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Design Thinking Experience

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by | Nov 12, 2018

It’s been a busy couple of weeks! Mike has been beginning to wrap things up at the university (November already, crazy!) and I have been continuing to teach myself to code (JavaScript this week, still so much to learn!). Last week was also Austin’s design week and, by complete chance, I met a wonderful woman at the gallery who invited me along to a design-a-thon with her to try my hand at some design thinking.

A design-a-thon structure can differ vastly,  this one was an afternoon at the university to find a group of designers and collaborate on a given prompt. This year the twist was that we would have to implement our ideas, they wouldn’t just be notes left on paper at the end of the design week. The prompt was somewhat vague, but this was intentional. We had to discuss how we would implement design thinking within an organisation that could benefit from it. To ensure we could implement it, we would have to have contacts within the company and a clear strategy of how we would convince them that they could benefit from design thinking. It was a challenging day but I thoroughly enjoyed throwing myself into something completely new and my team mates had incredible backgrounds and knowledge. We didn’t get through to the finals, but I am excited to watch the teams that did! Design thinking is creative problem solving, a human-centred approach to design. You can design a beautiful, functional car but if it is a terrible user experience it has been a wasted endeavour. I could relate to this due to the person-centred care model that the NHS implements.

I think my favourite example is one of the man who invented the MRI machine, he was astounded by the incredible technology and how it would change medicine for the better. It was world changing! and so, he decided to visit a children’s hospital to watch this miraculous machine in action. Instead of the positive experience he had expected, he quickly recognised that the children were terrified of his machine! Many were having to be sedated to stay still long enough for the images to be taken, and if there was not an anaesthetist available to sedate then the scan would have to be pushed back until one was available. This was not what he had envisioned. But what could he do? He couldn’t redesign the entire machine, his company would never fund that. He could have left defeated, he instead spent months meeting with parents, children and researching the user experience of an MRI machine. The redesign was based on this research, human-centred. Instead of redesigning the entire machine, they used decals and made an adventure series instead. Stickers to the outside of the machine, the walls and the floor to create the impression of different adventure scenarios. One example was a pirate ship, with a wheel surrounding the MRI entrance aiming to make children feel less enclosed. Another example was a rocket ship, a particular favourite as just before the BOOM of the machine finishing its cycle the technician would alert the child to “listen for the BOOM when they propelled into hyperspace”. User experience improved by 90%, but aside from this children could get these scans when needed and it did not have to be a traumatising experience! If you want to read more, I highly recommend Tom and David Kelley’s book “Creative Confidence”. Proving that literally everyone can benefit from creative thinking.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, proving that giving yourself a push into something new can often be a positive! Have you challenged yourself with something new recently? I would love to hear about it!