Keep on Designing

By TC Innovation

Hey everyone, it’s Andrew from the IT Innovation team. It’s week 9 now and our group is pretty far into the design thinking process. This has given me the chance to really reflect on this process and understand it at a very deep level. My understanding of design thinking has really grown and changed through the entirety of the summer so far.

For the first five or so weeks, we were in the research phase of the project. For me, this meant that I was conducting interviews everyday of the week, with various clients and stakeholders such as Princeton students, professors, academic administrators, and department and office heads. The interview process, while it does offer room for personal interpretation and creativity, was introduced to us as a formulaic and methodological process. I, as the interviewer, would rarely share my own insights, but really only seek to learn as much as possible from my interview subjects. This experience gave me the impression that design thinking was an academic practice, something I could think about similarly to the way I think about the problems I tackle in my coursework, and achieve success with mastery through repetition of the process.

However, these past two weeks while working with the ideation and prototyping sides of design thinking, I have realized that design thinking exceeds my prior mental image of it, and is truly a powerful tool. During ideation, we met with our mentors to pitch some of our ideas and outline the findings of our research. For better or worse, this gave us a richer human experience than we had been exposed to throughout the research process. In this meeting, there was some disagreement about the goals of our project and the objectives that were raised by our idea pitches. This created a tension in the room that will ultimately leave at least some of our stakeholders at least partially unsatisfied.

I struggled for a while to come to terms with this reality, as it pained me to accept that we would be unable to satisfy all of our mentors and stakeholders. Eventually, I overcame these idealistic expectations of making everyone happy, and finally understood the reality of the business/consulting side of design thinking. It was also in this moment that I realized that design consulting was not merely an abstract way of thinking and problem solving, but actually a way of doing business and balancing the desires of our various stakeholders. I am glad to have experienced this tension and seen a different side of the design thinking process.

On related note, I think that for better or worse, being immersed in the design thinking process all summer has allowed design thinking to really engulf my life. This became clear to me a few weeks ago, as I was spending a few days away from work. As I was travelling, I saw many problems with the world of varying scales. These were problems I have dealt with my whole life, such as minor inefficiencies in airports or abnormal conventions in foreign cities. However, for the first time in my life, I caught myself thinking about these problems like a design consultant would: observing and collecting data, noting the pain points, empathizing with all involved and thinking about how to best do more ethnographic research about the situation.

Prior to this summer, I would see phenomena in the world and merely observe and accept them. Today, I see the same wicked phenomena and think about how to best tackle the problems, and I am fully confident that I have the tools to do so. Design thinking has become my new way of life without me even noticing, and I am ecstatic that the Tiger Challenge has empowered me like this.

Thanks for reading, and please take a look at my team's page here!