Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Google Data Studio: YCISL Skills Survey

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

I have been wondering how to create web dashboards and came across Google Data Studio. While learning how to use Google Data Studio, I played with visualizing the results from the YCISL Skills Survey. I aggregated the results from several YCISL workshops including two NIFTI programs, one ITW workshop and one YCISL Focus Group; there were responses from 107 students.

I will be starting the another NIFTI program next week and will update this dashboard when the survey results are in.

First, a few things I learned about using Google Data Studio:

  1. Collect GEO information. Google Data Studio includes a Google Maps chart which looks cool and would show the worldwide reach of the YCISL program.
  2. Try to eliminate chances for duplicate entries. I use Google Forms to do the survey and that is collected into Google Sheets. I manually moved data from each event’s survey to an aggregate Google Sheet from which Google Data Studio accesses data. I did this because I needed to clean out duplicates manually in Google Sheets.
  3. Include time stamp information. This allows Google Data Studio to display data from different time frames.

And now some observations about what I found through Google Data Studio:

  1. Students rated their Positivity skills very high at 4 or 5. This is a great indication of growth mindset.
  2. Students rated their Design Skills as average with most choosing 3. This suggests that we could discuss the meaning of “design” in the same way we discuss the broadness of “creativity” and “leadership” so every one feels that it is accessible. It was also interesting to see that design was the skill most students wanted to improve. Fits well with our programming on design thinking and design-build.
  3. There are also several students who rate various skills at 1 or 2. This could be an indication of no prior exposure or poor past experiences. Pushes our YCISL program to try to turn this around by creating memorable great experiences.

Looking forward to collecting more survey feedback and updating this dashboard.

Thoughts: Framing Your Design Thinking Story

Friday, September 17th, 2021

In the YCISL program, particularly with the project work, we have been taking our asking questions design thinking method and placing it in a storytelling frame. When ideating concepts, teams have to ask Who? What? Where? When? Why? & How? questions regarding the story frame they wish to open presentation of their concept. The aim is to engage the viewer to share or empathize with the problem or need. In a Thinking Out Loud session I recently presented in, I had students “doodle” a scene where their product and user were together. I asked them to try to answer as many of the design thinking questions as they could through their doodle sketch. Working on such a sketch helps teams learn their concept’s positioning and application circumstance as well as opportunities for adding details and filling gaps.

The doodle sketch above reflects an exercise I have used where we look at sustainability in bathroom lighting.

Want to try this method? Here is a 3-step method to try:

  1. Form and answer the design thinking questions.
  2. Make a preliminary sketch using the answers.
  3. Add details to the sketch to focus on one concept message (eg, your problem statement or your concept statement).

Bonus: give your sketch a title (could be your concept title).

LinkedIn: The Lego Data Story

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

You know, YCISL and “Lego” (the pieces) have been together since the start. We’ve had our Lego Exercise since our first workshop in 2011. We’ve used it to demonstrate creativity, visualization and team collaboration.

In my LinkedIn newsfeed this week, I saw a graphic that uses Lego pieces. I managed to trace it back to a company called Hot Butter Studio and a photographer named Brandon Rossen. The LinkedIn version is an extended modification of the original and I found yet an even more extended version on Reddit in an article titled “The Lego Data Story, adapted from original image by Monica Rosales Ascenio.

I find the LinkedIn version thought provoking when it comes to design thinking. In our YCISL ITW-DTI design thinking workshops, we are using an asking questions method to acquire pieces of information that subsequently get architectured into a story worldview. This model also fits well with our Divergent-Convergent Thinking Feature List exercise where we gather as many options as possible, categorize them into priority levels, and use select attributes to differentiate for innovation.

I feel the “Explained with a Story” step enters the emotional intelligence realm by applying resources with purpose and meaning. The prior four steps (data, sorted, arranged & presented visually) are essentially analysis steps and would be considered part of the knowledge intelligence …and as per the YCISL KI + EI -> LI formula, we need to flex our EQ to achieve leadership and success.

If we also remind ourselves of Sir Ken Robinson’s thought that “In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.”…we also can appreciate the Actionable (Useful) extension of this graphic because the energy we put into our own creativity is intrinsically motivating when we receive feedback that we are serving something of value (further credit to Richard St John’s thought “…you’ve got to serve others something of value.”)

WSJ: Making Senses

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

There was a special insert in the Friday July 8, 2021 issue of the WSJ titled the “Future of Everything.” In the center spread was an article titled “Making Senses” by Angus Loten & Kevin Hand. The article widened my mind scope on the “smart” and “eco-smart” project themes that are a part of the YCISL ITW-DTI workshops being offered this summer. Advances in sensory devices and dataset building with the alignment to human preferences should find amazing applications in sustainability design thinking.

