Design Thinking

Yesterday I attended an introductory session about design thinking at icecairo facilitated by Daniela Marzavan from Design Thinking at HTW-Berlin. The session was incredibly amazing! It blew my mind away. I realized how deeply experienced and competent the facilitator was and how amazing design thinking was within the first few minutes of the session.

Shuffled Name Tags

As we entered the training room we were given name tags. The interesting part is that name tags were shuffled on purpose and each participant taped a name tag of another colleague on his/her shirt! I was puzzled by this at the beginning but only realized the reason behind it when later during the training each participant was asked to speak to the person who has his/her name tag glued to his/her shirt.

Equilateral Triangles

Another interesting activity was when Daniela asked each of us to mentally pick to other colleagues. She then asked us to all stand up and try to silently form an equilateral triangle with those two other participants we had silently picked. We kept moving and moving without being able to achieve this. Reflecting upon this experiential exercise we discovered that the reasons behind its not working were: lack of communication and hidden goals among others. We were not working together as a harmonious orchestra but rather as isolated entities. It was also interesting to find out that one of the participants admittedly changed the two participants he had silently picked during the activity in an attempt to make the equilateral triage goal achievable!

Participatory Approach

Daniela also pointed out that design thinking favors a participatory approach where participants get to speak and participate rather than having a public speaker taking charge of the session and controlling it as that would lead to a loss of most of the talent of participants. Daniela kept relating interesting stories she experienced herself about this and other principles she was relating.

Materials Fostering Creativity

Another interesting concept Daniela mentioned was how the use of new materials can foster creative thinking and help us think out of the box. For instance, participants can be given Plasticine, Lego or other fun material to use in order to help them think in more creative ways. This helps them tap into their childhood creativity and is quite fun at the same time.

Team, Place and Process

Daniela mentioned that in order to undergo successful design thinking there are 3 elements to it, namely: an amazing team, the place and artifacts and the process. She spoke about each of these 3 elements in some detail.

Place

As for the place, Daniela gave two interesting examples. She said that a productive meeting can take place while walking! Another interesting example she gave was holding a meeting while lying down! This arrangement would make participants not able to see one another and therefore listen more attentively to each other as we generally tend not to listen to one another well.

Idea Ownership?

I really liked the concept of “no individual ownership of ideas” that Daniela mentioned. This is a really tough concept to implement as we have been brought up in our traditional competitive education to try and hold tight to our own ideas and ask for credit for such ideas. In design thinking, ideas are owned by the whole group and not by a single individual. Ideas are continually built upon by team members.

Ask “Why?”

A really interesting concept Daniela mentioned was that in design thinking we ask “why” rather than just asking “what”. For instance, if I client asks us to design a shelter, we don’t just go about asking him what type of shelter he wants but rather ask him why he wants to build such a shelter. I really appreciated such a concept as at resonates with my idea about designing training programs where I find it much more effective to ask the client on why he wants that particular training program rather than just asking him about what wants to have in the training.

Feasible, Viable and Desirable

As a reality check, Daniela mentioned that what we aim to achieve through design thinking should be feasible, viable and desirable. A ‘solution’ that is not technically feasible is certainly not one we should be pursuing. A prohibitively expensive solution that is way over budget is also not one to go for. And of course the solution we come up with must be one that is desirable by the client.

Development of Design Thinking

Daniela told us that design thinking went through 3 phases. During the first phase design was concerned with designing a better product such as for instance a better mouse that would be more usable. The second phase was more comprehensive and advanced and was concerned with the design of total experience. Designing a museum for instance lent itself nicely to such kind of total experience design. As for the third even more advanced and more comprehensive phase it is transformation design. In transnational design one focuses on changing mindset to effect change in a large ecosystem such as a supermarket chain or a whole city by placing interventions at specific points. Such change would take long to materialize and should be sought in small steps.

