Design For Librarian Educators

The designers at IDEO will tell you that they have no real expertise for most of the projects on which they work. Rather, they emphasize that they are experts at the design process – the IDEO method of design thinking. And I know that IDEO has designed hundreds of different products across industries and helped service organizations, such as hospitals, to improve their customer service. But I just discovered that IDEO is also working in the education industry as well, teaming up with school districts to pioneer “a special investigative-learning curriculum” to help students become “seekers of knowledge”.

I learned this from an article I came across in the publication Metropolis, in which Sandy Speicher, who heads IDEO’s Design for Learning initiative, is interviewed. In this article Speicher offers “IDEO’s Ten Tips for Creating a 21st-Century Classroom Experience”. Here are Speicher’s ten tips along with my thoughts on how they can help a librarian educator:

1. Pull, don’t push – It’s not about spoon feeding the knowledge into their brains; create an environment that gets your students asking questions that lead to self-discovery.

2. Create from relevance – put the learning into the context of what’s relevant to them; that’s why designing research skill building into assignments is critical.

3. Stop calling them soft skills – good research requires creativity, collaboration and other so-called soft skills; they’re a necessity for 21st century learners.

4. Allow for variation – everyone learns differently and at different speeds; incorporate that into what happens in the instruction session.

5. No more sage onstage – to deliver authentic practice and build experience you have to step away from the lectern; let them do the work while you guide.

6. Librarians are designers – give librarians space to create a learning environment that suits their teaching style; allow them to design the learning experience.

7. Build learning communities – what happens in the classroom requires participation from the administration and faculty; librarians and other learning support professionals need to create the community.

8. Be an anthropologist, not an archaeologist – don’t study the past; study the people to understand their needs. Pay attention to connecting with them rather than digging through the data.

9. Incubate the future – It’s not about finding the right answers; it’s about learning to be ambitious, able to solve problems and taking responsibility for learning.

10. Change the discourse – You can’t measure creativity and collaboration on charts; we need to create new assessment to track the building of 21st-century research skills.

Keep in mind that these were written with K-12 classroom instructors in mind. But there are still some useful ideas here to help librarians develop better practices for designing a classroom experience.

IDEO Expands Its Sphere Of Influence

He may not be as well known as IDEO CEO Tim Brown, but If any one person truly represents what IDEO is about that might be David Kelley, one of the principal leaders of the world famous design firm. You might know Kelley from The Deep Dive or his TED talk. He is an enthusiastic believer in the power of design thinking to transform people, products and organizations. Fast Company profiled Kelley in a January, 2009 issue. If you haven’t seen The Deep Dive video you can get a sense of what some of the themes are in this interview. It is mostly about Kelley’s recent battle with cancer, but I found the article enjoyable because it gave me some new insights into the IDEO organization and its origins. I learned that it was Kelley, in a meeting with Tim Brown, who suggested that IDEO should stop calling what IDEO does design and instead start calling it design thinking. That meant shifting their paradigm from “designing a new chair or car” to being “expert at a methodology”.

Kelley points out that what makes IDEO different from traditional management consulting firms is their design thinking process – understanding, observation, brainstorming, prototyping. He recalls the story of a client who just wanted IDEO to skip right to the brainstorming. But Kelley maintains that the big ideas – where the real value of what IDEO does – is in the first two parts of the process. If you want to work with IDEO you need to go through the entire process with them. As Kelley tells his design students:

You’re sitting here today because we moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers. What we, as design thinkers, have, is this creative confidence that, when given a difficult problem, we have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before

The article contains examples that demonstrate how IDEO has moved from a firm that uses design thinking to improve products and services, to one that is truly having an influence on the future of business. This article profiles major companies such as Procter & Gamble and Kaiser Permanente that have hired IDEO to help them transform into design thinking organizations. IDEO’s methods are also being taught at major design and MBA programs around the world, such as the Stanford Design School and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. In this way IDEO is expanding its sphere of influence far beyond their Palo Alto headquarters. Will IDEO’s sphere of influence expand all the way to libraries? I would certainly hope so. But Kelley points out that “design thinging represents a serious challenge to the status quo at traditional companies”. The decision thinking process, I believe, can make libraries better – but first we need to be open to its possibilities.

Design Thinking Blog Started By Tim Brown

You know I’m always on the lookout for new and valued sources for reading and learning more about design thinking. Well a good one appeared this week, a new blog by one of the gurus of design thinking. It looks good and should continue to be a useful resource for learning about design thinking.

Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO and I’ve mentioned his work before or quoted him. Few individuals are as closely associated with the discipline of design thinking as is Brown. Now Brown will be sharing his thoughts in a blog. His blog is simply called Design Thinking. Turns out Brown is writing a book based on his well received June 2008 Harvard Business Review article on design thinking. In his message about the blog he refers to the book and says he will be sharing his ideas and gathering information from readers’ comments. I have to say that the comments I’ve read are pretty good. In fact the comments from just one post lead me to three different resources related to design thinking that were totally new to me. So clearly there are lots of folks out there interested in design thinking who have resources and ideas to share. I expect that Brown’s blog will be a focal point for the design thinking community.

Perhaps of less importance, but possibly of interest to those who would like more detail on the inner workings of design at IDEO, I came across another blog called IDEO Labs that takes you inside the process that the IDEO designers go through as they work on projects. It appears that it might appeal to those with more of a technical interest in IDEO’s prototyping process, but it could also be a good way to learn more about the various stages of the design thinking process. I’ll check it out from time to time.