednesday!

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