Desired Outcome

Another activity we did was pairing up with a partner, exchanging introductions to know more about our partners and then listening to one thing our partner is not happy about and the desired outcome he or she wishes for. Each pair were then asked to stand up ‘on stage’ and introduce one another and the mention the problem and desired outcome of each other.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Process

The session yesterday was just amazing. It made me really appreciate what design thinking has to offer for us. It sounded like a practical down to earth system for finding solutions and coming up with effective practical designs.

Advertisements

Lecturing During Training

Can Lectures be Good?

I used to hate lectures. As a response to finding so many trainers using lecturing in all or most of the time of their training sessions, I developed an inclination to jam pack my training with training activities and to avoid using lecturing altogether in all training sessions I was delivering. Despite finding the all-activities training to be highly successful, enjoyable and engaging yet as I gained more experience in delivering training I started to realize that lecturing does indeed have a place within the training session and can even improve the overall effectiveness of a training program if used appropriately.

Activities Saturation

The first insight about the importance of injecting some lecturing in a training program came to me after delivering a training session in which I led participants into repeatedly carrying out a number of group activities in a row. I observed that participants just got fed up from the repeated group activities they were asked to do after having to do them for several times. The final time they were doing the group work they seamed reluctant and went through the activity with low energy.

Lecturing Appreciation

The second incident that helped me change my mind about the all-activities no-lecturing approach I once clung strongly to was when I attended a training program by some senior trainer. He used very few activities during his full-day training sessions and did not provide for a lot of interactivity. On the contrary, he spoke a lot and lectured for long during the sessions. At the end of that two-day training program I was surprised to find most participants giving him the highest score in the training evaluation forms! Many of them came to greet him and thank him heartedly for the training. They even clapped with enthusiasm and appreciation for him as he closed the training program. This experience had me rethink my earlier beliefs and start appreciating the concept of lecturing once again.

Some Like Lectures

I also remember a third incident where one of the trainees spoke up during the first half of the training session I was delivering and said to me: “Now we want to hear you speak.” I attempted to explain to him that the training program was based on activities rather than on lecturing yet I did realize that for many people they have been conditioned to listen to lectures and expect to find one during the training program they are attending.

Mixing Lecturing and Activities

After such revelation I had I started injecting mini lectures or lecturettes in between activities during training sessions I delivered. I noticed that providing such mini-lectures made participants very eager to carry out activities when the time for activities comes. I also noticed that giving several activities to trainees makes them very attentive to the trainer when the time comes for him to speak and give a mini-lecture or short presentation. Alternation between training activities and short lectures seemed to provide the best effect in a training program. Nevertheless, I still believe that time provided for activities should still be more than that given to lecturing perhaps its double.

Lively Lecturing

In order to make lecturettes interesting and effective it is best to fill them up with storytelling and perhaps accompany them with drawing or charting on the flip chart. This would help make them the more engaging and impactful.

Conclusion

So whenever designing for a training program remember to include a combination of many activities and a few mini-lectures in order to get the best of both worlds and achieve the highest impact.

When do you think is it not appropriate at all to use even mini-lectures during a training program?

Group Work Activities for Training Workshops

Interactive training workshops are more engaging than boring lectures and are more effective than mere presentations done by a trainer. Group work is one of the main kinds of activities that can make a training session highly interactive and engaging and thus enjoyable and of high impact.

Single Presenter

Here is basically how group work works:

  1. Trainer divides participants into groups.
  2. Trainer asks each group to discuss a specific topic and write down their thoughts in points.
  3. Trainer then asks each team to nominate one of its members to come and present the points of his team in front of all participants.

Multiple Presenters

A variation would be to ask each team to send 2 or even 3 of its members to present the points written by the team. This is helpful in team building training where you want participants to practice collaboration and cooperation. In such  cases, you must clearly state that both participants sharing the presentation have to share equally in presenting their team’s points. It is not acceptable that one participant goes ahead reading and explaining all the points while forgetting all about his colleague who is standing next to him and not leaving any points for that colleague to cover. The trainer must clearly state that this is not allowed. The trainer must state this before the teams start their presentations.

