Have you ever felt stuck? Unsure about what to do next, or juggling too many ideas to know which one to pick?
The future can feel uncertain and unwieldy, especially at big moments like graduation. So, this March, Adam Royalty and Dave Lerner led Design Your Future at Columbia Entrepreneurship’s Design Studio – a program where students learned to apply human-centered design to planning their careers and life beyond Columbia.
“We really want to help people who are struggling with what that next step is; how to make that next decision,” says Royalty.
The idea behind the class resonated with many soon-to-be graduates and the class was quickly over-subscribed. Students from across campus – from SIPA and Columbia Engineering to the Business School and the School of Professional Studies – came to the Design Studio to approach their futures in a new way.
Over the course of three two-hour sessions, the teaching team used design thinking to help students turn hypothetical scenarios into concrete, manageable, and actionable options.
What gives you energy? What takes energy away?
What do you have a passion for? What do you find comforting? What tends to drive you when making critical decisions?
Students took the answers to such questions and identified three potential futures for themselves. Now students had a few clear paths to peer down, rather than staring at a blank map or trying to head down too many winding options. And then it was time to take a few steps really test new ground.
Royalty and Lerner helped students “try on” a future by scoping out experiments that would fit within the span of two weeks. For example, maybe you’ve always thought about being a teacher. To try it on, you would have to go out and teach – participate in an after school program or even just gather a group of friends to teach them something that you have some information about.
After the two-week test of a future self, the class met to debrief and reevaluate their plans. Students left with the creative confidence they need to grow their goals and prototype new ways to reach them, but also with the flexibility to change course. As Royalty points out that, at the end, nothing is permanent – you can always try a new direction.
Because the original class was oversubscribed, Columbia Entrepreneurship’s Design Studio hosted a condensed version of the program on May 2. Over the course of a 3-hour Design Your Future workshop, the gathered group wrote out and then reflected on the passions, fears, realities, and decisions that have emerged over the course of their lives. Using a combination of individual, group, and class time, everyone had a chance to explore patterns and connections, and then used that mindset to map out their potential paths forward. Once again, the focus was on concrete and incremental changes that can start a path down an energetic and fulfilling future.