Sunday, August 11, 2013

Building creative confidence in housekeeping & model-making staff at Agastya

Can anyone innovate? Really? Even a semi-literate? I have been curious about this question. I got an opportunity to test some of these assumptions when we facilitated a design thinking workshop for housekeeping & model making staff at Kuppam campus of Agastya International Foundation. Many participants, especially the housekeeping staff members, were school dropouts. 

The highlights of the workshop are depicted in the presentation above. Here are a few things that struck me:

Photographs/videos: The participants were given cameras to take pictures of the problem areas associated within their work context. These photos were projected and a representative from the team presented the problem. I was impressed by the photos / videos they took. I was later told that one of the ladies who articulated a problem rarely speaks – even with her colleagues. So this session helped building confidence in communicating your problem.

Persistence: Shanthamma became our role model during the solutioning phase. She & her team were working on the problem where the ladies have to carry hot tea pots over a distance of few hundred metres. Shanthamma started drawing a cycle as a solution to carry the tea pot. She struggled for 20 minutes to draw a cycle but she didn’t give up. In fact, she didn’t budge from her seat while everybody else went for a coffee break. You can see her efforts in the presentation (page 15).

Experiment design: Towards the end, the teams designed 1-day and 1-week experiments. Here they answered the questions, “Which assumptions can we validate in 1-day and 1-week?” That created moments of truth for some participants. They realized, “Well, we could get started today. We can begin the journey of solving our problems ourselves.”

In the final session, Dr. Shibu listened to their presentations, encouraged them to go ahead with the experiments and offered his support. That gave confidence to the participants.

A personal learning for me came from the wallet design session. The ladies couldn’t relate to the concept of wallet or purse. Instead, they re-designed their lunch box. For some people, a lunch-box is more relevant than a wallet!

I appreciate the encouragement from Ramji Raghavan and Dr. Shibu Shankaran in this experiment. And without enthusiastic support from Janani, Subbu and Uday this was impossible! Hope this becomes a starting point for us to take design thinking at various levels in the school education system.

Update from Agastya (30-Aug-13):
These are some the ideas suggested by the workshop participants that have been implemented,

1) Washing clothes and Drying area have been allocated.
2) Temporary ID cards have been issued to the Workshop workers and they will be given a permanent ID card soon.
3) The rain water drainage problem has been solved
4) First level of VisionWorks have been cleared and its being used for better purposes.

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