Time Stretching

The time it takes each team to present their points is proportional to the number of team members giving the presentation. If you ask each team to send 2 of its team members to give the presentation this would take them more time than if you had asked them to send only one team member to do the presentation. Similarly, 3 members would take a longer time in presenting than 2 members even though they have the same number of points to present. This phenomenon can be used by the trainer to reduce or expand the time of the group work activity in order to manage the training session time.

Sheets

Before the teams start their discussions, you can provide them with flip chart sheets to use for writing their points. You may even ask them to cut the sheets themselves from the flip chart and divide a single sheet into 2 or 3 parts and divide it on the other teams.

Seating

It is of great value that you ask the teams to site in circles. As they start their discussions, if you find one of the teams not arranging their chairs in a proper circle go to them and guide them to do so. The seating positions during this activity have a very high and noticeable effect on the performance of a team. Sitting in a perfect circle makes it possible for everyone to participate and boosts synergy among team members creating what might seem like a sort of resonance.

Getting Creative

I remember once that one of the teams got creative during their presentation and threw in a mini-play instead of a mere reading and explaining of the points they have written. A trainer should praise and encourage such creative initiatives.

Topic

The topic of discussion can be to reflect on a video just viewed by participants or to try and find answers for a question or solutions for a problem or just to list any kind of information the trainer asks them to list.

Conclusion

Group work is an activity that participants usually enjoy greatly and benefit from. Nevertheless, the trainer should take care to alternate between it and other forms of training so that participants do not get over-exhausted. Group work is usually a fundamental part of every interactive training workshop.

What kind of training program do you think group work would not be appropriate to use in?

My Story with Lively Vs. Boring Training

Creative Writing Workshop

I once joined a 3-day creative writing workshop. We were a small group of trainees and the trainer was a highly competent one. I really enjoyed attending the workshop and benefited from it enormously. The main focus of the workshop was activities rather than lecturing. The amount of information provided by the trainer during the workshop was minimal yet the activities were plenty. We had pair work activities, solo activities and group activities. We were guided and gently pushed to write which eventually led to the opening up of some creative doors in our minds that have long been locked.

Conflicting Session Time

I remember that at the final day of the creative writing workshop it coincided with another training course I wanted so much to attend. It was about how to start a new business. I had to make a decision whether to attend the final session of the creative writing workshop while leaving the first session in the other training course that I have long been dreaming of attending or do the opposite. I decided to go for the start your own business course and leave out the final session of the creative writing workshop. I even excused myself from the creative writing trainer and told her by the end of the second session that I would not be able to attend the final one.

Start your Business Course

Off I went with great hopes to attend the start your own business course. As it started, the ‘trainer’ told us that the course will be interactive and that he will not be relying a lot on lecturing but rather taking a participatory approach. I was shocked from the start of the session that his approach actually lacked any activities, was so boring and the ultimate ‘participatory’ element he ever used was asking questions to participants. His comments on participant answers were even so negative and not by any means encouraging.

Back to Creative Writing

seriously considered leaving as my heart was leaping at the thought of the creative writing session I had left behind to attend such dry and useless course. I kept meditating the idea of leaving this boring session to catch the coinciding creative writing session. Luckily, we took a break soon and I did make the decision and drove to the location of the creative writing workshop which was not very far away. I entered the creative writing workshop and was a bit late. The trainer looked slightly surprised that I showed up. I told her that I just could not resist attending! I was indeed extremely happy that I have joined that final session of the creative writing workshop. It was so lively, engaging and enjoyable. After the workshop I realized that a creative door has opened in my mind and an avalanche of writing started to flow from pen to paper as I went back home.

This experience of mine showed me a sharp contrast between a boring useless course with little value vs a lively highly engaging truly interactive workshop that is of high value. One of the main lessons learnt here is that a training course with plenty of engaging activities and a minimal amount of direct information can not only be more enjoyable than another with no activities and loads of information transferred through lecturing but can also be of much higher value to participants.