What Today's Students Can Learn from IDEO

What is IDEO? IDEO is a world reknown and innovative design firm that helped develop Apple Computer's first mouse, the Palm V, the insulin pen, the first stand-up toothpaste tube, and overhauled the consumer experiences of Kaiser Permanente Hospitals and high fashion dressing rooms.

So why would this mean anything to students? With the Information Revolution, facts and information base are not the essential commodity any more. It's no longer vital to "know that", but rather to "know why" and "how to make better." And these skills are right up IDEO's alley. What IDEO may help specifically with is a more systematic approach to teaching and encouraging problem solving.

While reading Kelly's The Art of Innovation, we found the following ideas for the classroom:

- Innovation Begins with the Eye: Ala Training Tweakers, IDEO is also a big fan of the Critical Eye. IDEO encourages creative critique by direct experience, interviewing, reflection on opinions and gut feelings, and finding problems that others hadn't seen before.

- Model Fluency with Ideas: IDEO has a number of tips about how to conduct good brainstorming sessions, including ideas for modeling fluency. First, IDEO likes to number their ideas to encourage generating lots of ideas, even off-the-wall or half-baked ones. Second, provide concrete examples of solutions that other people have devised ("One of the best brainstormers I ever attended at IDEO was an exploration of alternative wine beverage containers. Before the brain-stormer, we covered a conference table with bottles, closures, materials, and mechanisms ranging from the retro porcelain Grolsch beer bottle stopper to an elegant black Japanese sake flask..."). This sounds a little like Einstein working in the Patent Office. Brainstorming sessions don't just 'happen', they also have been well researched. Having examples readily in hand can be stimulating for more ideas.

- Cultivate Hot Groups: Carefully select groups and recognize diversity and contributions of different personalities. Students would benefit from learning about different creative personalities and different successful roles in innovative groups. Why should instruction in group interactions wait until they have entered the workforce?

- Make Prototypes: Draw and physically make something from your ideas, then test it out in the field. Get physical, "sketching, mind mapping, diagrams, and stick figures..." and make a model with available parts (the first mouse was prototyped using the cover of a butter dish).

- Cross-Pollinate and Jump Barriers: Teach students that the best ideas may be found from beyond the group or from a different field. Suggest analogies from different disciplines. Change experience and points-of-view. Cursory exposures to problem solving in the classroom may defeat the purpose of the lesson. Don't allow cheats or predictable answers. Encourage far out ideas and interdisciplinary thinking.

ThePower Of Design

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