Learning to Love the Problem

November 1, 2016

In order to get to a solution, you must first define the problem. You have to learn to love it and all that it entails, diving deep to see it from a variety of different angles. Once it has been fully identified, a solution generating activity Accelerate encourages is design thinking. By doing this, students are challenged to think of any and all potential solutions. Every thought warrants consideration and no idea is too big, too broad, or off-limits. This process is done in the Accelerate space, in classrooms across campus and can be either an individual or a group activity.

Accelerate’s Coop, Hudson Saltiel, BSEN ‘17, recently took design thinking out of the classroom and into the car. After making a four-hour trip up to Maine for a surprise party, an unfortunate turn of events caused him to pause on a seemingly avoidable problem.

“Unfortunately, the guest of honor didn’t show up. I knew we had three and a half hours still to go on the ride home so we started thinking about ways the event planning business could be improved.”

The result was a general concept for three different companies: a consulting agency for surprise parties, an on-demand event planning service and a Yelp like system for putting together events with local partners. They identified a problem, dove deep to determine what the exact issues were and found solutions that could have prevented the situation they experienced.

Saltiel took what he learned through Accelerate and transferred it to a real world situation. He finds design thinking to be an integral part of his life both in and outside of the classroom. Since learning more about it, he says it is something he will continue to use moving forward.

Adam Zapotok, BIND ‘17, is another Wentworth student who has made the design thinking process a part of his daily life. He is never without a notebook and is constantly jotting down ideas and questions, keeping track of what he has learned and synthesizing his notes to form a bigger picture.

“It’s like taking notes in class, but I’m in class all the time. Sometimes you have an idea and you’re walking and your thought process changes and you lose the idea. Taking notes prevents me from losing track of my ideas.”

Zapotok is a co-founder of BARS, an Accelerate Startup Challenge team, a student at Wentworth, working with Fair Foods, a food rescue non-profit, plus he is tackling a social innovation project. With so many things on his mind, note taking is a vital part of his success. With each small idea, his notes help him better define the problem he is working on and in turn, help him create a better solution. While he is fairly new to the concept and practice it has already proven beneficial for him. By participating in daily design thinking, he is able to combine all of his different learnings to form cohesive and dynamic solutions.

And it’s not just individuals who are practicing design thinking at Wentworth. Greg Affsa, Assistant Director of Accelerate, is bringing design thinking to classes across campus. From engineering, to business management to humanities classes, he has hosted sessions with a wide range of Wentworth faculty and students.

“We started in the Fall of 2015 and a lot of professors have heard about it so they ask to learn more and to have me come teach a session to their classes. There is a great baseline of interest around campus.”

Affsa first learned about the design thinking process while attending Wentworth as an Industrial Design major.

“It is engrained in the curriculum,” he said. “Wentworth students know how to build anything but design thinking helps them figure out exactly what they need to build and why they need to build it.”

At its core, the design thinking process puts a focus on finding the right solution, to the right problem. It forces you to break down the problem so you create a solution that addresses its most basic need. It encourages you to go back to a more imaginative way of thinking, instead of over thinking and over analyzing.

Learning to love the problem is possible, you just have to be open to an adjustment in the way you approach it.

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