The Purpose of Ice Cream

In March, we hosted a series of design thinking workshops. It was a workshop heavy month and one resounding question emerged, “What is the purpose of ice cream?”

Having put on a bunch of workshops like these, we like to play with different design challenges each time for the group. It is not something we choose arbitrarily, but actually something we discuss a lot and very intentionally put forward. For the whole month of March, for every workshop we did was centred around ice cream.


Why ice cream? 

Our goal during design thinking workshops is for participants to walk away with tools that they can bring into their everyday work and lives and we have found if you are too close to the design challenge that you spend most of your time actually getting worked up with solving the problem rather than learning how to approach solving the problem.


We are really good at solving problems. 

We do it everyday. It is in our nature. In fact, we can almost always come up with a solution. Our quest is to have you question what the problem is so that you can better define what it is you are trying to achieve before coming up with the solution. This is our work.


We specifically choose a topic that we know our participants are not likely to have a large attachment to and instead can focus on getting through the process of learning design thinking. Often, in our everyday, we get told what the problem is and then everyone goes straight to solving for the problem without taking time to really understand what the problem is.

Ice cream is a perfect example of this. Through 3 workshops and 17 groups working on the problem of ice cream, we learned a few things too.


The problem isn’t ice cream As groups tackled understanding ice cream, some became frustrated that ice cream wasn’t a complicated enough task, it is mundane and not difficult enough. Sometimes the task seems as simple as ice cream until you really start to unpack it. We began to recognize a tension where participants felt if they weren’t engaged with the problem, they had less motivation.

The user knows the way As groups worked on understanding the problem, one of the greatest tasks is thinking of who the users are beyond what you as the designer wants to achieve. When we can let go of our designer ego, and let the user guide you to the solution then we can be responsive and human-centred.

There is no right answer Every group we worked with started with the same prompt of ice cream and we wound up with 17 extremely different ideas. Granted some were a little silly but nevertheless, there were 17 beautifully well thought out prototypes ready for feedback and iteration.


At the end of the day, there is no ideal design challenge to start learning about design thinking. The point is to start. The struggles that you face in learning will help you as you conquer greater and greater wicked problems.


March Break Career Exploration: Rapid Fire DT4i

After last week’s 2-day DT4i training workshop, we dove right back into workshop mode with the amazing youth from Success Beyond Limits (SBL) last Wednesday. As part of SBL’s March Break Career Exploration, our DT4i rapid fire workshop sought to connect the topic of youth entrepreneurship with the benefits of the design-thinking process.


Condensing two days of content into one afternoon, we weren’t sure what to expect as we moved 45 youth through the phases of the design-thinking process.

We really wanted to show the benefits of why teams should spend more time in the problem defining phase before moving into the problem solving phase. The key is understanding how best to use empathy in articulating your user needs, a true foundation for human-centred design.


It would be an understatement to say that the youth from Success Beyond Limits showed no end to generating new ideas. We were also impressed with how easily the youth could craft unique and detailed “point of views” or POVS through their user experience maps.


The ability to zone in on a specific user stood out in contrast to the other workshop earlier in the week. What we realized was the key difference between our two workshop groups was the youth’s ability to freely design for a specific user.

Professional experience, it seems, drives people towards designing one solution for everyone so no one is excluded. While this might sound logical at first glance, in the end these solution more often than not are solution that don’t work for anyone.


Another impressive feat the SBL youth demonstrated was the lack of fear in focusing on the process versus focusing on the final product. Rather, the youth were quite comfortable to concentrate on the design tensions that revealed themselves from the crafted user POVs. The end result was a whole suite of very creative solutions that started off with exploring the design challenge of ice cream & social enterprise. Proposed projects included designing service robots for seniors, mobile app ideas, outlining ethical farming practices and developing a new approach to manufacture ice cream.


What we learned from SBL’s freedom to focus on the process over the product is our need to highlight and push working professionals to give themselves permission to be uncomfortable and vulnerable in the design-thinking process.  The longer term advantage is the ability to creatively come up with new solutions to wicked problems. Otherwise, focusing on the product or “end goal” allows you to fall into the pattern of trying to solve new problems with the feasible solutions you already know.


DT4i: Solving Complex Problems with Stakeholders

Last week was an incredible event-filled week that started off with our 2-day workshop DT4i: Solving Complex Problems with Stakeholders.


As DT4i got underway, it was quickly obvious that we had convened a really interesting group that guaranteed that our participants would be bumping into the many assumptions common in their own work environment. This silo-busting group included educators, social innovators,  front line non-profit workers, municipal staff and provincial public servants.


Using the theme of “ice cream & social enterprise” as the central challenge, the group divided up into teams to begin driving through the design-thinking process. Beginning with the critical, and sometimes the most awkward step, we find that the amount of time that any teams spent in the empathy phase will often determine the dynamics of the team, the work flow and ultimately the creativity in the outcomes of the process.

To help with the storming, forming and norming of the new project teams, we asked the workshop group to stop often to reflect on where they think they were in the process framed in our Task, Team & Self exercise. The first assumption of the day we helped to challenge was the expectation that feedback is useful for a later time or simply to reflect upon. Once gathering and compiling the room’s thoughts on the fly, we brought back the data and gave each team the opportunity to take ownership of their reflection and implement the feedback in realtime. The first piece of feedback was the need to set ground rules of how each team will work together to make sure everyone could brainstorm openly and generate.


Also, moving through the process not once but twice over the two days allowed each participant to be pushed out of their comfort zone, reflect upon what had happened and figure out what they would do differently… and then do it all over again. The benefit of coming to DT4i is not just the opportunity to identify and challenge your assumptions that we all bring into problem defining & framing but our ability to pivot our thinking and work plan based on real time feedback.


Check out the conversation that happened over on Twitter and find out when you can join us at our next event.


Presenting: CatalystsX, Our February Tune Up Project

Our first Tune Up for 2014 is coming up on Saturday, February 22. We are excited to grow our Tune Up community and have great news about our challenging February Tune Up project.

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Presenting: CatalystsX!

Cx is a community of people building a culture of personal & systems transformation towards a better future. Cx acts as a shared platform for change agents across Canada working towards transforming the future.

The February Tune Up project will explore the challenges of engaging and sustaining a network of social innovators across Canada, both online and offline.

Ready to start putting your design-thinking knowledge into action? Register here.


About Tune Up

Tune Up is hands-on design thinking applied to a real world wicked problem. Anchoring the conversation in reality, the workshop engages both an organization with an identified problem as well as individuals eager to practice and experience the design-thinking process. The ultimate goal for Tune Up is to expose both the organization and the designers to the design thinking process and facilitate collaborative learning.

Click here for more information on Tune Up.

Come practice with us.

Exhibit Change is a community of designers working to solve real world problems where they are happening. 

11419934165_5e4cb3e31e_zIn  our Design Thinking for Impact portfolio we are focused on working with individuals learning and practicing design thinking. We think that there are crucial lessons and principles that lend themselves to solving the complex problems that we face today. We offer a variety of workshops to keep you practicing, including Tune Up & DT4i.

[toggle title=”TUNE UP”]
With Tune Up, we are working with organizations and individuals learning design thinking together. Individuals are practicing their design thinking skills on an organization’s real problem. The organization is exposed to fresh ideas, a new community to be accountable to and a slew of next steps to pursue. Tune Up is a 1 day workshop.
[toggle title=”DT4i”]
In DT4i, we are working with individuals dedicated to practicing the process of design thinking in the safety of risk-free collaboration and coaching. The individuals attending DT4i workshops will get the opportunity to go through the design process twice to gain skills in user-centric approaches and prototyping. DT4i is a 2 day workshop.


Coming to our workshops, you will get a chance to:


[tab title=”DESIGN THINKING”]Thinking and solving problems using the design-thinking process means approaching a challenge through empathy, prototyping and iterating solutions. It is your opportunity to really spend time looking at the challenge from new and different perspectives.[/tab]
[tab title=”PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE”]The magic to design thinking is learning by doing, and doing it over and over again to learn from your own mistakes.[/tab]
[tab title=”OTHER BENEFITS”]

We promise you will be able to walk away with these experiences:

  • Hands-on & intensive collaboration with stakeholders
  • Safe space to test out ideas and assumptions
  • Intentional focus on balancing task and team dynamics
  • Bias towards action and prototyping concepts
  • Encourage active participation and roles for different leaders and champions




What to expect at each of our workshops:

All workshops can be customized to suit your needs. Interested in how we can bring our workshops to you and your group? Let’s chat!

