"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Full Immersion

This blog post is some recent thinking I have had in relation to my Masters Degree and is copied from my blog for this subject. 

I have been very slack in writing blog posts this semester and I don't quite know why. Last semester we were really pushed to write posts and I was very excited too however this semester is different. One reason is that I started a new job and have been flat out busy with that but that's not really an excuse because I have been crazy busy before and still managed to post. So it has to be a bit deeper than that. I think there are three reasons that have held me back and I think I need to dig deeper and explore these a little more.

Going underground
Underground Train In Mine, Carts In Gold, Silver And Copper Mine
Image by TTStudio @ bigstockphotos.com
There have been some really major changes to the industry I work in over the last 12 months. There are been times when I have felt overburdened by the enormity of the changes and job insecurity. This has impacted on my creativity and my usual unending supply of exhausting energy. I knew I was a frog in a pot slowly being heated but didn't know how to get out. I needed time to process and I didn't realise that takes time.
I love this course. It has come at the right time in my career. Tim Brown's states, "In times of change we need new alternatives and new ideas." A cross road can provide the opportunity for reflection and an opportunity to veer to a new course. The many and various theories around Design Thinking has so challenged me in the last few weeks I decided to go underground to think, mull and discuss my thinking with my new colleagues. This has provided me the opportunity to challenge how I go about developing new learning opportunities for students in the space available to me.
When I was approached to do this new job I was given a problem. Very loose figures were that 1/3 of the students were not passing the course and I was to be part of the process of fixing it. The Head Teacher didn't know how this would happen but looked at my skill set and he has employed me to assist with the problem. He wants me to think out of the box. With this in mind I turned to Seidel and Fixon (2013, p.20) and found their ideas were a good place to start and structure how I was thinking as a means to work out exactly what the problem was and then develop strategies to work on the problem in order to fix and find a solution.
(1) needfinding, encompassing the definition of a problem or opportunity through observation; (2) brainstorming, a formal framework for ideation; and (3) prototyping, building models to facilitate the development and selection of concepts.
The Design Council was also helpful as they framed their concepts; “Discover the problem; Define the cause; Develop ideas; Deliver what works.” When a problem seems so complex it is difficult to know where to start and the Standford Design School's visual below is also great in being able to visualise the process before you get caught up with all the issues. The colours were an appealing way to break up thinking and these really helped me be disciplined in my thinking and I became very deliberate in the process rather than just trying to work on small individual problems that arose.
Design process

Full immersion
So I decided to fully immerse myself in the culture and processes of my new job. I knew nothing about the Building and Construction Industry so nothing was where I started from. I sat in loads of lessons with lots of different teachers. I had conversations all day long about what was wrong, what was right and how it could change. The conversations were rich and exploratory. According to Braha and Reich (2003), "the design process is characterized by being iterative, exploratory, and sometimes a chaotic process." This is exactly what happened. What came out of some of these conversations were the opportunities for the teachers frustrations to be heard, and these were taken to heart and provided them with a platform to feel the pain and address the heart of the problem. Their feelings were validated. Many said that there was always change in the Industry and that living with constant change is part of the job however there is a cost associated with the great change to their beloved Industry and the consequence of all of this is that it had stifled their creativity. After a few weeks the discussion turned to the heart of the problem and small strategies began to be devised as enthusiasm grew.

The Crisis
After a few weeks I had been working closely with two teachers who had been given the task of working with a group of students who faced unique challenges. We had discussed, strategised and implemented some new teaching strategies and 99% of the group passed the assessment. This feat had never been done before with this group and there was real sense of achievement from the group and the teachers were greatly encouraged.
Hands Of A Woman Squeezing A Stress Ball
Image by Totmn @ bigstockphotos.com
I was thrilled with the result at such an early stage in my work. However it was short lived as I received some news that totally threw me. A permanent teacher from another section needed hours and was after my job. There had been some changes in management in the new section that I work for and they had only just found out about me and weren't necessarily too pleased that I was taking up valuable teaching hours. However I had the support of the new Head Teacher and through very successful maneuvering on his part I was able to stay put for the time being.
This stress caused me to really evaluate what I was doing there and what my goals and aims were for the job. It forced me to sit down and put together a proposal or a plan for what I could contribute as an innovator to the section. This was a true moment of clarity for me.

An awakening
I was powerfully influenced by John Hockenberry's video about the intent of design and this steered my thinking in new directions as I was put on a new class. The word 'innovation' gets bandied around a lot and whilst I had my own understanding of it I hadn't really grasped the full extent of it until I watched Linda Hill's TED Talk on Innovation and I have come to a new realisation that the process of innovation doesn't happen over night but it is deliberate and requires risk and whole lot more!

Design thinking has kept me grounded and assisted with keeping my focus on what's important in this new venture and I'm excited and where it will take me. Having opportunity for leadership in this male dominated industry has been challenging yet so rewarding. Men who work on building sites are used to being a team player and my colleagues couldn't be more supportive. With a re-energised team and the opportunity to push new ground in teaching delivery it's very exciting. Watch this space!
Braha and Reich 2003. In Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348. http://rer.sagepub.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/content/82/4/483.full.pdf+html
Brown, T (2009, July). Designers- Think big! [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_urges_designers_to_think_big 
Gardiner, E. (2013). Changing behaviour by design: Combining behavioural science with design-thinking to help organisations tackle big social issues. Design Council & Warwick Business School. Retrieved from:https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/Changing%20behaviour%20by% 20design.pdf p.5
Hill, L (2014, September). How to manage for collective creativity [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/linda_hill_how_to_manage_for_collective_creativity 
Hockenberry, J (2012, March). John Hockenberry: We are all designers [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hockenberry_we_are_all_designers?language=en#t-5489 
Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12061 or http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/doi/10.1111/jpim.12061/pdf