Innova Schools is a privately owned school chain in Peru designed by IDEO. They seek to bring affordable world-class education to low-income families. I worked in collaboration with them assessing and redesigning the yearly design challenge program held at their schools called the Innovation Program (IP).
The root of the problem was the over-simplification of the design process in the Innovation Program (IP), which had become a disjointed group of design thinking activities. The proposal was to breach the gaps between the 4 stages of the IP: EXPLORE, DESIGN, EXPERIMENT, and SHARE.
For this, the key sections of the design thinking process were identified and categorized by learning outcomes and as activities to be developed by the students with instruction from their advisors.
These categories would allow teachers to understand the purpose of the IP and allow them to implement the activities in their own classrooms.
The Innovation Program (IP) was designed by IDEO to become a major staple of the Innova School experience. After trying to implement the program in a sample of their schools, Innova knew the program wasn't being effective. We found these three main issues to improve:
The oversimplification of the design process currently taught left students and teachers with a set of disjointed activities to follow.
The scheduling of the IP did not support the flow of design thinking and left students burdened with work.
There was no feedback structure or community network support for the IP.
1. METHODS FOR DESIGN THINKING
We created a set of 10 design thinking method categories. These can be carried out in strategic orders to create a cohesive understanding of the design thinking process. They are as follows:
1 - RESEARCH: What do we know about this subject? 2 - DEFINING THE PROBLEM: What is the need? 3 - EMPATHY BUILDING: How does it feel? 4 - DIVERGENT THINKING: How many ways of solving this problem may there be? 5 - DATA PROCESSING AND EVALUATION: Which solutions may be more viable? 6 - CONVERGENT THINKING: How may these solutions work? 7 - TESTING AND PROTOTYPING: Do they really work? 8 - FEEDBACK: How may we improve these solutions? 9 - PROCESS AND DOCUMENTATION: How did we get here? 10- PRESENTATION AND COMMUNICATION: How do we tell the story of our solution?
2. THE PLATFORM
These activities and their instructions will be available to students and teachers all year round to be utilized and revised at any time. This platform will become the teaching tool for instructors. Each method will have its own "profile" page where instructors will be able to support each other by generating comments and including tips for its implementation. In addition, each school will carry support meetings for the instructors where feedback will be gathered and any existing doubts may be solved collectively. The facilitator of the meeting will log important insights on the platform to be revised by the back office once the IP has finished and all data has been gathered. This way, the system feeds and corrects itself with useful information on how the methods are actually working across schools.
One of the most critical concerns between teachers is: How does one grade creativity? How do we avoid discouraging 'wild' ideas? Currently, the parameters of the IP, with a panel of invited judges, reward the most "creative" and convincing ideas at their completion stage.
Our proposal is a badge system with which instructors can evaluate students on understanding and implementing design thinking tools. Each badge represents a learning outcome of the IP. At the end of the Innovation Program, through the collection of these badges, students can see their achievements and strengths. By awarding badges, instructors can more objectively grade "creativity" in the design thinking process to avoid the discouragement of students' ideas and leaving out subjective opinions on the quality of the finished product.
The IP is scheduled to happen between classes, for a couple of weeks once a year. It is extremely valuable that kids are given the opportunity to tackle community-based design challenges, however, going through the IP only once a year is like running a marathon without any previous training. This decreases the positive impact the IP may have on both students and instructors. Our proposal is to clear a whole week to dedicate to the IP. This will allow each step's insights to fuel the next activity. Thus, generating a better understanding of the process of design thinking.
For more detailed information on our research and solutions, you can watch the following videos created by my thesis partner Kritika Hora, and visit her portfolio here :)