Month: July 2020 Page 2 of 4

“Maintaining such open-mindedness has been my greatest lesson thus far”

By; Kaelyn Griffiths

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really been pleasantly overwhelmed before? That’s what this phase has done for me. While still tackling the understand phase, shifting into a space to design solutions from our understanding has been such an exciting, yet difficult process. It has really opened up our team’s creative side and displayed how seemingly crazy ideas can morph into something that would bring about tangible change. Though, with this comes great responsibility; balancing what we can actually provide as student researchers and trying to think radically/out-of-the-box has been a consistent battle throughout the understand and now, the create phase.

Adopting a “yes, and” mindset is something our team wanted to prioritize when building our team dynamic and has been a staple in how we navigate our discussions, especially when consolidating our ideas. Maintaining such open-mindedness has been my greatest lesson thus far, as it has taught me that all ideas and input are valuable and contribute in some way to designing a solution that considers all approaches.

Creating a learning environment that prioritizes purposeful and intentional decision making and discussion is the future. What is learning if it isn’t meaningful? Why do we make the academic and extracurricular decisions we make? Do those decisions reflect what we’re most passionate about? Those questions are at the forefront of our team’s project, but also have made it to the forefront of my life. Do I make space and opportunity to reflect on how I choose to navigate Duke? Do I, whether intentionally or unintentionally, give in to the pressures of being in “competition” with other Duke students? What is my purpose? Why can’t I answer some of these questions? There’s something really powerful in feeling supported and encouraged to simply do what makes you happiest and as I examine that for myself, I wish to create that space for my community of Duke students. I just want to be a small part in building that future.


“My biggest impact on my team has been my ability to connect the dots”

By: Justin Koga

Design thinking is a lengthy process; one at face value that may seem arduous and slow. At first, I didn’t necessarily buy into the “process”. However, it didn’t take long before I was teaching my family, friends, and colleagues about design thinking. 

I really appreciate the methodical structure of the design process. Where solution-based thinking may feel like a shotgun approach, where you spray and pray to land an impactful idea, Design Thinking allows an innovator to come up with an iterative design model that is formed by his/her close interactions with various stakeholders. Solutions are not meant to be robust, rather, they are aligned with complex problems posed by one’s stakeholders. 

I think that the biggest challenge so far has been the consistency of analysis from our team. We all have different perspectives and as a result, we have different takeaways from interviews, research, etc. This is great, and it just takes practice to articulate these perspectives. 

My biggest impact on my team has been my ability to connect the dots. Every opportunity, experience, and deliverable is interconnected in some way. I also have encouraged a culture of reaching out to people in power, and believe that I’m decent at conducting an engaging interview.


“Duke and the people that make Duke what it is, and they deserve something beyond incremental change”

By: Jonathan Browning

Coming into Open Design+, it was hard for me to imagine approaching  a problem without a solution-oriented mindset. But now, after an intense and impactful week of truly getting to know our stakeholders, I have no idea how anything would get done without first working in the problem-space of a topic. At this point, I have no clue what solution I probably had in the back of mind during the beginning of the understanding phase, but it certainly wasn’t what my team is working on now – and for that I am grateful. 

The eyebrow moment came quickly for my team, in part because all of us readily embraced the “yes, and” mindset. No idea was shot down, but we realized that many of our ideas by themselves weren’t going to create the 10x change we want to see. However, together they could create something truly impactful. All of us care deeply about Duke and the people that make Duke what it is, and they deserve something beyond incremental change; they deserve our best moonshot thinking. 

I really like how one of our team leaders Aria Chernick put it: “If the solution feels exciting, it means that you’re addressing a need.” For me, this has rung especially true. New ideas that could be incorporated into our concept are constantly coming to me without regard for what I’m doing – eating dinner, brushing my teeth, etc. I’ve learned to dream big, but that’s not to say I’m losing my grip on the reality of what we’re doing. I know that some of the logistical, social, and technical aspects we’ve discussed won’t be easy to accomplish. But I’m okay with that. I’ve spent too much of my life getting bogged down in the technicalities of everything. I’m letting myself shoot high this time. 


