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Flipping The Script: Design Thinking Workshop with Eastside College Prep School

Over the course of eight days, several of us coming from SAP’s University Alliances and d.Lab were invited to work with Eastside College Prep School students on a Design Thinking Workshop.  Coming from teams in which design thinking plays a central role, we naturally thought that we would be sharing our design experiences and guiding the students along the design thinking process. 

We quickly realized that we were participating in something much more interesting and actually something much larger than we had initially expected; in fact, the students had flipped the script on us!!  With the guidance of Stanford’s dSchool, the bright teenagers of Eastside College Prep were the ones to coach us, along with several people from SurveyMonkey!

The challenge that my team brought to this workshop was to address, “How might we bring together & inspire early and experienced local innovation talent to showcase, share & exchange new technology & ideas at The HanaHaus, a local cafe and workspace.”

Below are some highlights of my personal experience being coached by Eastside College Prep students.

After being taught the crucial importance of discovering the end-users’ underlying needs and motivations, we were sent off to interview those in and around the HanaHaus.  I very quickly learned just how hard it is to ask the right questions and in the best manner possible to gain empathy and really learn the interviewee’s story.  To be honest, my first interview was a disaster, but my young coach stepped up and gave me some amazing feedback on how to improve my technique.  I left the first day blown away by how deep and thoughtful these teenagers were!

The next day, we debriefed and began the process of identifying common conflicts, contradictions, and surprises from our interviews.  By the end of the day, I realized that these young professionals were not only thoughtful, but they still had the boundless creative spirit that many of us lose along the way to adulthood.  With our challenge reframed, we were set for the next day to answer the question: “What might we create for hard working people that will help them disconnect from technology while playing a role to inspire them with their projects.”


The next five days were spent prototyping at SAP’s Design Building, and testing the prototypes at The HanaHaus, which resulted in two different iterations of our solution.  Each day, it was impossible not to notice how confident each facilitator was becoming in their leadership skills and in facilitating the design thinking process.  I was also awe-struct by how easy it was for them to be narrowly focused and analytical one moment, and then outrageously creative the next; a skill vital to creative design process.  As one of the Stanford facilitators said, “Just beyond crazy is fabulous,” in which case these students were coming up with fabulous solutions!

On our last day, each team did a three-minute skit to act out their reframed challenge, their solution, and their insights.  Once again, and without skipping a beat, our young facilitators stepped right into the roles of actors and actresses and not only accurately played out our 8-day experience, but they were able to do it in a fun, thoughtful, and insightful manner as well.

As our workshop came to a close, and we said our good-byes, I couldn’t help but think that if this is a taste of what the Post-Millennial Generation has to offer, we are in great hands! 

Kenneth Sugiyama

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