Transparency. We are very familiar with computer vision and image recognition, but most of this is with regards to shapes and little else in terms of physical characteristics. The advancement described in the article about transparency will lead to better depth perception and recognition of vessel contents.

Taste. The need for sensory systems in food storage (eg, refrigerators that can detect bad food) is taking a long time. Let’s hope the advancements in “electronic tongue” technology means we are near the point where we can greatly reduce wasted food. A premium market for this may be in wine since wine can improve or decay depending on various factors.

Touch. I have seen many fascinating videos of product assembly lines and food production lines to know that there is a lot of mechanical tools involved. Upgrades to these and other applications could help healthcare as well as more common needs.

Smell. The AI sensory application to robotic noses and identifying vapors can be used in enhancing or neutralizing odors. There are so many places where pleasing odors could enhance productivity and removal of objectionable odors could reduce distractions.

Hearing. Noise cancellation hearing devices are quite popular presently. Ever tried using one during air travel? Isolating voices using AI could process sounds so that no idea is lost among the “chatter” and everyone is heard. Ever been to a call center?

The common thread in these advancing areas is the collection of reference data. Even so, there is so much variability that it is challenging to consider anything as a reference. Things change very quickly and conditions can tweak channels. For example, in the food waste application I mentioned above: how much reference data would be needed to tell whether it’s time to discard your jar of sauerkraut?


Activity: Mentoring Short Essays

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I have asked the mentors who have participated so far in the current season’s ITW-DTI workshops to compose short essays reflecting on their experience interacting with students and the life skills involved. The opportunity to mentor in a creativity setting is as significant to the YCISL program is as the opportunity to participate. The concepts of design thinking are as relevant to mentoring as they are to ideation and product realization.

This short essay collection assignment for the mentors is an additional chance for me to inspire these few students to be leaders lifted by emotional intelligence and deep thought on their journey. I have a few ideas in mind on how to fulfill this request:

(1) Storytelling. Through our YCISL technique in storytelling, we paint world views which detail the setting and circumstance, and enliven it with actions.

(2) Elevator Pitch. Using our YCISL “The Art of the Executive Summary” technique, we edit scenes and storyboard them in different orders to check for flow and meaning.

(3) Your Personal Story. Using our 3-part YCISL Your Personal Story technique, we build a resume-like chronicle of our past experiences, our present mindsets and behaviors, and ideas on our aspirational pursuit of meaning and fulfillment.

This could turn into one of those procrastination-type endeavors, so I am setting a 30-day goal of completing this assignment. Better this way anyway as the ITW-DTI workshops are still quite fresh in memory.

Activity: YCISL Design Thinking Incubator

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

In June 2021, the first YCISL ITW-DTI (Design Thinking Incubator) was launched. The second was just concluded yesterday. The ITW-DTI focuses on design thinking iteration in order for students to get the feel for revisiting design ideas in a fast succession prototyping manner. This gets the “raw-ness” out of the ideas which we thought would be a useful lesson for design thinking newbies. Previous to the ITW-DTI, we had the ITW (Innovators Toolkit Workshop) which was more broadly skills-based and ended with just one presentation. In the ITW-DTI, students have had to give their presentations three times where each time there was a blast of experiential learning.

Innovators Toolkit Workshop (ITW) Design Thinking Incubator (ITW-DTI)
4 days (2 weekends)
Skills: Asking Questions, Fast Creative Thinking, Divergent-Convergent Thinking, Filling & Crossing Gaps, Positivity
Project: Smart-ified Space or Object
Presentation: 1 Group Pitch
Exercises: Design-a-Tent, Invent-an-Ice Cream Flavor
Core: Out-of-Box Design Thinking
4 days (consecutive)
Skills: Asking Questions, Brainstorming, Divergent-Convergent Thinking
Project: Design-a-Club, Design-a-(Smart) School Space, & more…
Presentations: Team Practice, Group Practice, Faire
Exercises: Problem Statement, Solution Concept, Feature List
Core: Asking Questions Approach to Design Thinking

The ITW-DTI is a much faster program, but also attends to the “5-second Rule” phenomenon that was dragging the ITW program. By this rule and the more highly packed ITW-DTI schedule, the design thinking brainwork stays in the fast lane. Quick acceleration is key, but only needs to be pushed once. Making incremental improvements is a lot simpler too.