“I realized that the greatest obstacle of the initial ideating process is letting mental barriers and fears of feasibility get in the way of creativity”

By: Florence Wang

Wow. This week has really been a rollercoaster. Having been in this extremely divergent and “open” mindset for so long, it has definitely been a change in pace transforming into a convergent mindset and truly diving deep into the solution space. It’s kind of ironic because I’ve been aching to start designing a solution and now that it’s finally here, it almost feels foreign. However bizarre the beginning of ideating felt, I have experienced such a tremendous surge of eagerness and have developed an extremely anticipatory attitude towards what our team can create. 

For our first idea, my team and I have decided on a sort of “virtual Duke map” that has embedded zoom links on the map in correspondence with the actual events or academic resources that would normally occur in those physical spaces. We hope that through this idea, we can use a virtual platform to create a more realistic, “day in the life” experience for Duke undergraduates.

The “yes, and” mindset has been very challenging but at the same time, so rewarding. I think it’s easy to remain in one’s own perspective instead of considering all possible ideas, especially when working in a team atmosphere. However, this mindset encompasses the ideals of “open source” learning and truly working with and alongside our team members. By fully embracing this idea of “yes, and,” we have learned to build off of one another’s ideas and experience levels of creativity and innovation that wouldn’t have been possible before. It was also through this process where I felt the most impactful. It was rewarding to work with other people’s ideas and thoughts as a foundation of something great, and in turn, have that be reciprocated. 

My most memorable learning experience was affiliated directly with this idea of “moonshot thinking” that we were all encouraged to implement. I seem to be saying this a lot throughout the program, but at first, I was skeptical. How are these outlandish ideas supposed to help us come up with a feasible solution? Our goal is to be designing for the here and the now–why are we spending time on thinking about these impossibilities? However, through the design sprint and our own team brainstorming process, I realized that the greatest obstacle of the initial ideating process is letting mental barriers and fears of feasibility get in the way of creativity. That initial spark–no matter how fantastical or unrealistic it may sound–is the key to unlocking potential solutions that can truly address the greater implications of the problem at hand. 


“I have come to see that the “yes, and” mindset creates an atmosphere where ideas can flow”

By: Drew Flanagan

My team and I feel like we have a solid understanding of the user-based need during online learning: more intentional student engagement in purely academic spaces. To approach this user-centered issue, we think it might be best to cultivate a sense of “purposeful wandering” and experiential opportunities as these experiences, of which largely occur on campus and not in a virtual setting, are critical to student development.

Given a strong understanding of the user’s needs, my group was excited to go into week 4 and move into the “Create” phase. My experiences with the “Create” phase has been productive so far; however, it remains challenging to work with stakeholders. We have talked a lot about the “Create” phase involving co-creation with stakeholders. This is difficult though, especially given that many stakeholders have different views about the best way to design with the need in mind. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the open design process because it allows me to have an open dialogue with users and continue to re-think, re-build, and solicit feedback. 

I was initially resistant to adopt the “yes, and” mindset because I think contrast and immediate feedback are important when ideating. However, through my experiences in the program so far, I have come to see that the “yes, and” mindset creates an atmosphere where ideas can flow. In other words, no idea is stunted or challenged until the full process of brainstorming is complete. Then, once we have all the ideas on the table, it is more productive to narrow down and expand. Often, some of our best ideas were a more practical iteration of the ones that seemed too ambitious or nearly impossible.

This week, I feel like I’ve made the most impact in my team sessions. I have tried to keep an open mind as we go about creating while also pushing my team members to think further or helping to clarify our team vision.


“The create phase of the open design process is allowing me to feel that sense of involvement”

By: Caroline Surret

The start of the create phase was incredibly intimidating to me. Given the nature of the open design process, our team was trying to make sense of all the qualitative data we’d collected while adding more every day. At some points it felt as if there was just too much information to process, but with persistence and a little moonshot thinking we were able to arrive at a solution that feels meaningful. 

