What is empathy?
The empathy phase of design thinking is what differentiates this process in so many ways from other iterative problem-solving cycles. It is the place of beginning, a place where we move outside of ourselves and honor first and foremost the human beings who might be impacted by any "solution" we could conjure up. Through interviews and observations of those whom we believe to be most closely connected to the issues we've identified, as well as explorations into the attitudes and behaviors of those in analogous contexts, we are able gather a great deal of data about the issues each school has identified.
What did this look like?
For every school team the process was as different as the HMW (How Might We) questions they were exploring. In most every case individual, pairs, or small groups interviewed faculty, parents, administrators, and/or students at their school. In some cases, schools visited one another ("What does innovation look like at your school?"), resources were shared ("Here's a short book on developing curiosity that may be helpful"), and field trips arranged ("What might entrepreneurs at Atlanta Tech Village know about learning and failure that might inform us?). Teams would meet as regularly as they could (face to face, using Google Hangout, group texts) to share their "aha's," tell stories ("I met Susan S., parent of a 7th grader who is not comfortable engaging her child's teachers because of her own lack of high school education"), and plan next steps. The data gathering was the largest part of the 8 weeks, but then what?
Define: Identifying your User and Developing POV (Point of View) Statements
About a month into this process, Scott Sanchez pulled together all the facilitators (one team member from each school) and the mentors (Anona Walker from Fulton County's Superintendents Office, Shelley Paul from Woodward Academy, Bo Adams from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, and me (Laura Deisley from The Lovett School) to build our capacity for coaching the teams through this next phase. Once all the data was collected, it becomes time to synthesize the data without losing track of potentially insightful individual points of view that were uncovered. There is really no way to do this without a whole team gathering face to face to unpack and sort what we were finding. Back in each school, and massive amounts of sticky notes (each with a single idea) later, teams began to clarify their issues and focus in on the particular needs and insights of various users. For each user, they created POV (Point of View) Statements. Something like this:
Scott reminded us all then, and as you'll read he reminded us again at the Summit, that picking the right problem to solve isn't easy. Once you've got your user, have you written the POV to get the right altitude? And to solve the right problem?
The challenge for the Summit was to come prepared with 1-3 POV statements, but prepared to narrow quickly on the beginning of Day One.
Many thanks to the mentors who went out and spent hours with the facilitators and teams to get all schools to "go mode."