Design Thinking

Designing for Resilience

A few months ago IDEO published an article about designing for resilience and using technology can be leveraged to make services more intelligent and empathetic. Which got me thinking (yet again…) How do you actually do this?


How do you back up anecdotes or interviews with hard data? and what are the most commonly used algorithms, platforms and tools that data scientists, designers, and social entrepreneurs are using?


Kuja Kuja is one product that has made significant impact in Africa – the world’s first real-time customer feedback platform for refugee environments, I’d read about the development of this before and it’s a great example of how a successful platform co-designed and built for one particular organisation can become a tool help communities throughout the continent.

So one of my goals for this week is to…

Find as many examples of data science projects that have a significant level of co-design involved, whether that be for the social sector, for government, for research, the tech industry, or business; and try and identify the common tools, technologies, algorithms that underpin each one.

– A.B.

Going deep vs. Going wide

I spent most of today learning more about the various schools of thought around design thinking, reading Tim Brown's Design Thinking blog, writing up a short case study about designing for a circular economy, and thinking more about the intersection between data science and human-centred design. In a perfect world I would be paid to do this all day, every day.

One blog post; The Career Choice Nobody Tells You About,  really resonated with me. It's short and contains a simple message, but it was a nice reminder for why I wanted to "leave" astronomy research and pursue new opportunities.

Going deep requires incredible focus, lifelong commitment to a single cause, a willingness to be patient towards achieving success, and the confidence to follow a path others may not understand or value...

Going wide, on the other hand, is about making connections between what you already know and what you’re curious about discovering. It requires systems thinking in order for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. It means developing the skills to collaborate for the purpose of learning. It’s about seeing the creative possibilities in breaking down boundaries and describing the world, your organization, the problem in new ways.
— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Data science offers researchers in academia an opportunity to go wide, to explore problems across all sciences, the arts, across business and technology, and even the not-for-profit social sector. While many researchers leave academia because of negative experiences or job insecurity, I suspect that most (like myself) leave because there are just so many more equally exciting things in the world to discover (or make, or teach) and a whole new community of amazing people to learn from.

Personally, committing a lifetime to academic research wasn't enough for me. Although my research was exciting and I had the opportunity to work at world-leading academic institutions, with incredibly clever and talented and researchers, there was always something missing. Perhaps it was a fear of missing out on all the other wonderful things people were doing?

Fortunately I've managed to have found a way to find aspects of astrophysics research where i can make significant contributions, and in the meantime work with data and technology within a completely different industry. There is a stigma around leaving academia so choosing how and why you leave matters.






Interview with Inge van der Poel from We Are Elderberry

Last Friday, Kate, Aarti, and I had the privilege of interviewing We Are Elderberry co-founder Inge van der Poel. A few weeks ago Inge gave a talk at the Melbourne Design Thinking and Innovation meet-up, about her work at AGL Energy. As their Human-Centered Design Lead Inge is her harnessing expertise in human-centred design to help AGL navigate though a rapidly changing energy landscape. 

In 2014 she launched We Are Elderberry, designing alternative futures for ageing, longevity and a multigenerational society.

Unlocking the potential of the elderly

In 2014 Inge spoke at TEDxSouthBank  about the value of wisdom, the opportunity to rethink our notion of retirement, and the need for alternatives that give older people opportunities to participate in meaningful work. 

Human Centred Design Workshop #1:  "Yes, and..."

On Monday night Team Emergent met for our first face-to-face workshop. The majority of us had already met at the Design Thinking & Business Innovation meet-up the week before so there was a bit of buzz of excitement in the air. Joining us were two new members so we spent some time reintroducing ourselves and discussing logistics. We have a really diverse team and I'm super excited about working with people I don't usually come across, that have really different career paths. I'm keen to  find out what they do, what they love about their work and why, like myself, hey are really keen on pursuing human centred design. While it's clear we all have very different personalities, everyone is lovely and  I suspect we're going to get on really well.

Our Team

Aarti Nagpal,  Business Analyst at Victorian Police:
Aarti works for the Victoria Police as a Business Analyst. She had previously done one of IDEOs courses on her own, but without the benefit of a team. She was really excited about he HCD courses strong focus on team work and so she was incredibly enthusiastic from the get go. 

Anna Paris, Operations Manager at Sacred Heart Mission:
Anna is the Operatoins Manager at Sacred Heart Mission. She is the only one on the team with a Social Impact background and I suspect human centred design will come naturally to her.

Kate Edwards–Davis, Product Manager at QSR International:
Kate is a Product Manager with a really interesting career path. Before working at QSR she was a business analyst... but her undergraduate degree was in philosophy! I think she was also (is?) a classical musician. Kate didn't attend the DTBI meet-up but I know both Aarti and I were keen on having her on our team. We invited her quick smart. I suspect all of us feel that diverse teams make the best teams.

Vince Lieu, Product Owner & Business Analyst at QSR International:
Vince also works at QSR International but I think it was coincidence that they both ended up joining our team. I really like Vince. He is younger than us,  but he's already jumped on the crazy ideas and I love that. It's also nice to have people who already know each other.

Jon Searle, Data Engineer at nbn Australia:
Jon is a Data Engineer at nbn Australia. He didn't attend the DTBI meet-up but contacted me in advance to suggest we form a team. Since we have similar data interests (perhaps?) I was keen to have him jump on board.

Tony Puah, Principal Consultant at ASG Group:
Tony is Consultant at ASG Group (formerly SMS Management & Technology). He has a long career in service design and I suspect we will learn a lot from him. Tony very kindly offered to host our weekly meetings at ASG. 


Mini Challenge – Designing a Better Commute

The goal was to practise some of the Human Centred Design fundamentals, e.g. "Yes, and..." to design a better commute. Working in pairs, we began  bu interviewing each other in order to understand each other's morning commute. It's more than just understanding logistics. It's about how it makes people feel, what they like and dislike, and what challenges, barriers, annoyances they encounter. Chances are other commuters experience similar things and perhaps these insights could help us to design a better commute. The focus on this part of the exercise is the "Why?" rather than the "How could we make it better". 

After this processes we began brainstorming solutions.  We tried to come up with a number of new and somewhat radical ways to improve the commute. The idea is to really think outside the box and go nuts. Most of us were quite conservative in this respect. Anna and I briefly mentioned a crazy idea that involved personal drones, but didn't follow through on that. In hindsight we should have, and that was a  good lesson in itself. Only Vince came up with a radical idea – personal hot air balloons!