Design Thinking in Practice
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Design Thinking in Practice

Knowmads Hanoi is Knowmads Amsterdam’s Vietnam-based sister school. There, Teams of students (the Hanoi equivalent of our Tribes) embark on a 6-weekend learning journey through the 5 main questions.

This is the experience of Megan, Knowmads Hanoi Team 9, with the Design Thinking workshop given to Knowmads Hanoi.

This past weekend was Team 9’s fifth week of our learning journey and we dove deeply into our projects.
We have been working on our projects via Design Thinking, which is a new way of thinking for me. I’m having a hard time truly defining it, because I’m still in the process. The picture above shows the five phases. The phases are Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation, and Evolution.


Last weekend, I found it rather frustrating because we had to start with a question rather than an answer. My groups question last week was, “What can we do to help people overcome their fears of speaking out?”  This whole process is the Discovery part of Design Thinking. Towards the end, we were given homework to do Empathic Research.
​This is where you interview different types of people and take the time to really listen to them. It wouldn’t be Knowmads if you didn’t go outside your comfort zone…


For my homework, I had the opportunity to interview 8 different people. This part, by far, was the most amazing part of the Knowmads program for me.  I love to make connections with people and this really allowed me to do so in a smart and imaginative way.  People love to be listened to, but how often do people actually listen?

I try my best to be an active listener to everyone, but I probably fail more often than I succeed. This opportunity allowed me a purpose to just sit there and listen to what people, who graciously gave me some of their free time, had to say.  By the end of both interview sessions, with a few new Facebook friend requests and phone numbers, I felt empowered and energized. One of the interviewees even made a joke and said, “Thank you for the free therapy session.” I encourage anyone who is reading this to go out there and take the time to actually listen to someone.  The results may surprise you!


By Saturday, I was excited about sharing the results of my findings and hearing what my other group members found as well. After answering our check-in question, it was time to start phase two of Design Thinking, Interpretation.
​In the morning, we gathered with our groups and shared our findings via post-its and had to form a new question.  My team’s question became “How might we use different theater/performance methods to bring confidence and overcome fears of speaking in front of others?”
Then, after a group brainstorming session from ourselves and other group members, it was time to take a vote.  We only had three votes each. My group chose Group Spoken Word.  This led to the Ideation phase of Design Thinking.



Since I have taught Spoken Word in the past, I had an idea for a prototype right away. We did a five-word song game that I had found in my teaching journey. The other groups created books. One of the groups is focusing on plastic straws and created an interactive book to reduce the usage. [Another] group created an interactive book to help families communicate better. Then, as usual, we had to take our products to the streets of Hoan Kiem Lake and test them out. This was the Experimentation stage.


As usual, most of us seemed nervous about having to approach strangers yet again. My group got lucky: We targeted a group of teenagers, who had many friends. It was quite fun to get out there and interact with people.

Our check-out question, “Who have you learned from in this room?” ended our session on a heart-warming note.

Now, as Knowmads we will continue onto the Evolution stage. How will our products evolve? How will this journey end?
It is hard to believe that we are so close to the end of the program. I have gotten used to waking up early every Saturday to hang out and learn with a group of amazing people.

I will surely miss it when it’s gone.

Want your own Design Thinking experience?

A special Design Thinking Masterclass taught by the talented Valentina Catena will be offered at Knowmads Amsterdam June 25-26. Great to add to your resume.

There are only 4 tickets left for this special workshop! Get them here on Eventbrite!

Check the event on our website and on Facebook.

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