Compared to the earlier YCISL workshop programs that were on-campus and totaled many more contact hours, the ITW-DTI is an effective means of experimenting with design thinking with the potential to connect presence with action (EQ-talk). So long as the ITW-DTI experience along with all other YCISL programs spring the Aha! moments for students, I think we have something worth pursuing.



LinkedIn: Post by Anthony J James of “Fluidity” by designlibero

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

In my LinkedIn feed today, I noticed a post by Anthony J James commenting “Innovative design idea” about a dish drying rack with sections for small plants that would be watered by water that drips from the drying dishes. My reaction was “cool” idea and a wonderful idea using the convergence technique we use in the current YCISL ITW program.

But wait! There was more… There were negative comments aplenty. Many comments were based on lack of understanding and a resistance to the product idea being able to replace the traditional dish drying rack (fixed mindset, I would diagnose). Here are a few examples:

“What about the soap? Would that not be toxic to plants?” Careful how you use the word “toxic” because there are several beneficial plant applications for soap. You can also discard lightly soapy water into your garden (ever washed your deck or patio stone?) without harming the plants.

“Nice try, quite ingenious except lots of plants grow spores, mold, fungi, and insects larvae form their ecosystem and not ours.” Ummm…are you suggesting not having houseplants at all? Or would you like to have a 6 ft social distancing requirement from any plant?

“The person who designed it doesn’t wash dishes.” One of those responses that is most likely incorrect. Perhaps not the way you wash dishes.

“No herbs raised on detergent water will ever taste good or be good for your health.” Reminds me of the Mister Boffo phrase “Unclear on the concept.”

“It is likely that there will be trace of chemicals present in water, that might affect the plant?” Tip: The water you use has chemicals in it. Be it from water treatment, natural atmospheric dissolved gases, dissolved minerals from aquifers, etc.

There were many encouraging comments too. Mostly on the external form design which I agree is cool.

But what struck me is the lack of productive commentary. I don’t usually comment on LinkedIn, but since this product touches on so many personal and YCISL interests, I wrote:

“Iterate this idea. Forget hydroponics. Many houseplants (ie, indoor plants such as the ZZ shown) need humidity rather than constantly wet roots. The LECA balls would provide support and a porous way for humidity to rise to plant. Would suggest removeable bottom tray for periodic cleaning. Other applications would be micro greens or seed starting using seed starter mix where constant moist but not wet needs to be maintained, but would recommend pre-filter such as activated carbon.”

The idea is to collaborate, not object or discourage. Use your expertise, if you have it to share. Wonder out loud, if you like – but imagine the possibilities rather than close your mind. The surprising thing is the LinkedIn titles the negative commenters had; eg, Concept Designer, Team Builder, Entrepreneur, Consultant, and so on. Evident absence of growth mindset.

I would also further share that this product is called “Fluidity” and a full description can be found on the designlibero web site. First, note that the design is dated 2012. Then now also note this article dated November 23, 2020 “Scotts Miracle-Gro completes acquisition of company that makes home-grow kits” which reports how AeroGrow, the maker of the well-known AeroGarden, was acquired. The hydroponic countertop product was already finding a place in kitchens and other places around the home (let’s also remember the countertop composting worm bins!) where nature is succeeding over germaphobia. So I do feel there is a design genius within Fluidity. It just needs iteration based on constructive feedback and focus group testing.

If this was a YCISL DEZIGNBLÄST design project, we would be fully supportive and encourage iteration through further design thinking and divergent-convergent thinking. In the feature list exercise that we do, we would build Smart-app support, sustainability factors such as use of solar cells, and positivity in form and function. Then our students would craft a story to go along with this must-have product.

Just think…if this was made for college students living in a dorm. They would have just a few dishes, want late night snacks, and stress-relieving plants to look at and take care of. Find that early adopter to help you tell your story in a positive worldview.

PS. The other lesson is not to take criticism too harshly unless you have found reason to trust your critic. Do they have growth mindset and positive mindset skills (remember, it takes work)? Do they have emotional intelligence and an ability to brainstorm self-edit-free? Test their ability for active listening and mindful push/pull/centering.

WSJ: Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Back in 2018, I wrote a comment about a WSJ article titled “The Gatekeeper Tests.” Today, I read an article in my March 13, 2021 print copy WSJ titled “Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern” (it is titled “The Ordeal of Standardized Testing” in the WSJ online edition; strange as this is reverse of the positivity in titling lesson that TED has followed) by Amanda Foreman.

