Last November, IntoActions offered the first HSM Executive Design Thinking Boot Camp in Brazil. A boot camp is an immersion activity where participants work in teams to solve a real problem, using design thinking, a human-centered approach to generate viable and feasible alternative solutions.
IntoActions applies Project-Based Learning (PBL) as one of its core elements in its design thinking approach, enabling participants to learn about a real challenge in a dynamic and practical, hands-on way. This pedagogical model breaks with the traditional lecture approach, where instructors spend most of the time presenting the content and concepts, which participants then passively try to absorb.
PBL is rooted in the educational philosophy promoted by the American Philosopher John Dewey, who, just over 100 years ago, declared that “School should be less about preparation for life and more like life itself.” PBL is a learning strategy whereby students are faced with unstructured yet contextually rich problems, such as problems they face in real life, and then create meaningful solution. In a PBL approach, students frequently work in groups and are constantly challenged to hone their creative, critical and reflective thinking skills.
There is a strong need for professionals of all functions to be able to better deal with the growing complexity of problems, be they challenges in the private, public, educational or social sectors. IntoActions is responding to this need by working with organizations and offering appropriate and effective design thinking training and capacity-building programs.
The client for this three-day boot camp was D&D Shopping, which manages the stores and restaurants in the World Trade Center in São Paulo. The boot camp also happened to be offered on the premises of HSM, which has its offices in the World Trade Center. The challenge that the participants in the boot camp had to solve was: How can we improve the overall experience of people who come to the shopping center for lunch?
Right from the beginning of the first day participants worked in small groups, learning about and applying key tools and principles from design thinking. In particular, participants focused on prototyping as a way to shift their mindsets away from talking, and towards doing.
The process of design thinking was introduced in a non-linear way, emphasizing its four key elements: 1) Understanding the problem space; 2) Bringing clarity to complexity and re-defining the problem; 3) Generating alternatives quickly and creating many solution choices; 4) Making the best solutions tangible and implementing and testing them with the target audience. One of the key features of design thinking is to invest most of the time and effort in understanding what the real problem that needs to be resolved is. It is here, through unique insights into the problem space, where the seeds for the most radical solutions are planted.
During the final day, after several iterations of the entire process, each of the groups presented a final solution to the initial challenge offered by D&D. Through guided reflections the groups finished, the boot camp by outlining a plan of action for implementing what they have learned immediately in their organizations.