HCD21 Update: Ideation Phase

In our district’s human-centered design project, we are getting set to enter the ideation phase where we’ll share and make sense of a large quantity of data gathered from in-home interviews with a number of our families, as well as from secondary research uploaded during the inspiration phase. We will be using the general process and several tools similar to those found in IDEO.org’s Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.

Our district HCD21 (re-design) team will meet over several days prior to spring break to view this data, capture ideas, stories, learnings and hunches, and organize the data into groupings. We’ll share our experiences during the interviews that stuck with us and look at how they relate to our original problem statement. Our overall goal will be to build a repository of stories for the team to draw on, capture powerful anecdotes, and build a narrative that helps guide us towards concrete solutions.


The ideation phase is one of the most difficult in the human-centered design process, requiring deep, critical thinking about what we’ve learned and how the learnings challenge our previous assumptions. Some of the activities we’ll be engaged in are intended to help uncover the themes, isolate key ideas and reveal those opportunities for design that can evolve into prototypes later this summer and throughout the next school year.

Our goal over the next four weeks will be to spark those discussions within our team that lead to new thinking, bridging synthesis with prototyping and future iteration. Synthesis of the themes and patterns will evolve into insight statements relative to our design challenge that point us forward once we explore our hunches and reframe the statements into critical “how might we” questions. These will ultimately provide us with the framework for innovative thinking and we’ll be sharing all of those results as we go through the sessions coming up.

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The most important thing we have to remember as we go forward is to continue to trust the human-centered design process step-by-step, using the tools that our partners at NewNorth Center provide for this phase. Design is all about getting to something you can’t quite visualize at this point but perhaps some rays of light are starting to seep through and these steps done faithfully will either challenge or affirm the innovative thinking we’re experiencing.

Our team is also excited to be having an additional handful of teachers joining us who attended an update session on our HCD21 project and want to be more directly involved in the design process. Design-thinking is a powerful tool for improving learning at the classroom and school level, not just the district as a whole. Many classroom teachers across the country are taking advantage of it and schools are using it to design or redesign programs that benefit students. The process is similar to the one we’ve undertaken as a district but can move much quicker when focused on a particular classroom or school-level procedure, space, or activity. The teachers and principals involved on our HCD21 team are gaining tremendous knowledge and experience with the design-thinking process that could benefit our students and this community at a variety of levels over the long haul.

I’ll be posting on our progress throughout our upcoming sessions scheduled for February 24, March 9, March 10 and March 22. We’ll be sure to share with you all of the data, our synthesis, themes, patterns, and insight statements that evolve out of our work.


About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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