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  • 作家相片Maria Li

Reflection on my first time leading a Design Thinking Workshop


What is design thinking?

To be honest, I was quite new to design thinking before I started my current job. Thus, I need to figure out what design thinking is before I lead a design thinking workshop. Again, the best way to learn is by doing. At the beginning, I shadowed my boss, Cesar, running design thinking workshops several times. I also read books and online resources about design thinking. And slowly pick up more active role in being the workshop facilitators and then the MC of the workshop. Through these experiences, I can distill what design thinking is from my own understanding. Design thinking is about: 

  • Understand the needs of human/ the user. From that point of view (from the perspective of the user), one will design ways to solve address the needs. 

  • Engaging partners in co-creation.

  • Building prototypes and bring them out to conduct real-world experiments

  • Test and reflect

How did I prepare the workshop?

Since it is a design thinking workshop, so I also want to apply the design thinking method to the workshop design. Which is first to get to deeper understanding of the participants before we dive into the rundown and details. Then, look at how others run a design thinking workshop and their tips to get started. With these information, I involved my colleagues early in the discussion to set the scope and takeaways of the workshop, and we define our roles. This helps to better prepare the facilitators and build ownership to the project. Below are the details of my preparation:

1. Learn from experts

I did quite some reading in this step. I gathered methods practiced by others and find out which are the useful methods that is supported by successful case studies. I tried to find the patterns among various sources and jotted them down. Here are the online resources I read:

- K12 Lab Network Wiki ( I find the "Create Design Challenges Guidelines" page particularly useful for me to design the workshop

- IDEO: Design Kit (

- Cesar (my boss)

- Other online resources 

2. Meet with facilitators to set goal

I met my colleagues to discuss the scope, takeaways, rundown and how we share our responibilities. I brief them the background of the audiences, time limited and the theme this time. We first defined the scope. Consider that our audiences may not have much experiences in design thinking, we set the scope to be more personal rather than design for a very complex system. Here are the summary of our discussion:

  • When: 20 Dec 2017, 10:00-17:00

  • Audience: 17 high school students from Busan, they joined the Elite Student Exchange programme to have a study tour in Hong Kong. Some of them learnt about the theory of design thinking at school but have not been applied it. They are Elite students in the area of Science and Mathematics. Some of them are not fluent in English.

  • Theme: Pollution (Um...this is too broad) --> Air pollution in their neighbourhoods (This one is more appreciable)

  • Scope: Something that can be do at personal level, such as home, schools, community

  • Takeaways: You can address a big problem at your own scale, with creativity and technology

  • Roles:  

  • Lead - concentrating on communicating the instructions, logistics, and timing

  • Color - communicating the nuances, offering encouragement, and providing helpful tips

3. Design the activities 

  • I found this "The Challenge Generator" booklet very useful to plan the activities at different stages (Empathize --> Define --> Ideate --> Prototype --> Test --> Reflect). The booklet walk you through from define your challenge, audience, identify constraints and to guide you consider all the things you need to develop your lesson plans - including classroom logistics, instructional resources and materials. This is a very useful tool for advance planning.

4. Prepare workshop materials

- Slides (with the rundown, intro to DT, problem brief and session headline)

- Worksheets (the "Feedback" grid)

- Brainstorm materials (Post-it, markers, plain papers)

- Rapid prototyping kit (Materials + tools)

- Props (it can be any visual aids or objects related to the topic that help spark creative thinking. This time we prepared a cigarette experiment to illustrate the terrible impact to our health)

- Demo (a skit of the tell a personal story session)

- music (I found these two playlists on sportify quite handy)

5. Rehearsal and collect feedbacks

One day before the workshop, I run though the whole process with my colleagues and collect their feedbacks. This process will brings voices from different point of views and add some useful elements that I missed. I jotted down the the suggestions and integrated them to the plan. Besides, I got practice in communicating the instructions, in which help boost up my confidence in public speaking.

During the workshop


Introducing design thinking and the design challenge:

Empathy, Define, Ideation:

Prototype round 1:

Gallery, Feedback:

Prototype round 2:

Final presentation:




  • The space setup is not crowded. The participants sit together  

  • We set an appropriate scope this time

  • the experiment add a wow effect at the beginning

  • Create a safe environment for the participants to express themselves

  • The two rounds of Prototyping session made the students to shift from over-think to the mindset of build to learn. 

  • Having the gallery pitching and feedback round is helpful to 

  • Rehearsal with facilitators help me to communicate the objective of each session better and how can they facilitate in each session.


  • The morning sessions have overran because I did not count in the translation time in the rundown. It probably double the time.

  • Language barrier

  • The quality of Feedback. Disregard to the language barrier, I often don't know how to give feedbacks. Though Cesar advised me use the sentence "I like...I wish...", it just did not come to my mind naturally during the session...So I think I need to practice it often in my daily life.

  • I did not collect the feedback from the participants this time

  • I am quite weak at facilitating the debrief and reflection part ... How can I strength my facilitation skills here? 


There was one group always changing their mind in the prototyping session. They kept criticise their own idea before even test it out. So my question is how can I help them to get out of the self-critique cycle if I faced the similar situation next time?


  • May be I can prepare a feedback survey template that let the participants fill in at the end of the workshop or email to them.

  • Try different methods (more methods can be found on IDEO Design Kit website and this Bootcamp Bootleg).

  • If budget and time is favorable, I want to bring the participants to go out to conduct field study in the discovery stage and also test the prototype with real users.

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