A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
Many examples use an entire, written compass—but some just use bits, in conversation.
Click on a picture to make it bigger. Find many of the people named on the People page.
LIFE & FAMILY
How we're feeling in our lives and homes is what we bring to work and school.
Mornings can be painful, whether you're managing a family, or just your own life.
Ari Yares blogged about using the Compass to help his family co-design a way through the chaos of family mornings and lunch packing.
Caustan DeRiggs, a single professional, chose making mornings work the topic to work through in this Compass example video.
These folks inspired me—we used a compass with our then-five-year old daughter whose Kindergarten mornigs and bedtimes were rough. We learned she wasn't enjoying them any more than we were, and getting through them on time and "with fun" mattered most. She drew the steps in her mornings and evenings, and a little clock next to each one. We put it next to the family wall clock, it's been great being able to point to her own writing. It took a few iterations to get the timing right though!
What might your journey be next year? Audrey O'Claire engaged her family in exploring their New Year's resolutions a bit with Compasses—to help them dream bigger, and yet get to smaller, do-able experiments.
Even small changes can be hard on small people. When my (Ela's) older daughter Maia kept saying "I don't want my sister Dalia to come to preschool with me", we spontaneously used our first physical compass together. What was happening? She was worried they'd both get teased. She started drawing—and drew them happy together. What mattered to her was that Dalia likes being the youngest there. Among her ideas were getting help from teachers and parents, talking to the kids themselves. As an experiment, she suggested bringing the compass (well, the part that was portable) in to talk to her teachers, who were really enthusiastic. We didn't hear her complain again. We asked her what happened at the end of the Dalia's first week—and they didn't get teased.
Audrey O'Claire has engaged her family with Compasses at important transitions—including the "cardinal sin" of moving her family with a 7th grade daughter:
"We wrote everyone who was involved—housekeeper, neighbors, friends, us, pets... We—all ages—were all contributing...It was sloppy and messy...
We kept it. My favorite section to go back to is the dreaming big. I’ll never throw it out, I'll carry it to my grave. I know to my core that it shaped our whole experience. From that point on—it wasn't that we weren't working together before, but moving forward blindly—but this helped us move together, move forward in a more meaningful way. I just can't believe it but every one of the dream bigs has happened.
(Image credit: Mark Moz, Flickr)
Whine: She's pushing me. My _____ broke. I have a headache.
It started one day when my then-3-year-old daughter's cereal fell on the floor. I said "Great observation—got any ideas?" She got out of her chair and picked them up, saying "We should do things for ourselves." "Great principle!" I replied.
As we've continued doing this, I've found our kids' ideas are just as often often to ask us nicely for help as to do things themselves; we're fine with that.
Often when kids are just frustrated, they're lacking the observation that would make everything clear to them. We've got a phrase in our house: "When something's not working, what do you do? Look at it!". So if a child is frustrated with something is stuck or broken, we start with "Let's look at it" or "What's happening?" Often they'll quickly see what's wrong, and how to fix it. If a total fix isn't obvious, it can help to clarify a principle before offering ideas—"Does it matter to you if it's still able to move all the way?"
And, both my kids and husband have used this on me...which is also great!
Whether we've made big plans, or haven't, it's great to do a quick check-in before we do something that matters to us.
Teacher Kevin Day using the Pocket Compass to explore how to be his best on a school trip. Observing that his "To Do" list was more on his mind than his "To Be" list, and setting a principles that "All here" matters more than "All done", he tried making his "To Be" list a real thing in his notebook.
Says Kevin "I'm compass-ing my way through my anxiety. I'm finding the compass to be a tool that helps me slow down, get oriented -- and try something."
SCHOOL & COLLEGE
Michael Dawson had 5th grade students explore potential short-term school improvement projects with quick Compasses (an adaptation of earlier Compass language). Students went around their school for 25 minutes with a camera noticing things they might want to work on, then spent another 20 minutes exploring what it might feel like to work on four different topics.
Students in Olin College's Engineering for Humanity do this as well, exploring three potential projects with their older adult partner before choosing one for their semester-long design project.
Computer teacher Caroline Meeks uses the compass in many different ways almost daily as her students design apps (lower left), gather observations and ideas about them (upper left), and even give feedback on her class.
As an English teacher Dan Ryder used a compass around a book character to launch a design project...that led his students to a working Little Bits prototype! He wrote a Medium piece about it.
I invite students to use the compass in the design thinking courses I teach at Olin College. More detail about one of those is here.
Dan Wise at Prospect Hill Academy Charter school envisioned a final creative experience for his seniors: to create a "commencement" address—in writing, video, or any way they please—capturing their experiences and learning to this point in their lives. He guided them with a compass and lots of inspiring commencement speech examples. They shared their work frequently with one another, to test out how that "voice" and message felt for them, as well as how it felt to others.
The addresses are deeply inspiring—and the students were fully engaged in their last two weeks of school!
Teams of Pomfret School students working on campus design projects shared their current thinking with Compasses in a design review.
5th grade students in Michael Dawson's Innovators for Purpose program used Compass collages to explore a personally-meaningful topic to focus their semester-long innovation project on, to make their first "mark on the world."
Alexandra Strong, professor at Olin College, used a compass to write down observations students shared about how things are going with a class project. The students were able to see the same and different challenges they were facing. They then got to offer principles, ideas, and experiments that anyone in the class could use to learn and move forward.
The teacher of this 2nd grade at the Driscoll Public school in Brookline was relieved to have is students do a joint Compass around the social challenges they've been having at recess (instead of whining to him about them). The students tried—and evolved—their experiments right away at the next recess.
Other classes have worked on topics from reading more to substitute teacher days.
Caroline Meeks' 9th grade class was given 10 minutes to "Compass" on anything on their mind. Nearly half the class focused on stress around studying for an upcoming exam, as shown here. Other topics students explored: how to find time for a haircut, how to approach a girl, how to earn money, and how to improve a project.
Principal Dawn McWilliams has used a compass in conversation with individual students who are struggling. One compass with a student struggling to focus in math class. The observations revealed how people around him are affected, and affect him—and how much his teacher believes in him. And, why he fails to focus in math, whereas he's successful in other subjects. He identified how much it matters to him to have "support" from his peers so that he can focus in math and reach his longer goals. That principle led to an idea and experiment for him that was successful and grew bigger: "The teacher now has her students talk to and state their intentions daily in a class meeting so that they can support each other with their intentions."
Every conversation with a student is a time we can engage one or more of the pieces of the Compass. In this dialogue, shown in the final chapter of this book, Michael Dawson and I talk a student through her homework challenges.
Principal Dawn McWilliams and her assistant Principal Mitch Davison (seen here) have used Compasses to help groups of students work through conflicts together. Their reflections are written above...but the engaged body language of the students says just as much.
Dawn McWilliams has really embraced "It takes a village to raise a child". She's drawn in her highly international parent community to share their experiences of inclusion to-date in the school, and to explore ways to share their culture more. She reached out to me to help create a visual compass for this purpose—which still needed some explanation.
As she's shared here and here on Twitter, she has also begun using the Compass in meetings about students with parents and support team (teachers, mental health, occupational therapy, other administrators). She's found the first step of connecting the people essential. Then "It helped identify his strengths. By the time we ideated, we built from assets."
At this preschool, the Compass found a home at the "Peace Table"—as a visual prompt to help teachers guide pairs of quarreling students find better ways forward. This visual version of the Compass can be found at the "Resources" link.
College sophomore Mikhaela Dietch explores her interests and what courses and experiences might support them. Senior Emily Wang offers extra ideas.
Sophomores at Olin College sketch their "spider diagrams" — their tendencies in exploring their observations, etc—at the beginning of the semester and again at the end. This helps them, their teachers, and their project teams see and support their goals and their growth, and see how teams might work well together.
Educator Kevin Day printed a handful of pocket compasses to bring on his school retreat. On one he planned a powerful history project for his students—which he expanded in his notebook when he returned home.
Michael Hernandez used Compasses with his students to have student voice in launching and shaping his Journalism class. He used it again at the end of the year as a "final assessment"—actually designing next year's class!
Ela Ben-Ur uses keeps a Compass going during her classes and workshops, so that she—and the students—can capture observations, principles, ideas, and experiments for improvement as they come. And, try those experiments out!
