Do Lab Blog #2 – The Job is to Be Useless

By Raunak Chaudhari
(MBA Alumni; Coach – DoLAB)

Do you learn something by reading something or listening to someone talk or even watching someone work? Or do you learn when you take that and put that in the context of what you do? Prateek dai (Lab Master, Do Lab) and I had a quick conversation at the end of day 3 of Industry Lab. 
I always thought coaching a design thinking session was all about asking the participants the right questions – that getting them to answer questions and discuss the right answers was how they would come up with better solutions through the process.
Well, not exactly “nope”. But that isn’t the whole picture either. Here’s the thing – “Our job is to become useless” said Kari Pekka (who was with us last week observing us Coaches and the Lab Masters). I don’t know about you but I’ve never had a job description that asked me to be useless. But, sometimes the fact is that you help someone more by not helping them too much.
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The “coachable moment” was one of the key discussions we had every evening of Industry Lab where we reflected on what we have been doing and thought about how the things we did could be better. Here’s where I got THE epiphany. The ultimate goal of these workshops and camps is to help participants learn. There it was plain as day. That was something I had heard with every workshop and something that I thought I knew. With Industry Lab, the realization was profound. 

… I found myself talking far less to the participants and listening a lot more

So why is it important to be useless and why does it actually aid learning for the participants? After the first day of Industry Lab I found myself talking far less to the participants and listening a lot more. Instead, the only times I talked with them was to nudge them towards questions themselves – the kind of questions that I would have asked them in the past to get them “to the right answer”. The logic for me used to be that with the right answers, the students would get better end results. 
But, there is no real “right” answer. It just depends on too many variables. Also, whatever the final result may be, it is next to impossible to get to it in just a 3 day workshop anyway. Instead, focusing on helping the students learn the process was the more important outcome of the workshop. The design thinking process itself and the tools are alien to the students – specially those that haven’t gone through the process previously. Take a step back to the conversation I had with Prateek dai at the end of the 3 days. Helping them towards the right questions (and thus way of thinking, rather than straight answers) helped the groups of students bring the process and their collective thinking in the context of their own problems.
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Want to learn at Do Lab?
We will be running a semester-long DoLAB course starting March 2020. Keep your eyes open on our social media pages to know when you can hop in.


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