Design Thinking Workshops, ISB
I worked as a designer and workshop facilitator at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, India, at their Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The centre established the Technology Entrepreneurship Programme (TEP) in 2014 to motivate and generate an interest in entrepreneurship among engineering students in two partner states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This is the first-of-its-kind programme in India.
The course structure is a unique combination of elements of design and technology innovation, to complement the technical training that engineering students already possess.
The programme features online courses on Design, Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, along with Design Thinking Workshops, hands-on Engineering Design Challenges, and Lab-to-Market Bootcamps.
The 'Human-Centric' Design (HCD) Thinking Workshops mark the beginning of the TEP academic year, and are tailored specifically to introduce engineering students to the processes and methodologies of design thinking. Students also use the phase-wise approach in the subsequent Engineering Design Challenge to design product solutions.
The Design Thinking Workshops are conducted by a team of facilitators from ISB comprising industry practitioners and experts in Product and Service Design. The engineering colleges provide the necessary infrastructure to host the two-day workshops in their campuses.
The workshops serve as an introduction to the HCD process and a user-centered design approach to problem-solving. Students receive a strong appreciation in the value that design thinking can bring to their engineering mindsets, and get acquainted with specific tools to aid out-of-the-box thinking.
I was part of several three to four-member teams of design facilitators who conducted the workshops at engineering colleges across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (a total of 30 campuses in July-August 2016).
The workshops are structured around the standard five-step design thinking process of Inspiration - Interpretation - Ideation - Prototyping - Refinement (developed by IDEO and adapted specifically for TEP).
With HCD being a new concept to many engineering students, the workshop gradually eases them into the creative problem-solving process through team games, exercises, and off-beat challenges.
The students teams are guided through methods of discovering problem areas and identifying local social issues that require engineering interventions for potential solutions.
After deciding on a specific area of interest, the students are encouraged to set up interaction sessions with local users and people in their chosen contexts to observe, engage with and immerse themselves in the problem.
They then define their objectives with a problem statement, adapted once again from the IDEO methodology: 'How might we help (-who-) to (-accomplish what-) when they (-situation/context-)'.
Brainstorming forms a major and exciting component of the workshops. Teams begin to come up with wild ideas at first, and eventually build on the suggestions of others, visualize their solutions with sketches, and plot these ideas across a timeline of feasible to impossible ones - this helps filter only workable solutions for their chosen problems.
As a designer my inputs were also to create worksheets and other print collateral to assist students during these exercises, varying from user input records to breaking down specific points of intervention.
In the next phase of prototyping, the teams take one particular idea forward and build 'quick-and-dirty' prototypes - out of basic everyday materials like cardboard and plastics - to simulate their solutions.
They are encouraged to focus on creating quickly and imperfectly, and then incorporate feedback and refinement.
In the final testing phase, students are encouraged to learn from feedback from particular users who are invited to test the prototypes for feasibility, financial viability and long-term functionality.
By actively observing and recording this feedback, the teams further iterate through versions of their solutions and make presentations to pitch their final products.
Although the workshop concludes at this stage, students are equipped with a basic understanding of the HCD process that they are encouraged to implement in their own engineering projects and future careers.
Several teams of the 2015-16 batch of TEP students have taken their learning forward into engineered solutions to common social problem areas such as transportation, health, and urban development.
The Technology Entrepreneurship Programme at ISB, Hyderabad, is currently in its 3rd academic year. Read more here.