My team is currently in the process of iterating our idea and collecting feedback from potential users, and it is now more than ever that I understand the value of open design methodology. In co-creating, our team is addressing a real need and creating a solution that has the potential to make lasting change.

In the understand phase of the open design process, our team became acutely aware of the role that connection and community play in facilitating purpose-finding. The create phase of the open design process is proving this to be true, in that the more I connect with students and create community around designing a solution, the greater sense of purpose I feel in the work we are doing. 

In our interview process, my team asked almost all of our interviewees either “When do you see students the happiest,” or in the case of students, “When are you the happiest at Duke?”. When someone flipped the question back onto me, I answered that I am the happiest at Duke when I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. The create phase of the open design process is allowing me to feel that sense of involvement, and, despite the difficulties that come with this work, it is remarkably rewarding.


“This week of the open design process has taught me what it means to work in a team”

By: Aria Patel

The create part of the design process has been both energizing and challenging. Ideating above and beyond our constraints and realities allowed us to think up solutions that might never have crossed our minds without the open design process. This freedom and creative space gave me a lot of energy and hope. At the same, narrowing down to an idea out of a garden of attractive ideas that each hold value and good intention was very hard. The team had to rethink and revisit out ‘How Might We’ statement and stakeholder problem areas to come to a consensus. 

A large part of the final step of our ideation process was the “yes, and” method. It allowed our ideas to become study and durable rather than fragmented and spread thin. We were able to build off of each other’s thoughts and concerns, merging and mixing elements in different amounts until we figured what worked best. This was such an exciting process especially when ideas fit perfectly together! 

Above all, this week of the open design process has taught me what it means to work in a team. In addition to focusing outwards to our stakeholders, we were also looking inwards to what made sense, created meaning and was purposeful to each of us. As we struggled and celebrated through our ideation process, we better understood each other, our collective lived experiences, our strengths, and what makes each person think as they do. This understanding will definitely help us exponentially further down the process in the coming weeks. 



The students share their perceptions and experiences of getting close to stakeholders, creating empathy, and defining their problem scope. They are ready to ideate after several interviews and identifying different insights.

“Sorting makes things easier, but the issues that we are tackling aren’t easy”

By: Jonathan Browning

Listening is harder than hearing. But harder still is understanding. Listening can be passive – I may listen to what someone has to say and then file it away, making adjustments and reconciling it to fit the parameters of my own experience. Understanding forces me to live outside of my own experience and immerse myself in someone else’s. It’s been difficult for me to stop framing the experiences of others using my personal lens. 

Often, I still want to tie the words of our user to my own experience, in a bid to sort it away. Sorting makes things easier, but the issues that we are tackling aren’t easy. Each interview takes us closer to defining our problem-space, but I don’t think there is really ever a point when the problem-space could be considered complete. However, I don’t think completion needs to be the goal. Even without a perfectly defined problem space, the aha moments still come. Together, those aha moments are what propel us forward. And it seems many of my aha moments have involved connections – whether it be connections between different students or between students and faculty or really anyone. Perhaps feeling purposeful is hard when you don’t feel connected.

Change doesn’t happen overnight and it need not happen all at once. I’m no genie – I can’t snap my fingers and grant a wish, as much as I wish I could. If I could, it would be a lot easier to measure my impact. As it is, I struggle with defining my impact. But, even without knowing my exact impact, I can be empathetic and truly work to understand. And hopefully, through a consistent effort to be better, I can have an impact on people and leave things a little (or a lot) better than I found them.


¨This process involves not only asking questions and recording answers but also engaging with the stakeholder¨

By: Sanya Uppal

The Understand phase made me realize the importance of listening and then reflecting. I realized this process involves not only asking questions and recording answers but also engaging with the stakeholder and thinking critically of the different backgrounds and perspectives that they bring to the table. It is definitely the hardest phase, particularly as it extends beyond this week as well. As we work with our stakeholders and users, through feedback and iteration, we continue to understand their needs and refine our assumptions and observations.

