By: Anwuli Onkojo
Moving onto the create phase was exciting because I was not sure what to expect. By the time we had concluded the understanding phase, it still felt like there were gaps in our understanding. I wanted to be absolutely certain that we knew who our persona was and whatever we came up with would fit exactly. But I had to accept that we had done our best, thus far, in getting to know the stakeholders and building our understanding of our persona, and moving onto creating did not mean that we were detaching from our constituents. Moreover, I reminded myself that I enjoyed and embraced design-thinking because it teaches me how to embrace and navigate ambiguity.
Moonshot thinking was a useful tool for easing into the ideation process. For some reason most of my initial ideas had to do with space and genies… I didn’t even know I cared about astronomy or genies like that. However, gradually more concrete ideas began to take shape as I thought about the values, culture and problems we’d talked to stakeholders about. “A Freshman’s Guide to Everything” was the first solid thing I thought of. Something that would be responsive to that exploration period of a Duke student’s life when you really have questions about anything and everything. I remembered that by junior and senior years, students have settled into a more stable sense of self and (for the most part) have some direction to their lives and decisions. But the process of getting there in the first two years was more challenging and anxiety-inducing for more students than it needed to be.
I threw down as many ideas as I could think of. Some, I knew, would be immediate misses. By the time my team and I got together to discuss the board was completely full with post-it notes of ideas ranging from totally ridiculous to actually kinda cool. Some ideas we spent more time discussing than others and I loved seeing how well some of them naturally fit together. As unsure as I may have been about our level of understanding of the issue, the ideation process revealed common themes and demonstrated that we clearly had a strong shared sense of what we were working on and towards.
When we got to the Freshman’s Guide to Everything, I was nervous because I thought my teammates would hate it and would not understand it at all. But I decided to do my best to pitch the idea and show how it could tie in with some of the other things we discussed, and how it could reinvent the existing Blue Book. Surprisingly, they loved it! And we were all extremely excited about it. The sense of affirmation and camaraderie I felt was unparalleled in that moment, as my teammates started to build on the idea. I was so excited that in the break I wrote a full fledged pitch, “a freshman’s guide to everything, a sophomore’s scrapbook, a junior’s journal, a senior’s time capsule”. It was the “Aha!” moment Kevin had always talked about. Slowly, the pieces were falling together. I also realised that one of my strengths was working with my teammates to understand and articulate their ideas, when they may have had something incredible to contribute but were perhaps struggling to really convey it. The create phase, to me, was just as much about solidifying our dynamic as a team as it was about crafting solutions to the problem at hand. It was easy to say “Yes, and…” because I knew that even if the ideas my teammates shared did not fit well with mine exactly at times, we had a shared goal so I could understand the essence of what they were trying to say.