I still remember that evening in December 2017. We tossed our glasses to "raising the bar of creative problem solving" in Ku De Ta, Seminyak 🥂
As a team we had a ritual to travel for two weeks in the year end to reflect, rejuvenate, and have fun together. That year we chose to spend our two weeks in Bali. As we spent our no-work-all-fun work vacation 🙈 we slowly reflected on the year. As much as we loved problem solving, we felt there was a void in our industry and we could do more than just design consulting. That is how the Maker's ecosystem of today was born.
There are many problems to pick and for each problem there are many ways to solve. Personally I picked Design Education and I decided to run cohort based courses (popularly known as CBCs) for self taught designers and product managers. I must have done atleast 17 of them by now and 3 under the umbrella of a Xperian as a flagship offering.
Here are some hard truths that hit me as I reflected upon our practioner-teacher journey 👇
- Learning is hard and part-time learning is freaking harder. No wonder knowledge workers struggle with continuous learning and up-skilling 🤓
- It is known fact that entertainment sells more than education. Just look at the trending YouTube videos and you will understand (kacha badam will have more views than principles of design any day). It is just human nature to be drawn to the entertainment side. The same happens with cohort based courses as well.
Memes, fun hours, meet-ups have more engagement than first principles deep dive. Don't get me wrong. I love fun. But I also love problem solving nuances. As a parctioner-teacher I have so much to give but I keep having this void that there is no one to receive in its fullest. This puts an artificial cap on intensity of the subjects explored.
The hard truth is CBCs touch only the tip of the iceberg of any rabbit hole. There is no place for deep exploration. The audience are not ready so the teachers struggle to keep the balance 😳
- It is human to be light and lazy. If you need to learn something new, this comfort zone must be shaken. The intensity of work is directly proportional to the depth of exploration. We tend to lighten things up in a CBC just to increase the completion rate. The minute we do that it goes against the objective of taking up the CBC 😞
- Different folks have different pace (style too) for learning. Even in a CBC, where the pace is set, I notice participants struggle with catching up. A number of people can't keep up the pace of the CBC. As a result, they spend the money (like the gym) and don't leverage it followed by the feeling of guilt 🤷♀️
- Most CBCs hinge on getting foot in the door (or a better door). Without the needed competence, focus on career is like wanting weight loss without doing the body work. This happens all the time in CBCs. Participants feel their two week capstone project is a lifetime achievement. Sadly it is not. The industry work with smart minds need rigour, momentum, intensity, competence and ability to collaborate.
- Every piece of education, whether it is a free Youtube video or Twitter thread or a Insta reel or a CBC or SPC (self paced course) it is filled with prescriptions. 7 ways to, 5 methods for, 23 mistakes and more. The tips, tricks, tactics and templates fill this world. How To is great but why and what are equally important to understand. Sorry, Snacks will not satisfy the hunger.
What we battle here is the nature of the learning and the nature of learner. They tend to align themselves in opposite directions and hence the struggle.
Supply sells what the audience demand. As audience, we demand light, entertaining, surface level, how tos and we get them. This is what happens when we listen to our customers and solve problems. So I will not be suprised if the struggle of the design education continue.
My only solace is the more we know about the problem, we could solve the problem differently. After 4 years of toiling with the problem space of design education, I have finally come one full circle. This time with more patience, acceptance, understanding nuances and humility.
Education system is a challenge and will always remain as one. As a problem solver, this challenge keeps me awake and alert.
At Xperian, this year we had a breakthrough in the design education rabbit hole. With our Q2 launches, we expect to disrupt and shake the design education world a bit more.
Looking back it has been one hell of a ride! May be this is what is called as a purposeful career ⚡️ It kinda feels that way!
🥂 to education!