Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

A Learning Culture

“The tasks that are best for learning are often challenging ones that involve displaying ignorance and risking periods of confusion and errors.” Carol Dweck

According to Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, there are two types of goals. Performance goals build upon knowledge or experience that one already possesses. One who pursues performance goals plays it safe. He or she seeks to be perceived as smart by others. The second type, learning goals, reflect a desire to get smarter. One who pursues learning goals desires to learn new things, master new tasks, and understand new concepts.

I feel extremely fortunate to work in an environment that supports a learning goal mindset. The International Development Design Summit (IDDS) encourages participants to try things outside of our core area of strength. For instance, at the summit’s first “Built It” I spent the day building a low-cost bicycle-powered blender. The last time I built such an item was as a child under my father’s watchful gaze. IDDS encourages participants to take risks and learn from others. For instance, with the support of my friends I joined a dancing procession of Maasai men at a circumcision ceremony. IDDS relies on participants teaching and learning from each other. For instance, the  Austrian industrial designer humbly shares insight from her rich design experience. When appropriate, I share my own insight from past projects.

My conclusion is that the  design process, especially at IDDS, is a continuous learning process. In addition to all the learning about myself, my team, and about Tanzania, I am expanding my knowledge of the design process, design practices, and cross-cultural team effectiveness. To orient ourselves towards learning goals, my team and I must surrender to “displaying ignorance and risking periods of confusion and errors” during the problem framing phase. As user researchers, we will become students of the user’s life and work.

Pictured top : the water pump, jab-seeder, and bicycle blender convene at Global Cycle Solutions ; bottom left: Bernard, a member of the IDDS 2014 organizing committee teaches us how to make the bicycle blenders from a jug, sheet metal, and a bike hub ; bottom right : I hammer sheet metal to make a simple and low-cost corn husking device for our second “Built It” of the summit.

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