I found that gaining empathy for the user meant understanding their hopes and desires without jumping to solutions. To me, this included listening without judgement – taking in all unique perspectives as important without being influenced by a solution-oriented mindset that tries to frame insights into the outcome I desire.

This week, we interviewed over 15 individuals: students, faculty, and student support staff. It resulted in a dynamic process as our initial assumptions informed our later questions and focus. It was difficult not to make this focus too narrow in our later interviews as we came to define a problem space, but I think we worked well to reframe our questions in context while remaining open to broader insights. I think this was my area of greatest impact, trying to remind myself and my team to process and observe insights from our users and stakeholders effectively before rushing into characterizing our problem space and engineering a solution. 


¨Listening without judgement has been a rather freeing experience¨

By: Drew Flanagan

I have really enjoyed the Understand phase of open design but have also found it a lot more challenging than I originally thought. One misconception I had about the Understand phase was that it would be rather passive: we would ask questions, receive answers, and continue on to the next interview. However, it is a more active process. Understanding is a highly iterative, collaborative, and thought-provoking process.

Our interviews have been more of a dialogue rather than one-way conversations. Our interview questions continue to evolve as we listen and learn. Additionally, our interviews push our participants to think more critically of their experiences. It has been really difficult for me to resist the urge to design; however, this has been key to gaining empathy for our users and staying present. Gaining empathy has been critical because it really allows me to design with a relevant purpose in mind. It eliminates some of my own personal bias in the design process and allows me to focus on what’s central to our goal: the user experience.

Listening without judgement has been a rather freeing experience and contributed to me having more of a growth mindset. I feel like I learn a lot more when I no longer have the pressure to pass a judgement, whether it be positive or negative, consciously or subconsciously. I feel like I made the most impact in my interviews with professors. While I can relate closely to the student experience, I am a student myself, the faculty experience is one I have little to no perspective on. It has been rewarding to talk with professors that I have been taught by before. While our past conversations have focused on course content or my own personal interests, it was interesting to have a conversation from their perspective.


¨When I first heard of the empathize stage of the design process, I was immediately intrigued but also extremely skeptical¨

By: Florence Wang

Image that I created for our team that encapsulates our experience during the “empathize” stage of the design process.

Overall, this phase of the design process has been so rewarding. When I first heard of the empathize stage of the design process, I was immediately intrigued but also extremely skeptical. As someone who has always had a very “go getter” attitude and who likes to solve problems and jump to solutions, I don’t think I quite understood why we had to spend so long making these observations and empathizing with our stakeholders: why couldn’t we just jump to solving the problem already? However, only after talking with so many stakeholders did I realize, I hadn’t even really understood what this “problem” is to begin solving it.

Everyone professor, student, and administrator has gone through different experiences and has different opinions. This project isn’t as simple as just “rethinking online learning,” it’s about listening to everyone’s thoughts impartially and wholly to get to the root of the problem in order to design something that will actually be helpful–that will actually have an impact, no matter how big or small. 

After listening to all of the problems and successes that my stakeholders had with online learning, I felt myself becoming more invested in the project and with the concerns of each of the stakeholders. It was enlightening to simply listen to each individual and gain a deeper insight of the problem space. Although our team is still unsure as to which direction we will specifically be going in, I think that we each understand the thoughts of our stakeholders more–whether its technological concerns, teacher-student relationship concerns, motivational concerns from the student’s end, etc.–that can help us re-imagine a new way of learning.

During my interviews, I actually felt the genuine interest that some of my stakeholders had in contributing to our project and their excitement in having someone listen to their thoughts–I felt like I was making an actual impact. Although it’s definitely been challenging handling the ambiguity of the project and not knowing what our next direction is, at the same time, there’s also something really compelling about not knowing our exact solution. As a team, we have all been forced to slow down and truly examine all perspectives.


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