The article tickles me a little because it tries to show a history of standardized testing systems – set in wholly negative circumstance. And it’s more of what is not mentioned as parallels in testing historically that bemuses me. Even today, the SAT (and ACT etc) are obviously more Big Business than Education in a present when superior alternatives are readily available. If the motivation (or better put, raison d’être) for standardized testing is actual academic ability and accomplishment, then the purpose works, and the autonomy and mastery elements join in too. This is consistent with the various historical settings described in the article.

It’s a tool. And if used correctly and applied correctly, can be quite valuable. And like most tools, they need periodic improvements and refinements. And if I use the YCISL idea of precision vs accuracy-based education, standardized testing could use the same paradigm shift.

Think about all the forms of testing that exist today. Would anyone think their test would improve if they followed the SAT model? From tech QA to chemical analysis to sports performance to transportation to whatever else…, the SAT model is the one you need to face away from.

Thought: How many chucks can a woodchuck chuck?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Actually the question that came across my mind is “How many students in a class can a teacher teach?” This follows on my earlier idea of precision education versus accuracy education. This also connects the idea of preparing for classroom teaching with emotional intelligence and design thinking.

Let’s make this an estimation exercise.

If we define “students being taught” as those who get a C grade or better, then perhaps we could estimate that 3/5 of a class is taught successfully (Salman Khan might twitch at this point since this would mean there are a whole lot of gaps).

When I teach a Stanford class, I have a cut-off where a B or A grade means the student should be allowed to exercise that knowledge professionally. So that might be 2/5 of a class (no, not really as you have to try really hard to get a C, D or F from me).

How about we consider only the students who have negligible demonstrated gaps? Let’s say those scoring 98% or above on tests? In my experience (and depending on several circumstantial factors), that’s around 10/100 of  a class.  Or how about those who get an A+ for the class? That’s anywhere between zero and 5/100 depending on the instructor’s mood.

And if we want to look beyond the tests? How many students who complete a course could actually engage in an intellectual conversation involving the subject just after the end of the course? How about the same conversation a week, a month or a year later? Of course, the answer is “depends” but if we were to keep this to estimation, the range would be none to a few.

The idea I would like to share is about judging students for their expandability as much as expansion. A teacher’s mission should be to cultivate a wholesome love for learning and propensity for connecting one thought to another. And they should be praised for being able to accomplish these. This is a low-cost/big impact idea that falls in the “Chief Detail Officer” and “Perspectives” action items imparted to us by Rory Sutherland in his TEDTalks. As Sir Ken Robinson told us in his epic “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” – “…it’s put us in a place where we have no idea what’s going to happen in terms of the future. No idea how this may play out.”

Maybe it’s time to give teachers quizzes, homework and exams so that they can review what they have learned from their class each day…and identify the gaps.


Ideas: YCISL & the IB Extended Essay

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

I received my IB Diploma in 1981. The Extended Essay was one of the highlights of the program, and it still remains a fixture for IB students around the world. My Extended Essay on crystal growth is connected with my geochemistry interest as well as research into evaporite minerals.  The folder containing a crystal sample from experiments attached is still with me today.

And so I would like to connect my YCISL program to the IB program, especially the Extended Essay – and even ToK and CAS. Here, I am going to lay out 5 process tips for the IB Extended Essay so that it embraces creativity, curiosity and impact.

Planning. Make a plan. Start with a napkin plan. Then expand it to a 1-page summary of what you want to do and accomplish. Capture your inspiration and vision here. Include goals and tasks if space allows. Remember, just one page for your initial plan. Subsequent plans can get longer (just a little).

Design Thinking. Another human being (or two) is going to read your Extended Essay. So use the human-centered mindset of design thinking to connect yourself with your reader via your extended essay. Focus positive attention on shared perspectives, engagement and benefit. Show and apply intrinsic motivation to promise empowerment.

Connect-the-Dots. “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech 2005. Show how all the work you did for your Extended Essay is connected. Also connect it to your other experiences and web of knowledge.

Storytelling. There are many ways to tell a story. You just have to choose one. You are the author of your Extended Essay, plus you are the producer and director of this story that the reader will want to visualize. Focus interest on the main character, but also provide details in terms of other characters, objects, thoughts and actions that reveal the full story.

Feature Set. Your Extended Essay will have many features, You will also consider many features that your Extended Essay could have, and trim away excess (at least you SHOULD trim away excess). Think of features that at least half the other extended essays would not have. Then select just three of the features for you to distinctively highlight in your Extended Essay. Put them in the foreground in front of everything else. Put a spotlight on them. Make them shine. And the analogies go on and on. Your goal is to have the reader remember and be impressed by one or more of these distinctive features. This would help your work stand out in a crowd of Extended Essays on the same or a similar topic.