“If you aren’t being challenged, you die”

-Soren, Noma Restaurant Farmer


In light of the Media Immersion workshop I am co-teaching this week, I thought now would be a good opportunity to think about how to introduce people to design thinking practices for the first time. Learning about design thinking is a bit like getting unplugged from The Matrix; the experience is completely foreign, yet still entirely too real. These freshmen will have to use parts of their brains that have atrophied after years of neglect. I want to help them get their feet wet without hurting them, so I can’t have them pulling their creative muscles.  However, I know they are very bright, and since we all have the capacity to be creative, I will need to give them some space.

What will be most difficult is overcoming the judgmental environment that pervades freshmen orientation. It is hard to think of a place more critical and less open to new things that exist outside of the norm than freshmen orientation. Friendships are made and broken on nothing more than a whim. It is like a mass of eager humanity breaking against the hardened brick walls of this prestigious campus. The pure number of people one has to meet requires shorthand notation to help expedite the process. But for those of us at the Curb Center, it is the opposite of what we need. Creativity can only thrive in an environment free of negativity. We need more “yes and” or “plus 1ing,” as we creative types like to call it.  Our goal is to help push these kids towards discovering the new and obscure. I hope to push them and lead them to some experience that breaks them from the safe and routine.

I have reduced my teaching strategies down to a few bullet points that I, for the most part, understand and hope make some sense to the rest of you…


A few of my thoughts:

–       Regular name games are lame. We can do something better.

–       We should do something that we can all fail at, because at least we are failing together. Let’s see if we can break some synaptic connections.

–       Propose a big problem. But keep it relevant and/or local.

–       Ask them to “think wrong” about it. For example, what is the opposite of how you would typically solve this problem? Get wrong. Get weird. Come up with solutions that should make me feel stupid just from having heard them.

–       Ideally, these kids will walk out of here wanting to keep thinking wrong, not just saying yes, but asking why and demanding to know how they can squeeze the university for everything it is worth.


NB – Why name games suck:

–       Because knowing your name doesn’t make us friends, but knowing you have a brain might make me want to listen and listening is where it all starts.


Tangible practices:

My two favorite games:

Thinking Wrong – Pick a problem. Sit in groups of two with sharpies and a pile of post-it notes, spending ten minutes coming up with the wrongest, worst, stupidest ideas you possibly can. Then share with the group.

Crazy Eights – Now, you have five minutes to draw eight possible solutions. Yes, that means 40 seconds per drawing. Better move fast. Now proceed and be bold!