By: Zsofia Walter

As an engineer, I have utilized design thinking and gone through the ideation process many times over the past year. The differences between the ideation I’ve done in my engineering courses versus the ideation we’ve done in this program are small but impactful. 

The structure that the leadership team has set up forces us to remain problem and user oriented. In the “Create” phase it is easy to become entranced by a cool idea and just run with it regardless of whether or not it fulfills the needs you set out to meet. Resisting that urge, and pushing to keep coming back to “what is the real problem our user is facing” has been key throughout this phase.

An important thing I have learned is to withhold my initial “knee-jerk” reaction. In the “Understand” phase this meant that in interviews I wouldn’t jump in and lead the conversation when they said something I found compelling. It also meant that I would try to resist thinking of solutions to the problems I was presented with, rather simply focusing on empathizing. 

Moving to the “Create” phase, this meant embracing the “yes, and” mindset. It was crucial to hold back the initial criticisms that came to mind during ideation, focusing on listening and appreciating every idea regardless of feasibility. As it turns out, the idea we now have, which I am incredibly passionate about, I initially thought was crazy and impossible to execute. Not shooting it down, and keeping myself open minded has led to the development of a concept I think could truly change the community at Duke.