Ver. 2 (8/22/2015)
Ver. 1 (7/30/2015)
How It Works
- What A simple checklist to help educators create a productive and collaborative culture in strategic meetings. It’s intended to help guide teachers through key steps of the design process. Specifically, it’s intended to help teachers challenge their own assumptions before a meeting begins so that we don’t fall into the trap of naming solution before we understand the problem.
- Who The HMW Checklist is intended for faculty and staff.
- Where Faculty/staff in an administrative meeting to discuss a problem or plan a course of action, when a checklist would supplant a traditional agenda.
- When Checklists would supplant the traditional agenda during faculty and staff meetings.
- Why Gawande's stories uncovered the power that checklists have to encourage conversation and collaboration, while also ensuring that everyone involved in the conversation has some form of agency. Checklists designed and used by decision-makers within a school can have the same effect, by enabling faculty and staff to approach collaborative conversations more openly. As a result, discussions welcome more opinions and diversity of thinking, while we also take time to understand problems better. With regular use, the community can build an innovation mindset, opening the culture to innovation.
The Nitty Gritty Details
The checklist prototype is simple: I imagine a heavy cardstock sheet about 8" x 5" so that it feels more portable than a traditional full-sized 8.5" x 11" page and is easy to share, trade, and post on the wall. The checklist offers plenty of space for writing and sketching. Cf. a digital version here in Google Docs (feel free to comment or remix!).
More Detail on the "What"
- Define The checklist first asks that the group write down the problem and the users that it affects. There's no need to get too granular here; just jot down observations of the issue based on what users have reported through interviews. What's the question that brought us all to the table? The "Draw It" method may be helpful.
- Assumptions Next, it's absolutely essential for us to take note of the assumptions we have made surrounding the problem. What has been attempted in the past and why? What are the "knowns" and what are the variables? Most importantly, have the assumptions actually been tested, and if not, how do we test them? This is a key step in the design process and is by far the most commonly omitted one, in my experience. Perhaps at this stage, we also evaluate the opportunity cost in not pursuing the idea.
- How might we...? Once we have a better grasp on the question, the users, and our assumptions, we can work our "How might we...? (HMW) question for the problem (cf. the "HMW" method). Bernie Roth's description of the iterative HMW process (pp. 64-69) in his book The Achievement Habit provides an excellent model to emulate in this step: turn your question into an answer by asking what the initial question would get you, if answered. It's here in this step where we'll define the question that will answer the problem posed in the first step above.
- Ideate With the HMW set, the group can ideate through possible solutions to the question, thinking convergently in the process. I see people taking a few minutes to ideate quietly on their own, before sharing ideas together. This way, we have the opportunity to capitalize on our own thinking, before hearing others' ideas. Using the back of the checklist card, the group can sketch out ideas that are then shared and discussed in the final step.
- Ranking With the ideation step complete, the group next shares out ideas one by one, moving through the "Card Sort" or "Bundle Ideas" methods to narrow down their and organize them into the most important components.
There is no prototype step in the checklist, since the convergent thinking phase of the design process should be completed together.
Potential For Impact
The checklist is a tool that scaffolds collaboration within the group, with attention paid to each of the most important steps in the process and ensuring everyone in the room has equal voice. With regular use of the checklist in the community, the collaborative habits of mind and active listening skills that it creates can become a fixture of a school's culture.
If more people within a community developed this kind of design mindset through use of the checklist tool, we might become better at defining problems and building empathy for those affected by them before working on solutions, thereby building a stronger community. This community will be noted for its problem-solving skills, collaborative nature, an ability to listen actively to each other, and its bias toward action, all of which are necessary components for a culture that embraces innovation.
Scaling and Adapting
The steps above illustrate how I tend to think about the problem-solving process, based on my experience in meetings. The checklist described above can easily be adjusted to suit a particular culture or group of people, including checklists for classrooms, parents, club/extracurricular activities, etc.
Because the attached image is only a rough sketch of what a HMW checklist might look like, I'd love to test different versions to discover what's most helpful in articulating the kind of design mindset underlying the checklist. What essential step is it missing? Is any of the detail superfluous? Does the checklist actually help us define and solve problems more accurately, and does it have a measurable affect on culture? I'm excited to share ideas!