Rapid-Fire Tune-Up DT4i Design Labs
Timing 2 to 3-hours workshop 1 day workshop 2 day workshop 3 to 5 days
# of Participants  12 – 30 designers One organization + 12 designers 12 – 20 designers 16 – 24 designers
Description Fast-paced facilitated introduction to design thinking, working collaboratively to solve a relatable wicked problem Working closely with an organization’s “how might we”, designers will practice design thinking on a real world wicked problem Designers will spend 2 days practicing the design thinking process twice to get a sense of iteration & ideation Immersive design thinking process, working through a wicked problem directed towards an implementation strategy
Suitable for
  • Introduction to Design Thinking
  • Team Building
  • Focus on Creative Problem Solving
  • Introduction to Co-designing Practicing Design Thinking with Users
  •  Focus on Empathy
  • Studio environment
  • Focus on human-centered solutions & prototyping
  •  Co-created solutions with stakeholders
  • Focus on empathetic collaboration & integrated feedback


Designing with Consequences: Reflections on Tune Up

Last week we hosted our first ever Tune Up with much success. Working with Equal Grounds, we were able to bring 11 Design Thinking practitioners together with 4 Equal Grounds team members to work collaboratively to unpack, explore and design potential services to deliver.

To help focus the group and maximize our collective work, the central question that was put forward by Equal Grounds was:

How do we create employment inclusion for people with disabilities?


Diving into the conversation, it was quickly obvious the effect of using a real-world problem was having on our designers. Unlike a typical DT4i training workshop where the focus is more on practising tools & processes in a sandbox environment, Tune Up is intentionally set up to challenge your assumptions;  both the stakeholder and designers are collaborating on prototype solutions as well as challenging each others biases in defining the actual problem.

In the morning, we definitely had to take the time for Equal Grounds’ team members to connect with designers, creating a safe space that paid recognition to mutual fears of failure, of saying the wrong thing or to individuals not having all the right answers. Without underscoring the importance of empathy in the design-thinking process, moving forward into defining the problem and designing solutions risked moving the focus towards the designers’ biases. Tune Up really is a workshop where you get a chance to design with very real consequences.

The empathy phase of the design-thinking process is an important step that in foundational in defining what is the actual problem instead of moving instinctively into defining solutions. Remaining in the problem longer allows you to figure out what you don’t know and what information you need to move forward. This may take more time upfront and can feel really messy at times, but by doing so, it will ensure whatever prototype that ends up being implemented is more likely to be relevant to a very important stakeholder: the user.


With our first Tune Up under our belt, we are excited for the next one happening in February. We learned a lot from the December 7 workshop, both in how to deliver a great Tune Up as well as the amazing value design thinking brings to real world, wicked problems.

If you want to know how you can get involved in the next Tune Up, stay posted in the new year for when we announce the next Tune Up project. In the meantime, make sure to sign up for our newsletter.


[section title=”ABOUT TUNE UP”]Tune Up is hands-on design thinking applied to a real world wicked problem. Anchoring the conversation in reality, the workshop engages both an organization with an identified problem as well as individuals eager to practice and experience the design-thinking process. The ultimate goal for Tune Up is to expose both the organization and the designers to the design thinking process and facilitate collaborative learning.



Presenting: Equal Grounds! Our December Tune Up Project.

We’re really excited for our Tune Up workshop this Saturday. We have a full room of designers ready to dive into an interesting project with some serious problem solving.

Presenting: Equal Grounds!

The organization coming in for a design-thinking Tune Up is Equal Grounds. An inspiring initiative and new start up, Equal Grounds aims to be a social enterprise dedicated to providing professional services to clients by creating opportunities for people of different abilities. Equal Grounds primary goal is to create employment inclusion in all industries and sectors, especially for those who are differently abled.

This Saturday’s Tune Up will definitely be an engaging workshop where Exhibit Change and the designers in the room will help push Equal Grounds closer to answering what a program for employment inclusion looks like for people with physical disabilities.

Interested in attending this workshop or the next Tune Up? Ready to start putting your design-thinking knowledge into action? Register here.


[section title=”ABOUT TUNE UP”]

Tune Up is hands-on design thinking applied to a real world wicked problem. Anchoring the conversation in reality, the workshop engages both an organization with an identified problem as well as individuals eager to practice and experience the design-thinking process. The ultimate goal for Tune Up is to expose both the organization and the designers to the design thinking process and facilitate collaborative learning.

Click here for more information on Tune Up.



Heads Up! Tune Up!

We are excited to be launching a new initiative called Tune Up!

Tune Up is hands-on design thinking applied to a real world wicked problem. 

Lately, we’ve been meeting so many individuals and organizations looking to get a bigger taste of design thinking in safe place to practice the cool tools and techniques. Which got us thinking:  how might we provide a great experience for what the design-thinking process is really like in action? And voila! Tune Up was born!


