Brainstorming session with post it notes on desk

Stanford lecturers Bill Burnett and Dave Evans teach the university’s most popular class, “Designing Your Life.” The course shows students how to apply the principals of design thinking, often used in product development, to their own lives. Burnett and Evans have published the lessons from the popular course in a new book of the same name. The two join us this hour to share tips for developing better ideas, solving problems and being more productive.

Related Shows:

How Design Thinking Can Help You Meet Your Goals 27 December,2016Michael Krasny

Bill Burnett, executive director, Design Program, Stanford; co-author, "Designing Your Life"
Dave Evans, co-founder, Stanford Life Design Lab; co-author, "Designing Your Life"

  • jakeleone

    Man I really wanted to write about my dreams last night, very weird but cool in a techie guy way, but I am scared it might give away a lot, and I don’t share tech.

    So I am going to ask. Given a low resolution concept, a sketch if you will (and there a milion ways to sketch), how does that bridge to the final product? How does the human mind change the resolution to glue in the bits on to a sketch?

  • Robert Thomas

    For people who actually build things, a “Prototype” is NOT an experiment. It is the fabrication of an object without regard to the cost incurred by low volume fabrication, using “off the shelf” rather than purpose-built components and ignoring perfection of form in favor of practicality of function.

    “Proof of Concept” is something like an experimental stage of development.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Perhaps a “Proof” describes the conceptual counterpart of prototype to a tangible creation or invention. Makes me think, prevailing thinking isn’t about what’s the most elegant or precise but that which copies well.

      • Robert Thomas

        Mostly what it describes is a different stage of budgeting. Before the prototyping phase is embarked upon, experimentation is over with. Or else, my employer is headed out of business.

        • Kevin Skipper

          -Enter: Vertical Integration.

          • Robert Thomas


          • Kevin Skipper

            The idea that complete ownership of the development and manufacturing process allows the flexibility production to be an experiment of its own. Designing responsive, agile testing and distribution processes is an engineering feat in and of itself.

          • Robert Thomas

            Designing responsive, agile [manufacturing,] testing and distribution processes is what I’ve spent the last thirty-five years doing, for a living.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Sounds like a sweet gig. What track did you take to get started?

          • Robert Thomas

            High-school-educated family members in the electrical and mechanical building trades; a fascination with magnets (and books about electricity an magnetism) by age four; a habit gained by age eight or nine for seeing and drawing any mechanical object in “exploded view” (whether or not I knew how the thing worked); preadolescence spent in disassembly and reassembly of electronic devices and a fascination for vacuum tube RF and Audio; 1970s high school spent developing many interests including computing machinery; electrical engineering formalism, prominently financed by simultaneous employment as an assembler and then technician in the power supply and embedded μ-controller business; ten years in the 1980s mini-supercomputer sector. Ten years at MIPS/Silicon Graphics, followed by fifteen in the internet core router industry. I guess that gets me started for this week.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Cool. I remember the Cray Supercomputer. That was pretty awesome. Cool that you got a chance to tinker and explore your interests early on. Interesting as well that you liked to draw exploded views. I like drawing in magnified windows.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Thanks Forum. Very cool topic. The guest’s narrative reminds me of things I’ve heard about in life planning, storyboarding and advanced computer programming alike. Thought mapping, syntactical language and organization offer boundless options and space to create, develop or change any story, be it a cinematic feature, ones own life story or, for that matter, the daily news.

    What used to be defined as material privilege is now more than ever, a function of informational access.

  • Ben Rawner

    What are some solutions for reminding oneself about why we chose a particular path or activity when we hit difficulties and or lack of inspiration?

  • Dave

    The book is great… I’m reading it now. Particularly interested in how this can help older baby boomers who are trying to figure out what to do next with their lives. There are 80 million Baby Boomers, and as a society we need to figure out how to keep them “in the game” (versus “just retiring”). Stories about how this can help older people… ??

  • Kevin Skipper

    With the ways that planning, modelling, experimentation and prototyping are used in education and development, what would you say is the role of intuition or what some might call raw inspiration in Life Design? Is there still a place for the proverbial Blinding Flash of Light among today’s innovative leaders?

  • Kevin Skipper

    Honing one’s intuition. Very nice. Sounds like balance between maintaining a state mental discipline and emotional ‘self-listening.’ Thanks.

  • Laurie A. Berliner

    How is your book useful to a person (older, not college age) who needs/Wants to change career path due to life events. In my case, death of my husband. I just can’t imagine continuing life as a trial lawyer. I can’t take the conflict, argument, another loss.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Maybe you could consult for organizations focused on providing legal education. At the same time, perhaps it’s possible that your healing process will prove a source of strength and wisdom to make you a better professional in any field that you wish to approach.

  • Noelle

    they don’t do tracking in Finland! so much for the guys commenting on education in Europe!

    • Kevin Skipper

      A socialist society without tracking is like a dystopian future with no Big Brother. Unimaginable.

  • jakeleone

    I think this was more about management then about anything mathematical or any proven methods.

    It was a very good discussion, and very honest about the topic. And it shows, these guys have management skills.

    I didn’t get a sense that these guys really understand the difference between design and sculpting. Although they eluded to iterations (a form sculpting), knowing how this is different from design is important.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor