I just finished reading Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley. This is not a review, a summary of design thinking, or an argument on why design thinking is a critical life skill. It is a short list of both intellectual and emotional responses to the book, primarily as it relates to my field of interest, which is preparing our children to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
For more than two decades I have said that there are just two short books that should be required reading for all students in our K-12 system: The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and Harold Urey. I am going to think a bit more on it, but on first read I may well add Creative Confidence to that very short list. Why? It is short, simple, easy to understand, and I cannot imagine a person whose life would not be richer and less obstructed by understanding and putting their methods into practice.
I did not hear the term “design thinking” until about two years ago. Yet my own first book, The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School, is full of parallels, and I started writing it almost twenty years ago. I never knew I was a design thinker until recently, and you might not know it either. It helps to put our native inclinations, our gut feelings, into context, to know they are shared, celebrated, and validated by others.
I was looking for something dramatically new in this book, some new revelation out of the Stanford d.school that I did not already know. I did not find it, but I, like many colleagues in education, have been immersed in design thinking. Yet for each of those colleagues in that choir there are a hundred or a thousand more for who design thinking is not even on their professional radar screen, and their students are unknowingly disenfranchised. For the vast majority of educators, this book is loaded with life skills that should be embedded in our curriculum, and it therefore should help to dramatically expand the size of the choir.
Within the context of education, design thinking is a reincarnation, perhaps a modern interpretation or reawakening of what John Dewey and the other giants of the Progressive Era taught us more than a century ago. We all learn, and gain confidence in our being, by experience, empathy, engagement, pursuit of passion, collaboration, action, trial, and failure. Thanks goodness for the resurrection. But like any great jazz musician who elegantly interprets an historic theme, we should learn, remember, and recognize the provenance.
Design thinking is an idea/thinking/creative/synthesis accelerator. Many of us have seen students who are handed these simple tools explode into ownership of their own learning. Given these tools of self-evolutionary context and understanding, we all learn the “stuff” of education faster and better. I have been in classrooms of every subject in every grade level of K-12 education, and I KNOW that our students would be better prepared for the challenges they will face if every teacher embedded design thinking in their class. Students will learn more in less time and remember it longer.
Thanks to David and Tom Kelley for helping to uncover, remember, explain, make simple, and create confidence for so many in so many ways. Now let’s get it into our schools.