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Transformation Design Kit: The Right Tool for the Task at Hand by Kathy Washington, Paideia School

Guest post by Kathy Washington, Paideia School, Atlanta, GA . A blog post about her team’s experience as a MVIFI Transformational Design Kit (TDK) beta tester.

The Transformation Design Kit (TDK) is a collection of mini-lessons, tools, and sparks (interactive games to spark creativity) presented on 5×7 cards housed on a keyring. Based on the portable nature of the kit, I gather that the cards are intended to be used in the moment. In practice, I did not use them this way. Having attended the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation fuse17 conference, I was familiar with not all, but many of the tools in the card deck. I tended to refer to the TDK and the DEEPdt Design Challenge Playbook (another resource from the fuse17 conference) prior to a meeting or design challenge to decide on the appropriate tool for the upcoming task. That being said, I do like how portable the cards are. The kit is much easier to refer to and to share than the Design Challenge Playbook. I did in fact share it with a colleague, who has not attended any formal design thinking training, and she did use it in a more “on the fly” manner, to match the appropriate tool with the task at hand. I also like the breadth of the cards — there were cards for all phases of design thinking – discover, empathy building, experiment, and produce. Initially I found myself wishing the phase of the design thinking process was indicated on each card, but I changed my mind about this, realizing the cards are more flexible without this indicator. Because their design is so suited to in the moment use, I wish there were even more sparks and tools to “unstick” thinking, like the 100 Ideas in 3 Minutes and the Bend Reality tools. I also wish even more of the Design Challenge Playbook was replicated in the cards… with a graphic of the tool on one side, and a narrative on the reverse explaining how to use the tool.

Throughout the beta testing period my colleagues and I used the Party Pooper, Four Corners, Dot Voting, Range Finder, What’d Ya Hear, Adventure Grid, and Blank Beta Card tools. During our Party Pooper exercise we learned a valuable lesson about matching the right tool not only to the task at hand, but also to the unique dynamics of the group. When we pulled out the Party Pooper activity, it was the end of the day – so participants were feeling drained – and the group was dominated by introverts. As a result, the activity fell flat. We used Dot Voting with another group, same time of day. This tool was a hit, and was a great way to provide equity of voice.

We found the most powerful element of the TDK to be the Blank Beta Card. After going through the design thinking process with their students, we challenged a group of our teachers to design a tool which would meet the unique needs of their students. We gave them a blank tool, which was adapted from the MVIFI TDK Blank Beta Card.  Two of the standout new or remixed tools were the Problem Puzzle, and the Mountain Continuum, adapted from the Range Finder tool. The Mountain Continuum was actually derived from two adaptations. In the first adaptation a teacher modified the Range Finder graphic to make it clearer for his students to use during a design thinking challenge. In the second adaptation, the graphic and wording were modified for a teacher PBL training workshop.

After seeing the tools the teachers developed, I wonder what new tools students would come up with if we asked them to develop cards for the deck. Having participated in the fuse17 conference, and after working with the TDK cards and leading teachers and students through design thinking challenges, I’m gaining a better sense of which tools work for which circumstance. However, I still feel like there is so much to learn, and I’m excited about tapping into the students’ viewpoints as we continue our design thinking adventures.

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