Crash Course in Design Thinking: A Virtual Experience

The Design Thinking Crash Course from the d.School at Stamford provides an interesting opportunity to experience the design thinking process yourself. The activity is designed to be completed remotely – without having to set foot in the d.School classroom. The Crash Course involves watching a video of facilitators and following the steps of the process in real time. The overall design of the experience is very clever – fast paced, fun, and low-entry so that anyone can perform the tasks and experience the process. The activity includes a worksheet to complete as you go through this partnered activity.

On a Thursday night I completed this activity with A. J. Blomquist using Zoom, so that we could simultaneously watch the video and see each other on video. This helped us to feel connected while performing the exercise. We began with some casual chatter, but then jumped right in.

At first I was skeptical of the process, and of our ability to complete the activity remotely. However once it began we were quickly engaged, answering the prompts we were given in the video, and filling in our Crash Course Worksheets. The activity is very fast-paced, not leaving much time for idle conversation or reflection on the process itself. We went through each round, but did sometimes pause to make comments or ask each other clarifying questions. The video seemed to discourage this type of interaction, but I felt it was important for me to really process the learning experience.

Halfway through I was convinced I was incorrectly completing the activity, and arriving at the “wrong answer.” This discomfort was an important moment for me, because I realized that my fear of failure often holds me back from moving forward and trusting in the process. Once I decided that this discomfort was natural, I was able to embrace it and move forward.

In the end I was shocked by the results we achieved in about 90 minutes of creative brainstorming. Both of our solutions were very clever, but also fit the stated needs of our “users.” Throughout the analysis and data gathering phase, I felt comfortable with the process as it is very similar to one taken by instructional designers. However once we moved into the brainstorming and iteration phase, I felt less confident. Those phases are the areas where I need to continue developing my skills as a designer.

Overall, I thought this was a great activity to get my feet wet with Design Thinking. While I have used many different aspects of the process, I have not had many opportunities to engage from start to finish. I found the experience to be rewarding in terms of deepening my understanding of the design thinking approach – but also as an added bonus, I made a personal connection with a classmate which felt good at the end of the night!

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