IDEATE

What does this mean?

Ideation, more simply, asks the designer (writer) to brainstorm.

Ideate becomes an integral cognitive step in, as Carrie Leverenz puts it, “[turning] students’ fear of failure into excitement at the chance to experiment.” [1]Leverenz, Carrie S. “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing.” Computers and Composition 33 (2014): 9 Leverenz, one of the pillar contributors to the design-in-writing discourse, asked a wicked question in 2014 that pairs well with this step of the design-thinking process: “How can we teach writing in ways that encourages—and rewards—more divergent thinking?”[2]Leverenz, “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing” 6

At this step in the creation/writing/thinking process, develop options.

Ask: How could this interact with others/audiences/readers?

WHAT’S TO GAIN BY IDEATING?

In her article, Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing, Leverenz names a preoccupation in writing studies pedagogy in the 1990s, and describes the affordances of design-thinking in this light better than I:

“One concern, then, when importing design thinking into writing classes is whether an emphasis on problem solving offers an overly limited conception of writing. Teaching writing as a problem-solving process is, one could argue, an outmoded idea, popularized during the heyday of cognitive process research in the 1980s but having fallen out of favor, more or less, by the early 1990s. (Linda Flower’s popular textbook, Problem-Solving Strategies for Writers, went out of print in 1993.) Perhaps one reason for our rejection of writing as problem-solving was that our conceptualization was oversimplified, represented as a series of steps gleaned from experimental protocols of writing that were stripped of context. It was also imagined that effective writing could solve problems. In contrast, a design thinking approach to problem-solving recognizes both the messiness of the process and the incompleteness of the results, which are highly dependent on the interrelatedness of designers, objects, materials, users, and contexts”(all emphases mine). [3]Leverenz, “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing5

What are the benefits of this “messiness” and “incompleteness”? Scott Wible—another key contributor to this conversation— helpfully iterates this idea of intentional messiness in another way: “Students who adopt a position early in the semester approach their remaining work as an exercise in defending that thesis.” [4]Wible, Scott. “Using Design Thinking to Teach Creative Problem Solving in Writing Courses.” College Composition and Communication 71 no. 3 (2020): 403. Asking—or, rather, directing—students to provide one thesis, one solution, one proposal, allows them to focus solely on “finding the evidence and arguments to support a thesis,”[5]Rude, Carolyn D. “The Report for Decision Making: Genre and Inquiry.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 9, no. 2, 1995, 185. Instead, Wible volleys, students end up reaching to support one idea “rather than investigating the deeper underlying causes of a problem and exploring, creating, and analyzing multiple ways to solve the problem”[6]Wible, “Using Design Thinking to Teach Creative Problem Solving in Writing Courses.” 403. If students are given the space to propose many options, it inherently begs students to think more deeply about why each choice matters in context.

WHAT COULD THIS LOOK LIKE?

Pay attention to the brainstorming that’s happening here.

In your writing class, you may not have project teams (or you may!) but this sort of open-ended environment offers a space to be unapologetically generative.

See what IDEO’s Tim Brown says about “focused chaos” as a team reimagines shopping carts.

Bibliography

Bibliography
1 Leverenz, Carrie S. “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing.” Computers and Composition 33 (2014): 9
2 Leverenz, “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing” 6
3 Leverenz, “Design Thinking and the Wicked Problem of Teaching Writing5
4 Wible, Scott. “Using Design Thinking to Teach Creative Problem Solving in Writing Courses.” College Composition and Communication 71 no. 3 (2020): 403.
5 Rude, Carolyn D. “The Report for Decision Making: Genre and Inquiry.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 9, no. 2, 1995, 185.
6 Wible, “Using Design Thinking to Teach Creative Problem Solving in Writing Courses.” 403.
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