Session Eight of the Service Minor

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Miikka reflects on this week’s session that touched on a topic that’s quite fuzzy in nature - that of empathy and finding common ground.

Further Readings on the topic

Karvonen, N. (2018). Empathy & Human-Centred Design - Focus: Interpersonal Empathic Dimensions within User Interviews. Helsinki: Aalto University School of Business.

Seidel, V. P. & O'Mahony, S. (2014). Managing the Repertoire: Stories, Metaphors, Prototypes, and Concept Coherence in Product Innovation. Organization Science, 25(3), 691-712.

Session Seven of the Service Minor

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Now that we were caught up with what each of the students were up to in the previous week, it was back to business as usual. Today's session began with a reflection on Hannu's episode on videographic research and its impact. And it was clear from the session that the message had been received loud and clear by the students. So far, it's been really nice how the episodes have resonated with them in every phase.

It was fascinating how the first question in the "save the last word for me" process was also the most practical one - How do you do effective video research with people who have a lot of concern about "privacy". This connected nicely with a similarly themed question around how you can conduct research in a way that people remain their natural selves instead of becoming too conscious about the presence of the camera. The initial responses were focused on the feeling of discomfort that pressing the "record" function can have during a session and how to avoid that, with one of the options being building transparency and trust. One of the participants also brought up the podcast of Tim Ferriss as an example of how to prepare and build rapport for a session ahead of time such that it makes the session itself flow smoothly and that participant is comfortable enough to delve deeply into their topics. It was great how they were each able to connect their own personal experiences and

The rest of the session featured fascinating discussions on the power of a story, storytelling and the impact that storytelling can leave on us. It was great how, when one of the students remarked that in the case of conveying a story "Emotion is more than knowledge", this led the conversation to touch on a range of examples, from things that impacted us growing up, such as David Attenborough documentaries, to the way that Wired magazine methodically constructed Ed Burtynsky's work across decades on humans have shaped the planet in the anthropocene. Jia then added a rather profound analogy that compared storytelling to the way a magic trick is described in the movie "The Prestige" - with a pledge, a turn and the prestige. This strongly resonated in how much impact a well constructed story could have and also reminded me of the video from the Youtube Channel, NerdWriter where he talks about a similar construct from a cinematic perspective.

It was evident from all the discussion and the clear impact of storytelling that each student articulated that the practical element of the need for storytelling and impact, and in turn the need for videographic research (as well as research in general) was quite evident. The remainder of the session involved individual mentoring and it was great to see how they had progressed in fine tuning their brief and were ready to dive into the next phase, which thanks to the episode and the subsequent discussion, was clear to everyone that it needed to involve research. I personally really enjoy these sessions because it shows how much they've learned and how well they're donning the designer's cap and adapting the tools and methods to their needs. At times they need some guidance because they feel a bit stuck, but I feel that simply is a question of building more experience in this kind of design process.

Overall, I continue to be impressed by the dedication to the work and the speed at which these students continue to pick up and use the tools and concepts that we're sharing. In addition to that, the problems these students intend to tackle are really meaningful and should have a lasting impact on Slush in the years to come. It was great to hear from one of them that they hadn't imagined a design process having this kind of direct and in some cases even immediate impact on the way things can be done, and that line alone makes me feel like I want to be this sort of enabling influence in a course like this for a long time to come. For now though, I'm really looking forward to seeing how all the projects continue to take shape and continuing to guide them as they're an inspiring group and they're all striving towards a common goal. At a meta level, I feel if we can enable more young people to similarly strive for a cause that resonates with them, they can make a difference at so many levels and that might just be the best part of doing this.

Until next week!

Session Six of the Service Minor

Problem Spaces, Framing and Benchmarking

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Hello, hello! Jellyfish reporting.

A bit of context before we jump into this: Adi and I weren’t around for the previous week coz we were at the dmi: Design Leadership Conference 2018, so this week was primarily about getting us up to speed with things.

First and foremost, I have to say that I really enjoy these cozy sessions we hold with the Slush team because it feels a lot more intimate and I like that I have the headspace to listen to everyone and give suggestions or contribute to the conversation. I was a bit bummed about missing Session 5, but I think I also got to apply some of the tips/ learnings from the conference to the session this week (knowledge sharing y’know), so I guess it wasn’t too bad after all!

This week, we went with the flow instead of a structured session. Everyone took turns to share where they are at with their projects: the problem spaces they’ve identified and are looking at, their interests within their roles (and why it is important), why they chose to frame (or reframe) their challenges in a certain way, as well as some early benchmarking that they had done to get a sense of what others have done in other organisations.

To me, this is always a really exciting part of the design process because it requires a certain level of skill to craft a good design brief. As they say, a good footing at the starting point is already half the race won (ok, I don’t know who says that, I made that up).

Listening to the students present, I thought that all their ideas were very inspiring and they didn’t seem like novices to this at all. On the other hand, I also think that they had put what they learnt during IDBM Challenge to good use. & as a facilitator from that course, it was very rewarding to recognize/ acknowledge this and I was/ am very proud of them.

As each of them took turns to present, I really enjoyed the dynamics within the team because everyone was listening attentively to the others, readily chipping in and giving suggestions. Some had clear intent and specific goals for their problem spaces, others had reframed to a broader scope (which we encouraged) for them to find the root causes of certain problems they had identified.

Some of them also found synergies and overlaps in their duties/ roles (& agreed to work together), so that was interesting to see as well. It reminded me of the systems map that we got them to do in the very first session (when they were still very new to their roles), they were quite confused then and did not really know who else they had to connect with or list on the map but it seems like that’s all coming to light now! I love seeing how this unfolds, it is such a wonderful feeling when there are moments like these when they finally realise the purpose of tasks that they might not have understood back when they were actually doing it.

All in all, they are a very motivated bunch with a strong sense of belonging and “Slush Identity” that I truly admire. The community spirit, passion, curiosity and willingness to learn always spurs me to become more engaged and to do better. Indeed, we are all learning from one another.   

I guess everyone seems to be in a good place now, especially after some minor tweaking and inputs from Adi and myself. I really look forward to what the students will bring to the table next week after they do some preliminary research and mapping now that there is more clarity with their directions. I’m sure they’ll dazzle us as they do each and every week.

This is so exciting!