Building your tribe:

Making the most of your new design thinking network

June 25, 2016 | by Lindsey Sampson

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Participants playing Coffee or Tea on the first day of Field Guide


The morning of the last day brought participants together to learn from each other and confront messy problems. In the style of an unconference, participants had the opportunity to reflect and address burning questions in groups of people who share their interests, challenges, or industries. An energy came over the room as people solved each others problems, offered advice, and shared their own experiences with design thinking. The community was building itself around the questions and needs of the people – a tribe was forming.

“We have the ability to apply this,” said one participant. “This was a great way to understand other people’s problems and solve with them.”

The climb doesn’t stop here. Over the last few days, we have surrounded ourselves with people confronting challenges and opportunities in every industry. From now on, we have a tribe, a community of people trained to solve problems creatively and engage with the world differently. As we move forward, implementing design thinking in our personal lives, workplaces, and communities, the members of this tribe will be around to lend support, encouragement, and inspiration. Like the best climbing partners, our design thinking tribe will be there to provide a hand when things get rough or when we need a boost.


Design thinkers love to solve problems – whether it’s editing a coaching plan at 1am, suggesting the perfect stoke to set your team up for brainstorming, or helping you construct the perfect “how might we” statement, we now have access to a network of problem solvers and earth shakers. The people in our networks bring experiences to the table that make the theoretical tangible and the ambiguous concrete.

Inspired people are magnetic – they tend to attract other inspired people. As we move forward in our design thinking journeys, we must continue to surround ourselves with mentors, colleagues, and teammates who can test our skills and nurture our creative spirits. As we continue on outside of Field Guide, we must take time to admire the vistas ahead of us and look forward to the next mountain.


Reaching the summit:

Understanding what is possible with design thinking

June 24, 2016 | by Lindsey Sampson

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The Wall of Battle Cries


“You are not in the position to know what’s possible.” Michael Weiss, one of the guides, began his introduction to brainstorming with this call.

Design thinking is a tool for understanding the future in new ways by drawing inspiration from diverse people, industries, and experiences. After the morning brainstorm, the future blogging exercise put us in the mindset of casting large visions for the future based on our understanding of ambiguous problems set before us.


When you reach the top of the summit after a long and strenuous hike, you can see how much you have accomplished as well as how far you have to go. From your vantage point, you can see the peaks of other mountains waiting to be climbed, and you have confidence in your strong legs and your sturdy pack to help you along your way.

Over the past couple of days, we have been working with one design challenge to learn how the mindsets, the process, and the methods of design thinking work. We built a foundation with a basic human-centered problem solving framework and visual communication techniques. We learned the design thinking process, the training wheels that provide structure so we can experiment in meaningful ways. We spent time outdoors, walking in the woods, paddling canoes, swimming in lakes, and hiking to peaks, and tested our skills of observation and awareness.

By the end of the third day, we had prototypes of concepts that came from deep human needs. We had tested those prototypes and made changes based on the feedback we received about what matters to the testers. We had solved problems and created joy.

On top of this summit, we can look out and see all of the other challenges just waiting for our new skills and perspectives. We can see problems and opportunities in our work and our personal lives calling for this approach. We are not in the position to know what’s possible, but we can move forward, well-equipped and strong, to conquer new mountains.


Base camp:

Learning to use our equipment

June 23, 2016 | by Lindsey Sampson

The first day of a long hike is exhilarating; your feet feel light and your body is energized.

The second day is different – it’s a little bit exhausting.

Your legs aren’t used to working this way; you are thrilled about the journey but the miles feel long. You are growing and changing and adapting to the practice of the climb, which takes some discomfort.

Today’s design thinking training was a lot like climbing to base camp. It pulled together design thinking in many different contexts, starting with a cycle of the design thinking process around creating joy.

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A morning spent in the IDEAS Center.


We then learned methods of observation and empathy for interviews and synthesis. We found ourselves starting to use the equipment in our packs from yesterday’s lessons – we drew on our new abilities to communicate visually, synthesize information in unique ways, and focus on the human beings behind hairy problems. The morning started with Tracy Deluca telling us, “These are the design thinking steps. Use them in whatever way makes most sense to you.” By practicing a variety of design thinking methods throughout the day, we added new tools to our pack to draw upon when they might be useful in future challenges.

Today’s schedule offered plenty of time to explore outdoors and get to know the rest of the group. This gave participants the opportunity to talk about their experiences with design thinking, describe their current challenges, and swap advice about improving design thinking practices on an individual, organizational, and community level.

In the morning, we had the choice between a trail run in the woods, a yoga session, meditation, or a forest bath – a walk in the woods with an emphasis on mindfulness and observation. In the afternoon, we spent the afternoon canoeing, hiking, biking, or nature walking. Adventuring together brought us into moments for reflection and synthesis of what have been were learning. These one-on-one interactions over coffee and blueberry crisp or between two sides of a canoe have been so important for the growth and confidence of the group:

“The most valuable thing for me here are the conversations I’m having with other people, realizing that other people have the same challenges I’m having.” (Tony Threatt)


The second day of a hike is always a learning curve as your body adapts to new ways of working. Today, our minds began to adapt to new ways of functioning and solving problems as we began to internalize and practice design thinking methods to solve real problems.



Fill your pack:

What campfire sing-a-long can teach you about design thinking

June 22, 2016 | by Lindsey Sampson

Day one of Field Guide was full of opportunities to fill our packs with the necessary equipment to learn new skills around design thinking. Day one allowed the group to get out of our comfort zones, develop new processes for thinking differently, and learn to problem solve & synthesize information in new ways. Jess Esch taught the group sketchnoting as a method for capturing insight and thinking visually. During the workshop, we watched a TED talk by Nilofer Merchant about walking meetings and practiced capturing information and visualizing it on the fly.

Ela Ben-Ur taught a workshop on the Innovator’s Compass, a method for using design thinking on challenges large and small in our daily lives. The Innovator’s Compass, by design, is strong and simple, flexible and concrete, and allows us to center ourselves on human-centered practices when it matters most.


Jess Esch’s superpower: Sketchnoting

These are the building blocks of design thinking – the equipment in our packs as we continue on our design thinking journey over the coming days.

By the end of the day, we were swapping stories about camp experiences around the fire like old friends, wading in each other’s experiences and taking in the fireflies and warm summer night of Western Maine.

Towards the end of the night, an impromptu sing-a-long began with an uncertain rendition of Wagon Wheel – it turns out no one in the group quite knows the words. Afterwards someone offered up another song, then another, and more followed in rapid succession, verse following verse as people began to unearth bluegrass tunes, camp songs, and old classics from musical catalogs deep in their memories. We experimented with rounds and musical improv and canoeing songs. After a spirited rendition of You Are My Sunshine, someone looked up from the fire:

“We haven’t finished a single song in its entirety.”


Swapping stories and singing songs around the campfire.

She was right. Each person had contributed what they knew of old classics and Boy Scout songs, but years of separation from these tunes created incomplete memories, and verses were always left out. Songs faded out or crashed and burned or stopped altogether; verses were made up or flip-flopped or altogether omitted.

But that wasn’t a problem. In fact, what we experienced was another lesson to fill our design thinking packs in preparation for the upcoming days of Field Guide. Often, a solution to a hairy challenge won’t come in the form of a completed thought or idea or product. Rather, the fits and stops and experiments characteristic of design thinking are valuable parts of the process. What you learn from experimenting and iterating is enormously valuable. Just because we didn’t finish a song doesn’t mean we weren’t singing.

We hadn’t finished a single full song, but we filled an entire night with music.