This week Kurt lead a set of workshops for Willamina community members to introduce them to the concept and practice of Design Thinking.
He held two evening sessions, three hours each.
In the first session, he introduced the model through an exercise where the participants had to pair up and go through a Creation Cycle using the design thinking process. Their challenge was designing something that would improve the morning experience for their partner.
In the second session he then had them practice this cycle. In previous Breaker workshops, the participants practiced with a hypothetical challenge, re-imagining a shopping experience.
While he originally was planning on using the same challenge for this workshop, at the last minute he decided to use an actual challenge, focused on re-imagining how to build community in the community.
We knew that there was a risk with jumping into a real challenge. But, given that there were only two workshop days, we felt it was worth the risk so that the participants could see how this practice could be applied to solve real problems in their community.
One of the problems we have seen with the Breaker training that was done for the Willamina teachers was that, while they appreciated the design thinking process, they had a hard time seeing how this process could be applied back in their classroom. We wanted to see if we could avoid that same roadblock in this community training.
What he found, though, was a lot of unexpected difficulties when the participants immediately jumped into a creation cycle using a real-world challenge that was important to them. Immediately they wanted to go to the ideation stage. But they also went into that stage with a lot assumptions and expectations that would shut down radical ideation. A lot of "no, but" statements and few "yes, and" statements.
Kurt and talked about the difference of working with adults and youth when introducing creation cycles. The kids are fearless. The adults are not. They know the risks, which, while valuable, also severely limits their imagination.
When reflecting on this experience we realized that we tried too much, too soon. It was a little like teaching someone the basic body movements of the crawl stroke by the edge of a pool and then saying, go swim across the pool. We didn't give them the time, holding onto the wall, where they could practice and build the body memory.
Moving forward, we realize that we are going to need three sessions. One to introduce, the second to practice, and the third to apply.
I really appreciate that Kurt challenged us in the training process. This workshop was the first one that he has led. Rather than just keeping to the safe path of replicating his experience from the workshops he participated in, he challenged us to expand upon that experience, knowing full well that the outcome was not predictable and failure was more likely.
Overall, the workshop was successful. But by introducing a new approach, there were surprises, and failure. Call that the 20%. It is in this failure that previously unrecognized assumptions were identified and recognized as incorrect. By bringing them to light, the understanding of our path forward to success was re-framed.
I believe that, in a sense, this process of creating, grappling and understanding the elements of failure is the deeper learning process that Piaget referred to when he was talking about "accomodation" in his theory of cognitive development . The moments in which our schema is widened.