Today, I’m thinking about design sprints.  I was introduced to the concept of design problems that are tackled in very short amounts of time.  High level of intensity, but a relatively simple problem (or at least the expectations of the final solution are limited in scope so that something is achievable in a short amount of time).  My problem is that as soon as I start researching the idea of design sprints, I run into discussions, primarily around tech based issues (lots from Google here) that are typically five-day cycles.  I’m guessing that in the world of companies like Google, 5 days is a sprint.  But what I’m looking for are sprints of much smaller scale.  I want to be able to introduce students to design thinking or to be able to practice elements of design thinking in a very short amount of time.  In a best case scenario, I will have a day to devote to one, but more typically, I will be dealing with a class of about an hour.  So, what am I to do?

One idea that struck me on my afternoon walk was the idea of designing door stops.  Not a terribly earth shattering problem.  Probably not going to turn the world on its head with a doorstop, but I think that this problem has all the elements I need, while being blissfully simple.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 3.53.37 PMI like the idea of designing doorstops, because the answer is seemingly obvious, but the potential solutions are plentiful.  One immediately thinks of a roughly triangular wedge that is forced between the bottom of a door and the floor, but this is only one solution.  We can talk about first principles in this problem.  The function of a doorstop is to, not surprisingly, stop a door, presumably from closing.  As long as the door is stopped, we have a doorstop.  The entry to my Learning Commons uses two different door stopping technologies.  One is a brightly coloured, traditionally shaped, clearly-labeled doorstop.  Not only does it wedge nicely under the door and keep it from closing, it has been returned to me on the odd occasion that it has “gone for a walk.”  The other door uses a completely different technology.  It is called a carpet.  The floor itself bows in the path of the door so, if I push the door open far enough, I push the door into the rising carpet/floor, and the friction between the carpet and the door keeps it place.  Probably not great for the carpet, but fully functional!  There are other places in the school that use a hook and eye near the level of the door handle to keep the door open.  Others have a mechanism at the top of the door that normally pulls the door closed, but when clicked passed a certain point, keeps the door open.  Each approach fits the needs of the situation effectively.

In the empathy/understand phase of the design thinking process, the students spend time thinking through the specific door-stopping needs.  Where is the door?  What type of floor is under the door?  What kind of door is it?  How heavy is the door?  What kind of environment is the door in?  Does the solution need to be discreet, or can it be fun and stand out?  Is the doorstop being designed for a single situation or is it need to address many doors in environments?

From here, the problem is defined.  This process should be fairly easy if the right empathy questions are asked.  The ideation begins and concepts are thrown around to explore all options before a design is settled on an prototyped.  Depending on the tools available and the specifics of the individual doorstop problems, a final design could be fabricated and taken to the door(s) in question to be tested.

I can imagine that if an hour was available, a team could get through ideation and a simple prototype could be constructed (or at least drawn) in an hour if teams were efficient.  If a couple of hours were available, a team might actually have something to test.

This seems to be a good idea for a quick exploration of design thinking, a team assessment, or practice at certain points in a year.  Having not tried this yet, what am I missing?  Does this seem doable?  What other design problems might serve a similar design sprint need?  Do you have any pointers to great resources for this kind of thing?  I can’t help but think that others might have already compiled lists of potential projects that might fit these needs?

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