With Trestles’ guidance, MIT’s Sloan School walked in the shoes of international students to better understand their current experience and what could be enhanced, or even taken away, to make the experience better.
MIT Sloan School of Management had a hunch that their current services weren’t fully meeting the needs of its international student population . While general satisfaction surveys tended to show positive results, other anecdotes and reports from around the institution showed them a possibly divergent story: that international students were craving more than what MIT Sloan was currently offering them.
Trestles expertise is uniquely positioned to solve these types of organizational challenges because we are lean and nimble, pack the power of a seasoned in-house design manager, and practice the humility of a coach.
Working closely with Sloan staff, Trestles organized a Design Intensive, deploying our Customer Journey Mapping toolkit. Our work together with Sloan consisted of several onsite workshops, team trainings, ethnographic interviews and rapid visualization. Throughout the project we worked collaboratively with a team of approximately 30 staff from across MIT, and four MBA students who worked integrally with our team. Our objective in this project was twofold: engage a diverse team of stakeholders in a highly iterative design process to unlock new organizational potential, and uncover specific insights about international student experience to drive student satisfaction.
The impact of our work with MIT was tremendous. A year later, Kassie Tucker, Associate Director, MBA and MSMS Program Office, reported: “I am applying design thinking approaches now to nearly all my projects … I’m in love with this new approach and its opening up new solutions and approaches to repeat projects or persistent challenges.”
Our approach with MIT was not traditional or cookie cutter. And you couldn’t find it in a textbook. MIT invited Trestles to work alongside an internal team of both students and leadership, not to design on their behalf. So, we approached our interactions more as co-designers and coaches rather than as an external research and design function. This way of working is foundational to our engagement style and impact. “We were able to affirm everyone’s current contributions to the student experience while, in a blame-free environment, address the current shortcomings of our service. It’s from that place that we advanced the conversation to a new place and became really productive problem solvers. It unlocked our brilliance and pointed it in the same direction.”
To Kassie’s point, this is integral to how Trestles works with each of its clients, and its what sets us apart from many other consultancies and design firms: we design with, not for; we equip and empower, rather than solving on behalf of. “Within each client interaction, we engage a team deeply in a problem space to create shared understanding and shared vision before jumping to solutions, and we empower our clients to be their own problem solvers” says Rebecca, CEO. “After all, it is about them not us.” We have found that this approach is critical to foster a meaningful adoption of solutions that often necessitate both behavior and cultural change.