Mt. Vernon | Fail Forward

Peek your head into Stanford dorm life for a few minutes, and you might not notice anything wrong.  Stanford students go to a great university where they study intently, socialize easily, and are part of a caring community that invests in each students’ well-being. But scratch the surface of those lives, and tensions start to appear. Students feel the weight of heavy academic, social and professional expectations. While success appears rampant, many suffer from the so-called duck syndrome: Students appear calm and collected on the outside but are completely stressed out on the inside.

For a full week from February 29-March 4th, high school students from Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta, Georgia dove into the inner lives and lived experiences of Stanford University dorm students and designed programs and interventions to help residents of the Lantana dorm establish friendships and build community. The students at Mt. Vernon are in a unique innovation diploma program where they practice design thinking regularly, so we planned a week to enhance the design thinking skills and mindsets they came in with.

We framed the week as an opportunity to Fail Forward, borrowing from the designer’s handbook to fail early, fail often so you succeed sooner.  From a process perspective, the way we managed failure was by applying the prototyping mindset to various parts of human-centered design. Think of it this way: If you have multiple solutions to a problem, you’ve got a better chance of being right. And if you bring multiple solutions multiple times, your chances are even better.

The students from Mt Vernon deployed a prototyping mindset to design a breadth of solutions that helped Stanford establish friendship and build community. We spent the last day of the workshop prototyping videos for student solutions and presenting them back to members of the Stanford community. Watch product videos for the Fail Up Truck, Talking Tree, RA’s Righthand, Nerd Nation Trivia and Match Up. As always, resources are available on our K12 wiki.