Book Read: Design for Strengths

“‘You can have all the right answers, but it doesn’t matter if you are answering the wrong question.’ The willingness to circle back and challenge the central question and continue to ask it in a better way – and potentially abandon the current exploration – that is the hallmark of Design Thinking.” – John K. Coyle in Design for Strengths


In education, there is a lot of talk about students discovering their passions, their strengths, their interests, and then building upon those through personalized learning opportunities. What does that truly look like? Although Coyle’s book is not specific to education, there are so many nuggets of wisdom that we can apply to our school culture. 

“Skill gaps are easy – you work at them until you master them. Gravity problems – you accept them, quit solving for them, and then design around them.”

“Step Zero: Acceptance. You can’t solve a problem you are not willing to have.”

“Just because you ‘accept’ something does not mean you agree with it or submit that it is ‘OK.’ It simply means you accept that it is.”

“Most companies hire for diversity of talent, experience, and background – and then they waste it… more often than not, they ask each team member to do the same set of tasks in the very same way… they ignore the unique capabilities and contributions that individuals bring and, in so doing, waste all that unique talent they recruited in the first place.”

“The ‘one size fits all’ fair approach to work task distribution is a recipe for an unengaged team.”

“When all the team members have a reasonably good working knowledge of each other’s strengths, they will – on their own (with a nudge of encouragement from leadership) – start to self-organize for their strengths.”

In all honesty, I probably have Post-Its on every other page in this book and could have put so many quotes in this post. It’d be a great book study for teacher groups looking to better understand ways in which to develop personalized, strengths-based environments for both students and staff.

Design for Strengths
Design for Strengths

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