[section title=”INDIVIDUALS”]Tune Up is a great opportunity to put design thinking into practice on a real world wicked problem. Leading up to as well as during the workshop, a featured organization will provide you with some research and context to guide you as you tackle the day’s design challenge with our other Tune Up designers. Very much in the spirit of co-creation and human-centred design, this is a great change to work on articulating your unique perspectives and deliver an action-oriented plan that will definitely have real-world consequences. [/section]
[section title=”ORGANIZATIONS”]Tune Up is a great way to shed some light on a challenge you and your team are facing by bringing to forward to a room full of eager design-thinking practitioners. With your team of 4, you get a change to frame the design challenge for the day as well as be present and part of the conversations to provoke the Tune Up designers into prototyping potential approaches. [/section]


The ultimate goal for Tune Up is to expose both the organization and the designers to the design thinking process and facilitate collaborative learning.

The first Tune Up is happening on December 7, 2013. We plan on hosting a Tune Up with a new feature organization every 3-4 months.

Want to know how you or your team can get involved in Tune Up? We would love to hear from you!


EdCamp Design Thinking is next weekend!!!

The first ever EdCamp Design Thinking is happening on October 5, 2013 at Bitmaker Labs!!! A good EdCamp starts with space. Where you have it effects the flow of conversation, the transition from space to space and the comfort of the attendees. We are so super excited to be at Bitmaker Lab, not only for their innovative work as an education experience as well as their inviting space and culture for supporting the community.

What is an EdCamp? 

It is a free, volunteer run, participant driven unconference. EdCamps emerged after original EdCamp Founders from Philly, attended a BarCamp in November 2009 and the movement was born. Since then, educators across the world are taking back professional development and having face to face meet ups to talk about education on Saturdays! The days are organized around conversations, the content for the agenda is generated by the people who attend and they almost always flow over to the bar.

What is EdCamp Design Thinking? 

It is all the good stuff of an EdCamp plus a focus on design thinking. EdCamps are open model unconference and support hacking and tweaking as necessary. The growing conversation about design thinking online and offline pushed the organizing committee to see what they could do with the question “How might we understand the impact of design thinking on education?” It is evident by the nearly sold out event that there is definitely an overwhelming energy.

What can attendees expect at EdCamp Design Thinking? 

For those who have been to an EdCamp before, attendees can expect to see some old faces, connect with people that they know are like-minded and drive them to think. For those who have never been before, they will be welcomed by all the seasoned attendees and the organizing committee. The day takes a slightly different approach to the EdCamp model with some additional unconference techniques layered with some design thinking terminology. We felt that the best way to build deep conversations was to do what the people are asking for, which is more context around design thinking and the space to talk about where they are at with the mindset and tools. Every one attending comes from a different place in education, whether they be a student, parent, designer, educator, administrator, yoga teacher or general EdCamp enthusiast there is something from absolutely everyone at EdCamp.


There are just a few tickets left, but if you are feeling like you can’t live without this event – show up and we will find space for you! And you can follow along from home in your Pajamas too #EdCampDT or @EdCampDT

Professional Development – Design Thinking for Impact Workshop | August 22 & 23

Design Thinking For Impact 

This will be a 2 day training on the design thinking process and working for social impact. Over the course of two days, participants will get the opportunity to learn design thinking, practice the process and to work with others on how they are bringing it back to their work places.


Participants can expect a hands-on experience for building an understanding of design thinking, learning to work together to build new ideas and get the opportunity to navigate some of the uncertainty of working with complex challenges.

Together, participants will:

  • explore a wicked problem
  • be able to tackle deepening of empathy
  • defining the questions we ask
  • creating valuable solutions
  • testing out assumptions in an iterative process


Who should come to Design Thinking for Impact?

Individuals working to make a difference. Participants coming from a diversity of backgrounds will learn how unusual collaborations can lead to innovative solutions. This workshop is for participants eager to gain knowledge about design thinking and how it can be applied to their work. Learn the methodologies, mindset and process of iteration, prototyping, empathy and problem-framing.

Logistic Details:

August 22 – 23 9am – 5pm
Centre for Social Innovation
720 Bathurst Street
Meeting Room #1 (2nd Floor)

Exhibit Change has recently been doing design thinking workshops at Glen Shields Public School, read more here “How might we bring design thinking to Glen Shields Public School?” 


Virtual Crash Course

Stanford’s & IDEO Founder David Kelley on Design Thinking video

IDEO Human Centred Design Toolkit