Sitting down with David Kelley, IDEO’s CEO and Stanford d.School Founder

The other day, I got the opportunity to meet David Kelley. David’s accomplishments, yet contrast with his humility that particularly struck me. My takeaways are below:


1. How do we scale guided mastery?

The mission of the is to build confidence in creative abilities. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Instruction – The currently accomplishes this through instruction.

  2. Tools – I considered another way to do this, through tools — changing the interface with which we engage and learn. This reminds me of a passage from Seymour Papert’s book, Mindstorms:

When I trace how I came to be a mathematician, I see much that was idiosyncratic, much that could not be duplicated as part of a generalized vision of education reform. And I certainly don’t think that we would want everyone to become a mathematician. But I think that the kind of pleasure I take in mathematics should be part of a general vision of what education should be about. If we can grasp the essence of one person’s experiences, we may be able to replicate its consequences in other ways and in particular this consequence of finding beauty in abstract things.

If we really look at the “child as builder” we are on our way to an answer. All builders need materials to build with… In some cases the culture supplies them in abundance… For example, the fact that so many important things (knives and forks, mothers and fathers, shoes and socks) come in pairs is a “material” for the construction of an intuitive sense of number. But in many cases where Piaget would explain the slower development of a particular concept by its greater complexity or formality, I see the critical factor as the relative poverty of the culture in those materials that would make the concept simple and concrete.

2. The power of noticing

What if, instead of thinking of university as a contiguous 4-year experience, we thought of it as a 6-year experience, where you could spread out those 6 years and attend them at any time in your life?

The concept here is breaking the treadmill. The urgency and pressure to finish – and rather, create an extraordinary experience.

I find another thread intertwined here – the importance of gratitude. Contrast helps to create that. When you’ve been out of school for a few years, and then come back to school, you’re able to suddenly notice particular details and opportunities that you didn’t see as available before. 

How do we amplify the power of awareness?

A simple story which illustrates this:

This weekend I went to see the Mexican musical duo Rodrigo y Gabriela at Oakland’s Fox Theatre. As we sat down, my sister, who was sitting on my right, was fuming and said, “What? Our seats are all the way back here?!” The person on my left, meanwhile, looked up at the ceiling and said, “Wow, this is a beautiful theatre.” I looked up the at the ceiling and was in awe at the architecture. 

How does noticing change the way we perceive the same experience?

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