By Shanta Milan Dewan
(MBA Student, Participant – Concept Development for Impact 2018, Coach – Do Shop for Rotract District Nepal)
This is part 2 of a two-part reflection blog written by Shanta Milan. Read part-1 here.
Day 2: I arrived at 8:45 and everyone was already in the class, to no one’s surprise (If you don’t get the joke, check out the blog from the first day). Forget it; let’s get into the day-2 program details with a recap of day-1. Did I explain to you, design thinking is a two-part training model? The first part is figuring out what the problem is by diverging ideas which finally get converged into one main problem or in other words the root cause of the problem. Our millennial participants completed this part on day-1. On the second day, they were about to again diverge and converge ideas but towards finding a solution to the problem they have identified.
Our lab masters had a very peculiar way of revising their major topic from day-1. Raunak introduced an A4 size paper to everyone and asked them to showcase how their perception about their partner’s first-day experience. They then were supposed to ask their partners if they felt the same way. What do you think happened? Assumptions do not work, my friends. It’s so easy to feel you know something and yet be so far from the truth that it hurts. It was funny to see the same sentiment running across the faces of all the participants. They were slowly beginning to understand the motive behind data validation.
The time had finally come for designing the prototype. You can feel the excitement in the room. Lab masters were aware of the dedication given by everyone towards designing it, to make it perfect, to make it the best, to not come second among everyone else. The dedication was so much that they were almost on the verge of losing sight of the main theme of the training. To reduce the risk of the participants being carried away, they reminded them of what the purpose of the training was. Well, if you did not get it by now, then let me put it down for the last time. It was to learn the steps or the entire process involved in design thinking and not to show off your solution nor to compete with fellow teams.
The strictness in time had not changed as our designated timekeeper and coach, Shailendra, kept reminding everyone with the timely ringing of the bell and a big smile that you cannot help but smile back too. Soon they were literally pushed out of the classrooms to go and meet the user and get more feedback on the prototype. After about an hour or so everyone rushed in on time mind you, and share about the new developments. Some were worried as they found out that their prototype concept was not desirable and appealing to the users. They wasted no time in huddling together, bringing more innovation to the table based on the feedback from users and just as they rushed in, they whooshed out to showcase their revised prototype again.
I don’t know if they actually chewed well before swallowing their lunch as they were back on their drawing boards and preparing for the presentation scheduled at 1:45 pm. No time for excuses, no time for delay. I started feeling a sense of pride in what these young minds were doing and reminisced on my journey of two years back. I found a new sign of respect for the amount of focus and dedication with which they had made the problem their own.
It was already 1:45, and the participants were all jittery. I could feel their nervousness. I looked over and as always, there stood the two lab masters with their I-pads, cool as ever waiting for the fruition of their labor. Group 2, the ones responsible for the management of stray animals came first. They had chosen management of stray dogs as their major theme and developed a neck color for the animals that even shone at night making them visible on the road for drivers to see, safeguarding both from the collision. Next, the group that wanted to help people quit smoking entered. They proposed a counseling center and support individuals as a means to help quit smoke for their user group. Then, the group with one of the most interesting topics, i.e. ‘promoting healthy sexual behavior’ came for presentation. Theirs was a topic that would still bring out a sense of awkwardness in Nepalese society, no matter how much you think you are open-minded. But these young souls had faced it head-on and did present some great solutions. Finally, the team who wanted to help elderly people to be independent rolled in. They offered an app as a solution. The app was designed to hold the details of retired elderly people who were capable of working still and could be hired by companies and individuals.
It was not about your solution is the best or even whether it could solve the problem. It was about what these participants from Rotract had to offer to reach this point. It was about what they had been able to learn about design thinking to solve problems greater than what we could comprehend. It was about innovation and teamwork which these high-spirited youngsters had succeeded in.
Hold on, the training was still not over. No training is complete without everyone sitting together in a circle facing each other and internalizing what went right, what could have been done better. A feedback loop was conducted and some very well-thought-out constructive criticisms were given. Something is engraved within me about feedback. A Finnish lady, Ulla Maija, had once told me that feedback is a gift. It is something to help you evolve and be better and so the circle was complete with everyone pitching in and an even bigger achievement to the Do Lab, as everyone was accepting it. Feedback culture changes a lot especially in Nepalese culture where feedback is taken in a derogatory or egoistic manner.
The training was over finally. Wait no! The Lab Masters also needed feedback. By then, everyone was relaxed; some were sitting comfortably on bean bags, some leaning on the wall. It was a relaxed atmosphere. I frankly did not expect this to last very long. I had to attend a party. Unfortunately, this went on for another 45 minutes. Who could have known how much they would appreciate the two days of intense pressure.
You should have been there to see the feedback these guys were throwing at the Lab masters. To everyone’s surprise, one even appreciated the time limitation. “I finally understood the value of time in these two days.” Laughter echoed in the room. Another one shared, “I did not know a training program could be so good. I thought it would be teachers lecturing and we sitting down and listening.”
Well, now you know it. Anyone who is reading this and has not participated in the program, trust me, you are missing out. I have a good feeling about these people from Rotract and hope they will use these learning and do something awesome with it.
My journey as a coach, spending two days with these dedicated Lab masters and the ever-enthusiastic groups of fellow mates was a welcome change for a weekend. I learned a lot and even got the chance to revise my training. The best thing that I liked about the training was how the lab masters were able to guide everyone through this tough process. I got to witness what was going on more clearly this time as a coach and it made more sense to me. I realized that I have become richer in the teachings of design thinking.
You must have been a bit tired reading till this point and I would sincerely like to thank you for doing so (fake smile). I hope to see you at the next training. To close off my blog I would like to plagiarize Robert Frost: We have taken a road less travelled by and that will make all the difference!
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