Speed dating is a well-known event in the realm of romantic dating. The framework of this event has been adopted in arenas beyond dating. This post shares how I translated speed dating into a life design activity for initial research ideation.
How Does Speed Dating Work?
Speeding dating is an event where people seeking out a romantic partner quickly meet multiple people in a single, often familiar, setting. Each participant has a conversation with one other person for a limited amount of time (i.e., a few minutes) before moving onto the next person.
Participants often make small notes about the people they meet. Typically, one set of participants is stationary, while the other set moves around.
Speed Dating and Life Design
The framework of speed dating has been adopted in design and design thinking for some time. The article, ‘Speed Dating: A Menu for Possible Futures‘ by John Zimmerman and Jodi Forlizzi (Carnegie Mellon University, Human-Computer Interaction Institute) provides a solid overview of how designers use speed dating and relevant examples.
In the realm of life design, a speed dating activity facilitates:
- Exposing participants to multiple people, perspectives, and possibilities
- Generating ideas and perspectives that were not considered prior to the activity
Speed Dating Activity for Initial Research Ideation
I am doing a series of life design workshops for a Research Design course aimed at 3rd-year Environmental Science and Studies majors. In their 4th year, they must execute a senior capstone research project and they begin the proposals for their project in the spring of their 3rd year.
Many students do not know where to start when it comes to conceiving a research project. I was brought in to do a few life design activities to help the research design process.
Prior to starting the life design portion, students discussed their assigned reading: Chapter 9: “Don’t follow your passion: Which careers make the most difference?” from ‘Doing Good Better‘ by William MacAskill. This reading helped broaden the scope of what could be considered impact – a key part of the first activity in the life design portion.
Life Design Activities
Activity #1: Modified Life Design Coordinate Plane
We first started with a modified Life Design Coordinate Plane Activity. The 4 main modifications were the following:
Modification 1: In addition to asking what skills, abilities, and interests students felt they had, I asked them to include what they would like to develop and explore.
Modification 2: Instead of highlighting 3 items in each quadrant that best represented them at the moment, students rewrote them in the center. This change parallels part of the prompt of the ‘Career Compass‘ activity, which inspired the Life Design Coordinate Plane.
Modification 3: Instead of post-its, I created a worksheet (PDF) so students could have an output that easily fits into their class folder/binder/notebook. Also, the worksheet included space for ‘Notes’ (relevant for Activity #2).
Modification 4: Time was built in for small group (2-3 people) discussions and additional brainstorming based on those discussions.
Timetable for Modified Life Design Coordinate Plane Activity
- Explain the premise of activity to students (1 minute)
- Individual brainstorming for ‘Skills’ quadrant (2 minutes)
- Individual brainstorming for ‘Interests’ quadrant (2 minutes)
- Individual brainstorming for ‘Work/Life Values’ quadrant (2 minutes)
- Individual brainstorming for ‘Impact’ quadrant (2 minutes)
- Small group discussion (3 minutes)
- Final brainstorming for all four quadrants (1 minute)
- Selecting up to 3 items in each quadrant to move to the center (2 minutes)
Activity #2: Speed Dating
After completing the modified Life Design Coordinate Plane activity, we moved on to the Speed Dating Activity. We first started out by rearranging two rows of chairs so each pair faced one another.
Each pair had 6 minutes together. For the first 3 minutes, one person would explain the items they listed in the center of their Life Design Coordinate Plane and get feedback from the other person. Then the roles would switch and the person who gave feedback would share the items on their Life Design Coordinate Plane.
Each person spoke to 3 different people during this activity. Feedback focused on how to connect items listed in the center into a possible research project. Individuals could jot down ideas in the ‘Notes’ section of the PDF.
Timetable for Speed Dating Activity
- Move around chairs and explain activity to students (2 minutes)
- First person in pair explains the center of their life design coordinate plane and gets feedback (3 minutes)
- Second person in pair explains the center of their life design coordinate plane and gets feedback (3 minutes)
- One row of participants shifts seats to meet a new partner
- Repeat steps 2-4 at least 2 more times
Coupling the two life design activities in this post fostered initial research ideation for students looking to pursue a project that would be integral to their collegiate education.
The modified Life Design Coordinate Plane activity provided a structured reflection surrounding:
- Where students felt like they were at AND
- What they would like to develop in terms of skills, interest, work/life values, and impact
These elements are important when exploring research projects that fit the individual. The results of the modified Life Design Coordinate Plane activity provided the basis for the Speed Dating activity.
The Speed Dating activity allowed students to share the items in the center of their Life Design Coordinate Plane. By speaking with at least three people (and getting feedback), students might realize connections between the items in the Life Design Coordinate Plane and potential research projects.
These two life design activities aimed at helping students hone in key aspects about themselves and how such elements could be intertwined into potential research projects.
Have you used design thinking activities for research design? Let us know in the comments below.