July 3, 2017
Issues where two seemingly opposing needs intersect are where small changes and the concept of design thinking as a way to approach problem solving shine.

Design Thinking: A Lesson in the Value of Small Changes

When changes need to be made, I like things to move as quickly as possible. Why make little strides when you can take one giant step forward? However, a recent training in design thinking has me reevaluating my opinion on small changes their impact.

I had the opportunity to hear CareerWise Colorado Chief Learning Officer Gretchen Morgan speak about innovation in state and district education systems. She presented several challenges for attendees to work through. One that stood out to me was finding a way to implement competency-based literacy and math into the school day. All solutions we explored would require schedule changes as well as some flexibility from the district pacing guide.

Issues where two seemingly opposing needs intersect are where small changes and design thinking shine. The focus shifts from thinking of barriers to imagining what is possible. Being empathetic to everyone facing the challenge is key to the process. This solutions-based approach can yield creative resolutions that allow for innovation within large systems.

In the example above, it was theorized that shifting schedules by fifteen minutes could be enough to start implementing a competency-based approach while still addressing the administrative needs or requirements. The hope was that being able to make this small step could provide the data to demonstrate that the curriculum and adjustments can work. This then could open the way for more schools to implement, or even expand, their competency-based curriculum.

Although it often sounds more gratifying, it is not always possible to make big, sweeping changes. That’s why the idea of small changes and a design thinking approach is so valuable. Small improvements can cause a ripple effect, leading to widespread change and opportunities for bigger advancements.

Maybe small changes are not so bad after all.

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Lydia Sites

Written by: Lydia Sites

Lydia Sites is the Technology Services Engineer II for KnowledgeWorks.

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