Min Liu just graduated from Stanford at the end of the winter term. Those of us at the Stanford d.school were lucky to have her as a student in our “Clicks-n-Bricks” class during her last term at Stanford, which among other things, did a project for Wal-Mart focused on fueling their sustainability efforts. I wrote a couple of posts about the class, including one describing the great group dynamics on our teaching team (which included Debra Dunn, Liz Gerber, Michael Dearing, Alex Ko, and Perry Klebahn), but Min just put-up a post that has more information about what it is like to take a d.school class than any other place I know. Check out her new post on Why the d.school Works. Check it out, it not only has opinions, it has a couple videos from our class field trip to Wal-Mart.com. Our students were invited to present their work to a big group of Wal-mart.com employees after presenting their projects — and having them evaluated — by 7 or 8 Wal-Mart executives plus our teaching team the prior week. The first video is of Carter Cast (CEO of Wal-Mart.com) and I setting the stage for the presentations and the second is of Min’s group doing their presentation on how to get Wal-Mart.com employees more engaged in their sustainability efforts.
Min was kind enough not to talk about all the mistakes we made as a teaching team, as we worked under massive uncertainty and time pressure. Things came out well in the end, but the creative process is usually pretty bumpy, and this class was no different. Here are some of the nice things Min said:
The class gave me the breadth to do hard out-of-the-academic element projects. For example, designing a sustainability project within a large organization can’t solely rely on theoretical foundations of organizational behavior. My team and I interviewed the Walmart.com folks, talked to various individuals outside Target and Whole Foods who were passionate or apathetic about green, developed a point of view for our subjects, and came up with a cool solution based on our observations and prototypes. And like no other department I’ve experienced, we got access to the d.school 24-7 and free food and drinks all the time……
Personally, my last quarter at Stanford was the best because I learned that the process of doing what I love (finally!) is so much better than living up to some abstract expectation even though it is, by convention, the best. Sure, the realization was a good part done by myself outside of the d.school, but it was d.school’s welcoming, innovative, and incubative environment that helped me realize that the riskier and gutsy-er a path is, the better.
Of course, Min’s comments warm our hearts. It is the kind of thing that keeps us going when all seems dark and messed-up, and why we are lucky to work at place like Stanford that allows us to do such crazy things, to take risks in our teaching and research, just as we press our students to do in their projects.
written by Professor Bob Sutton