A few weeks ago, Zühlke held an Innovation Academy in the Philippines. Together with Aiducation International Switzerland and the local partner Pathways to Higher Education mentors of Zühlke taught Design Thinking to 42 students. I interviewed one of the students to know more about how she experienced the week.
Zühlke: What and where do you study? How long have you been part of pathways?
Patricia Anne S. Yray: I recently graduated with a degree in Philosophy, with a minor in Global Politics from the Ateneo de Manila University. I have been part of Pathways to Higher Education as a student volunteer since 2015. Last school year, I was a student officer for Non-Academic Formation, organizing workshops and trainings geared towards leadership formation of our high school participants.
What makes the work of Pathways important in your eyes?
I think the gaps in the Philippine education system create the need for effective holistic leadership formation. This is why I think Pathways’ work is important. Pathways aims to form students with high potential, despite being from difficult financial backgrounds, so that they may be leaders in whatever careers and fields they will pursue. Pathways and its partners like Aiducation International and Zühlke equip students with essential skills to be used, together with their keen understanding and solidarity with the marginalized, to blaze new trails and build a better Philippines for all.
“The mentors from Zühlke are empowering.”
What motivated you to take part in this Academy?
I participated because I have long been interested in the application of creative, critical thinking in solving complex problems. Being aware of the complexity of the issues we face in our country, I sought out to learn both the foundational principles and the practical methods of Design Thinking, so that I could apply them in my future career which shall serve our people.
What’s your overall impression of the first Zühlke Innovation Academy?
I found it to be very hands-on and out-of-the-box. The generous input and coaching from the mentors, the energetic participation of my co-delegates, as well as the workshop structure of the academy as a whole, challenged and inspired me greatly. I think this academy is truly relevant and important, and that its participants have the responsibility to apply and propagate the learnings to their respective sectors and fields to make a better Philippines.
“Letting our ideas go was difficult”
Compared to other academies, how was this Academy different?
This academy was incredibly different from other academies not only because of the content that it covered, but also because of its structure and mentors. The structure is also better than other academies because despite being more free and open, the time allotted for immediate application and hands-on learning experience encouraged self-direction and creativity. Finally, the mentors from Zühlke are empowering. They believed in our potential, and because of this, they challenged us to think and do better. They encouraged us to be critical of our own and our peers’ ideas, that we may accept inadequacy as completely human.
What was challenging for you?
Paring down / converging ideas was the most challenging for me. I take pride in the ideas I conceive of, and in my group, the mix of strong personalities from varied contexts produced in us excellent ideas during the ideation part. Because we were all convinced of our ideas’ strength and viability, letting our ideas go in order to make room for the group’s collaborative iterations and improvements was quite difficult. In connection to this, we thought challenging each other’s ideas was something deeply personal, because of the prideful ownership we exercise over them. With the aim of being polite, asking critical questions towards each other was a challenge.
“I have learned primarily the importance of not being stuck in my own head”
Did that or anything else make you feel uncomfortable?
Nothing at all. Perhaps the only regret I have from the academy was not being able to have more than one mentoring session.
What are your major learnings from this Academy?
In this academy, I have learned primarily the importance of not being stuck in my own head. The sharing of ideas and decision-making as a group pushed me to communicate my ideas clearly and effectively. What first seemed a great idea in my head, proved to be complex and incomplete once it was set out in the open. Another major learning from this academy is definitely the principle of failing forward. Perhaps our educational training and societal contexts have shaped our perceptions of failure – always associating it with faults and inadequacy. The academy, and most of all, the mentors’ coaching, allowed us to see the capability of failing early on in the process to shape the succeeding outputs in ways that are much better than we could have ever imagined.
Anything else you would like to mention?
The mentors are really amazing people! They are very generous with their time and towards us talents and have been actively applying Design Thinking throughout the entire process. They were very open and encouraging, but most of all, they were very genuine in their interactions and mentorship. They are true assets to Zühlke.