School children collaborating on a project

Design creative solutions

We design creative solutions by working collaboratively to address challenges through a human-centered process, in order to reimagine systems and invite new possibilities for improving the lives and learning of others.

The idea of a lone creative genius working might be appealing, but in reality, collaboration feeds creativity. By incorporating the other practices of Principled Innovation to design creative solutions, we have to work with others to understand the problem and context, imagine possibilities and iteratively try them out to see what works well and reflect on next steps.

Reasoning and practice

Engage in reasoning and reflection with the following questions to immerse yourself in this practice:

  1. Who was involved with defining the problem and shaping your understanding of it?
  2. What are alternatives to the current way of approaching this subject, challenge or problem?
  3. How are the proposed solutions a fit for the context in which you’re working?What is it about your context that informed your innovation or decision?
  4. How will this design or decision reflect your commitment to the well-being of the individual, community and society?
  5. How can you ensure that this design process will result in positive growth and transformation for everyone involved?
  6. How will you know if the innovation is effective?
  7. Have you allowed yourself to ask “What if?” in order to engage in possibility thinking?
  8. What aspects of the problem or system are you intentionally excluding in this solution so that you can move forward?


The activities and resources below were designed for individual and group development of the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to engage this practice.

Engage groups of educators in a game that simulates the possibilities and pitfalls of using the design process in a school setting. This game promotes thoughtful discussion and highlights various design-based solutions throughout the stages of a design process: Inquire, Imagine, Iterate, Communicate, and Connect.

Time required: 60-90 minutes

“I Like / I Wish / I Wonder” is a design tool for generative critique. The key is that this method of critique is not simply aimed at pointing out flaws. Instead, it is used to imagine concrete possibilities and determine promising directions for improvement.

Time required: 20 minutes

This protocol was developed to help teams generate possibilities and proactively address potential problems before taking action.

Time required: Minimum 30 minutes