Diary of an Innovation Tourist – Stanford D. School
Last stop on the 2nd day of our Innovation Study Tour was Stanford D.School, who gave us a lesson in the use of space to promote innovative thinking, learning and doing.
The D.School is a hub for innovators at Stanford. Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, and education find their way here to take on the world’s messy problems together. They focus on creating spectacularly transformative learning experiences, and inevitably the innovations follow.
So what learning experiences did we have about ‘space’ at D.School?
Space is a lever
Space is a strong lever than can affect behavior. Space can be used to facilitate collaboration and creativity.
To facilitate learning in innovation or Design Thinking, as they call it here, D.School borrowed from the performing arts and thought of their space as being like a stage. Everything, including many internal walls, were redesigned and made to be movable.
Promoting the behaviour you want
D.Schools accent is on learning by doing not sitting and taking notes; so tables are made to be too small for laptops, the space looks low cost (“ok to kick a bucket of paint over”) to encourage low fidelity (with flaws) prototyping. The last thing they wanted to create was a feeling that the space was too precious, so only good ideas are ok.
The D.School could have built a high spec prototyping workshop, but key to Design Thinking is prototyping before you are ready to accelerate development. So popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and buttons are provided not welders.
Visual versus acoustic separation
What D.School learnt was that what people often wanted was acoustic separation and not visual separation. People wanted to be able to see others and not be alone, but not hear them. This has resulted in a lot more glass with double-glazing!
Space is a prototyping exercise
The space at D.School has been an ongoing learning experience. They treat it as a prototype in itself – always trying out new formats and new arrangements and learning from them.
D.School was the last visit for Day 2. It was a great experience of space as a facilitator of innovation. If you’d like to learn more they’ve published a book on this topic. It’s titled – Make Space.
-Nathan ( @birdsclearing )
By Nathan Baird, Global Capability Director