Synthesis as part of Design Thinking

It has been a long time since I blogged but I have recently decided to return to it. I now work as CEO of NoTosh Inc. We are a global consultancy company working across education, corporate and not for profits. We use Design Thinking as a method to help organizations innovate and helping individuals learn how to create as part of a group.

The phases we use as part of DT are Immersion/Synthesis/Ideation/Prototyping and Feedback and while these appear to be linear in nature they are in fact cyclical, much like all learning. This past week I was walking with the International School in Panama who are working hard to understand who they are and why they exist, what they believe about learning and teaching and what makes them special. Their values and strategy. The last time I was with them was a month ago where they had immersed deeply in better understanding themselves as a school. This visit was really focussed around helping them synthesise their data.  IMG_1615

 

The ability to synthesis is fundamental to research and learning. It requires the skills of pattern recognition and the ability to allow themes to emerge from the data without biasing the data yourself. It can be hard work and take time especially if there is a large amount of divergent data to work through. We often talk about the need to “sit in your data” to allow the data to speak to you not the other way around. 

This past week I have been working with the International School Panama to synthesise the huge amount of data they have collected since our last visit. Clustering is one tool we use to help our clients synthesis and ISP clustered and re-clustered many times. By doing so they were continually looking for pain areas to address and opportunities they might have missed.

When synthesising in larger teams it requires members to have trust in each other, listen to each other, be vulnerable and truthful – traits the ISP Design Team continually demonstrated as they synthesised to find their core values, and write the stories around them. Like other schools, we do this kind of work with ISP are attempting to create more than just noble attributes common to eduspeak (respect, excellence etc). ISP were synthesising to develop values that will define and articulate who they are, where they are going and help when difficult decisions need to be made. Also simple enough for a grade 1 student to understand and remember, their North Stars. Challenging and exciting work.

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