TEAMS & WORK
Here the New York Community Trust brought together members of 50 different arts organizations—which usually compete for funding— inviting them to tackle shared challenges together over two days. They did a first compass as an entire group to identify challenges, including helping diverse new artists find sustainable work; connecting arts policy to wider social policy; re-imagining cultural funding; fostering community planning that nurtures culture. They "voted with their feet" and formed groups to explore these more deeply with dedicated compasses. They paused for a "gallery walk"—walking around to leave thoughts and questions on sticky notes on each others' work. They worked through to concrete experiments.
People working in the changing world of public media similarly explored shared challenges at the 2016 Alliance for Community Media conference.
The Massachusetts Health Quality Partnership recently convened groups of patients, physicians, and insurers to similarly identify issues most critical to them, and explore how MHQP might make a difference.
This coming September, participants at the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) will dig into ways they can engage the HIV- community—relatively unengaged by the health system compared with the HIV+ community right now—in HIV prevention.
CorpsAfrica works with "local communities, local volunteers, lasting impact." Human Centered Design Training coordinator Garrett Mason works with local volunteers directly in their community challenges. He uses the compass as a direct tool to complement, and contain, all the other Design Thinking tools he teaches, so that they're extra portable when these people work in their communities. In this video and this video, volunteers talk about the program and give kind shout-outs to the compass for its role.
Nicola is another rock star in empowering communities. Here she profiles the compass on her site, UpWithCommunity.org—among many wonderful tools she offers.
This journey began as a way to let people immediately see and use Design Thinking—so they can learn by doing rather than lots of lecturing.
At the Front End of Innovation conference workshop above, my co-facilitator Dan Coleman introduced the compass very briefly. The participants used it in 3 ways in pairs: quickly, without writing, to make their workspace more creative and comfortable; to improve the next time they walk in the door at home; and to tackle a present work problem on their mind. Dan made sure they got to real experiments, with real accountability!
It's been used to teach design thinking at at educational conferences like SXSWedu, DesignCamp, 4.0 Schools, and Big Picture Learning. And at other professional conferences including the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, the Head Start National Learning Communities meeting, and the Accenture Boston International Women’s Day Event.
High schoolers have learned design thinking with the compass at entrepreneurship summer programs at Berklee School of Music and Northeastern University.
It's also been used in ongoing coaching programs for teachers and administrators as well as for corporate leaders and consultants.
This group of administrators used Compasses as a large group, and in small groups, to deeply understand pressing issues—and get to actions to try.
After using a Compass for the first time with a group of school leaders in her district, Dawn McWilliams commented "The time felt really productive and collaborative for the first time with this group." As she's generously shared on Twitter, invites that group, as well as her own teachers, to use it frequently when they meet. They've used it from observing and supporting risk-taking by students and teachers in classroom, to redesigning professional learning and alternative education.
When this group of NJ Public School administrators came together for a retreat, they were able to quickly create a “Compass Gallery” to share their experiments, learnings, and achievements over the last year.
Every ending is a new beginning—if we can use the experience we just had. Groups like Kari Ratka's teachers shown here have used a Compass to capture their observations after a shared experience, like a week in professional development or a conference, or something that just went very well or badly. And then, getting the most out of those experiences by turning them into into principles, ideas, and experiments to move forward.
Our career is one of the compelling things we navigate. The compass have given people space to pause, reflect and dream, like Wendy Fairon of High Tech High here.
Or, space to prep more meaningfully for a job interview like Kyle Pace. He actually shared his compass with the people interviewing him—and feels it played an important role. He did get the position as Director of Technology for his Missouri school district!
This educational product company used (an earlier version of) the Compass to capture observations and thoughts during early edtech co-design sessions with elementary school children.
Student team at Olin using a "Team Formation Compass" early in their work together. This lets them draw on their experiences together, and in other teams, to set starting team principles, ideas and experiments for working together well.
They can return to this compass any time they observe that their teamwork could use some work.
In my days as an IDEO team leader, I'd invite my team to explore a challenge a bit on their own before getting together.
In my "Engineering for Humanity course" (pictured here), especially later in the semester as deadlines and stress add up, I invite students to spend 5 minutes solo before jumping into their team work. They dump out what's on their mind onto sticky notes. Then they take the thing that's got them most worried and, on a sticky note, do a little compass about it.
If that issue involves their team, they'll have productive ideas to share. If it doesn't, they'll know they've taken steps to deal with it so they can focus on their team.