Stanford Design School Crash Course

Key Topic: Design Thinking

Amount Invested: ~2.5 Hours, $0

Creativity and Innovation are two buzzwords racing through corporate America. It’s for a good reason; in the right hands these skills can have a huge impact. However, most people haven’t figured out how to learn creativity and innovation, let alone teach it.

This is one area the Stanford has an edge. Everyone else seems to be trying to learn and catch up. However, is Design Thinking a major advance in the creative method or merely the current fad? I hoped the Crash Course would help me find out.

For the 1st 15 minutes I mingled with other interested professionals from the area (a UX Designer, a Tech Journalist, a University Design Consultant). Once everyone had arrived and the staff was ready, the staff outlined the principles of Design Thinking (empathy, iteration, collaboration, prototyping, show don’t tell, and process) and then immediate jumped into an ice-breaking activity.

The staff led a tournament-style rock paper scissors that in the end had 140 people cheering on recent strangers in a raucous battle royale. This gave the room enough energy to begin the process of learning Design Thinking through using the Design Thinking process. We divided up into teams of six, and then were led by an instructor into creativity stations.

Here we paired-off and used the Design Thinking process to help each other solve a mutual problem. The chosen problem was “improving the gift-giving process”, but it was clear any problem would have been within reach. After a series of iterative interviews to better understand our customer (our partner), we analyzed our findings and defined the problem. This seemed to be the most crucial step of the process, as a poorly defined problem would lead to poor solutions to the real need.

After documenting the problem, we flexed our mental muscles by sketching many possible solutions to the user’s problem. We then collected a bit more feedback, and it was off to the construction paper and pipe-cleaner crafts bin. Here, it was both fun and informative to make a real, physical prototype that the user could interact with. In the end my partner had a new service that met all of his needs (in this case the “Double Secret” Santa which he was excited to bring it back to his friends in Cambridge), and I had solved a problem using Design Thinking in under an hour.

So after all this, I think I would summarize the experience with the following: Design Thinking is a very quick, powerful way to stimulate the creative process. The Stanford Design School Crash Course is not only a great way to get an intro to Design Thinking, but also meet some really interesting people. Two hours is enough time to get the basics of Design Thinking, but two hours just scratches the surface.

The Crash Course (and accompanying full-day workshop) are amazing free offerings of the Stanford Design school. They give a taste of what the full, tuition programs would be like, but leave you wanting more.