Expeditionaries Day 5 of 8: When there is no path forward, you build one
If you want to prototype a solution to a thorny problem, designer thinkers will advise you to start with three simple words:
“How might we…?”
I love how my friend and colleague Carla Silver talks about the power of introducing a design challenge this way:
- How… because we believe in our agency to pursue real action.
- …might… because we believe that there are a range of possibilities, not one “right answer.”
- …we… because we believe that the best problem solving is collaborative; we > me.
On Day 4 of Expeditionaries, the student teams from Fordham Prep, Bishop Kearney, and Regis had all "crossed the mountains" by converging on one idea to address their social impact challenges.
Now, on Day 5, they would have to convert that idea into a prototype. And they quickly discovered that no paved road would lead them to the finish line. Instead, they would need to build their own path.
When students are on a journey into the unknown, prototyping can feel like hacking through jungle, descending into a dark valley, and hiking up hills.
Eventually, teams reach new elevations with exciting vistas when their research and brainstorming coalesce into potentially elegant solutions.
And then they start getting feedback on their prototype, which makes them realize they are going to have to hack through some more jungle.
For those reasons, Expeditionaries aims to develop resilience in participants. Rather than pitch a prototype as the solution, students are better off framing their prototype with a "What if...?" statement. The KiSH feedback protocol, borrowed from High Tech High, also helps students to treat feedback as a gift rather than a threat.
Taking a journey into the unknown is unsettling because school experienced typically condition students to expect pre-packaged problems in things like workbooks or essay assignments.
The sooner they have the opportunity to identify problems that appear in the real world, and to design solutions--knowing that the answer is not in the back of a book or implicit in a teacher's rubric--the sooner they will be prepared for our Age of Accelerating Change.
What tools and inner resources will your students rely on to build their own path forward?
Stay tuned for Expeditionaries Day 6 of 8: Eat poop, you cat!
(Yes, you read that correctly.)
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