Rethink Ambiguity

The Creative Gym
4 min readSep 2, 2021

How might we rethink ambiguity with design abilities to empower change?

Move From Design Process to Ability

From Carissa Carter, the Director of Teaching and Learning at the d.school, we learned the importance of moving from the design process to design abilities, using cooking as an analogy

“ The order and process of a recipe helps new cooks get started, but it’s only with practice, inventiveness, experimentation, and constraints that you might begin to call yourself a chef.

At the d.school we endeavor to enable our students in eight design abilities so that they might develop their own creative confidence and also inspire others, take risks, and persevere through tough projects throughout their lives. We want our students to be their own unique chefs. ” — Carissa Carter

This inspired us to create Rethink Ambiguity for designers to develop their creative muscle through navigating a design challenge that’s full of ambiguity, visualizing ambiguity using a journey map tool, and reflecting on our ambiguity experience.

We published Rethink Ambiguity at Miro Community Platform.

Why Rethink Ambiguity?

“ Ambiguity makes creative work extremely challenging to do well but can also lead to the greatest opportunities for design.” — d.school library

When we rethink Ambiguity, an intangible experience made tangible, we

  • Bring consciousness towards how one navigate the ups and downs in emotions when facing an unknown situation
  • Create a common language of the ambiguous moments so that we can rethink ambiguity as an opportunity to learn, develop, and grow.
  • Collaborate to share ideas, stories, and tactics that can help us navigate ambiguity better together.

Our Process to Rethink Ambiguity

When we design beyond the exchange between the facilitator and participants but also incorporating the ambiguity from the real world, the participants can experience the richness and uncertainties of the world, where they are put into a situation to develop the confidence to act so that they can embrace navigating ambiguity as part of their creative work.

— Sarah Stein, Executive Director at d.school

We started with a warm-up activity for the participants to start describing their day using the journey map tool from Laura McBain and Louie Montoya to understand the tool and build human connections.

Workshop facilitated by Frankie Kok and Brian Chien with the 8 design abilities from Stanford d.school

After an introduction of the design abilities, the participants went through a design challenge where they join a role-play scenario to simulate a design interview as “design consultant” while knowing only a little about how their team might work together or what questions they might ask.

We explored the navigate ambiguity content from d.school’s Creative Director, Scott Doorley

In the end, the participant reflects on their emotions and actions when navigating the ambiguity experience, and share the strategies and insights that can better navigate ambiguity in the future, in the real world.

The participants reflected on the ideas and tactics that can help us navigate ambiguity better together (left) and share how they rethink ambiguity post workshop (right).

How does Rethink Ambiguity Empower Change?

At the end of the workshop, we have heard stories like Eva, who is a school principal, applied the journey tool to lead the teachers through the uncertainties in the next semester’s strategic planning, she did it with more clarity and calm despite not knowing what’s happening during the school closure due to COVID-19.

Interested to learn more?

Join us for design abilities workshop on Thursday, 16 September, 5 pm Pacific Time. SIGN-UP here to receive updates.

Credits

Written by Frankie Kok. Thank you to Brian Chien for co-facilitating the workshop, the work from Carissa Carter, Laura McBain , Louie Montoya, Scott Doorley, d.school resources, and the participants who have joined us on our exploration of the 8 design abilities for making this possible.

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The Creative Gym

We are a design school which creates virtual learning experiences to unlock the creative power within you to navigate complex challenges through design.