Putting Design Thinking Into Practice: IDEO

Last month, Arts Orange County presented its annual Creative Edge Lecture at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts with guest speaker Tom Kelley of IDEO. He spoke about his experience using “design thinking” to help schools and businesses nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. He stressed that it’s not about all of us becoming artists (though it’s great to be an artist, of course), but that it’s this way of thinking that manifests into creativity in the classroom or in the workplace.

Kelley presented three ideas for all of us to consider in our work:

Redesigned MRI machine

1. Start with empathy. We won’t truly innovate or make meaningful change unless we put ourselves in other people’s shoes. For example, there’s a story from GE Healthcare of one engineer’s experience designing a new MRI machine. During a visit to one of the hospitals using the new machine, the engineer was shocked with the reality of the patient experience. 80% of children had to be anesthetized to get through the MRI scan. He chose to think differently and design for the real patient experience. The resulting MRI machine was a complete transformation, an adventure for children that reduced the anesthesia rate down to 10%.

2. Nurture a culture of experimentation. It’s OK to fail. In fact, it’s encouraged! James Dyson made a jaw-dropping 5,127 prototypes of his first vacuum cleaner, 5,126 of them failures. Kelley thinks we should try the “Art of Squinting,” the ability for leaders to squint and see the potential in a hair-brained idea vs. a rush to judgment based on past experience. We never know where the next big idea will come from. If we force perfection out of the gate, there’s a good possibility our students or employees will either (a) drop a potentially breakthrough idea or (b) waste time on bad ideas instead of getting tips, re-direction and moving closer to the big ideas.

3. Build by learning. Think of yourself as part student and part teacher. Be open to taking in new insights any time and from any source. Take a look outside your own organization for inspiration. The example Kelley gave was of the London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital that took inspiration from a Ferrari pit crew. Learning from the way the crew organized itself and coordinated maneuvers for maximum efficiency helped the hospital team reduce errors by 40%. He also spoke of the power of reverse mentors, those 5-10 years younger who provide new insight and a fresh perspective.

One of my favorite takeaways from the talk (and closing thought) was “vuja de.” Instead of déjà vu, which is our flash moments of familiarity, “vuja de” is the moment we see something we’ve never noticed before. Let’s remember to take moments during our daily routines to open up, recognize new opportunities and perhaps discover a new source of creativity. It’s in all of us!

New movement to transform California schools

What does the future of education in California look like? The State Department of Education is tackling the question with a new Task Force for Creative Education to ensure that every student in California is exposed to the arts and creativity throughout the school day. After the kick off event this past weekend, CREATE CA Forum, Task Force members are ready to put pen to paper! Stay tuned for updates over the next few months.

Building STEAM in San Diego

What a journey this past year has been! I’m approaching year one with KDR PR and am amazed at how quickly the time has gone and how the business has transformed. Until recently, my career centered on life science corporate communications, which seemed like a stretch at first with a communications degree, not science. I was open to learning something new, and over the years have grown to love science. Every day scientists are making incredible discoveries that are changing the way we approach medicine and our own health. This recent study struck me…what will studying the brain on dance teach us about how the brain learns complex movement?

Starting KDR PR last March, I was so focused on making sure arts were incorporated into education, I didn’t realize that there is a similar need in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Around the same time, I became aware of a movement from STEM to STEAM (adding arts) in San Diego that was just starting to build momentum. Local community and business leaders gathered last spring to talk about the movement and the role San Diego can play (Art of Science Learning), and Patricia Frischer at the San Diego Visual Arts Network launched DNA of Creativity, a project bringing together local artists, scientists and educators in a creative collaboration.

It quickly became clear that my focus at KDR PR needed to be on science, the arts and education, and where the three areas converge. Enter Full STE[+a]M Ahead – a networking event started by Sneaker Academy (now Do Good Communications) and ArtsBusXpress for STEAM professionals to discover cross-discipline collaborations. I decided to take on the group and re-energize the community-wide movement towards STEAM. We had our first event last Wednesday at Hera Hub and it was a great success! Excerpts of some feedback: “inspiring professionals, STEAM enthusiasts, inspiring and energizing to see how much activity there is in the art and science realm locally…” Now in partnership with UCSD Extension, I’m working to build a hub for all things STEAM in San Diego, Full STE[+a]M Ahead events included.

What’s your take on STEAM? Please share your experiences, connections in the community, new events or initiatives, etc. I look forward to connecting with you!