Day Two kicked off with a deep dive on Systems Thinking, as Leyla guided the fellows through the complex, chaotic and beautiful ways in which systems exist in the world. Complexity is one topic mentioned a lot at the UnSchool, as a tool for understanding and activating change. Our fellows got to experience this first hand as they identified and then mapped out an array of complex systems.  

infinite possibilities, interconnectedness

The stocks and flows of systems are like the tap and drain in a bathtub. Water stocks the bathtub (or system) from the tap. Water flows out of the system through the drain. When the tap is running, and water is entering the system as a stock, there’s different outcomes depending on the state of the drain. If it’s open and the water can flow out that’s constant - but if the drain is clogged, the water will build up and overflow. There’s a third option, where the drain is clogged and the tap is turned off, maintaining a steady state of a full bathtub. The rate of the tap also matters: is it rushing or dripping? The different possible water pressures is a metaphor for how behavior changes over time - we can’t assume that water will always flow at the same rate, or people or systems will behave statically. Of course, the world is more complicated than a bathtub.

Leyla waxed poetic about the miracle of sprouting lentils as an example of emergence – taking an item that looks dead in the cupboard and introducing water and light to sprout life. That’s the emergent, life-giving property of the conditions.

systems mapping unschoolsf

Next, fellows took on a Systems Mapping challenge – choosing topics like nationalism, race, identity, community, and religion.

Granulating these complex concepts down to the next level was the final activity before lunch. Interconnected circles mapping helps to explore and connect the different elements of a system by writing words on individual pieces of paper and then connecting them out across a large circle. This allowed fellows to drill deeper on individual nodes within the systems. UnSchool Day 2 was definitely a crash course in complex, dynamic and interconnected thinking!

unschoolsf systems mapping activity

The team had prepared an incredibly colourful and nutritional smorgasboard of locally sourced yummy vegetables. A few of our fellows said they had never seen so many vegetables in one sitting! #PlantBasedPeoplePower #SoMuchKale

unschoolsf lunch veggies

To fill all the crevasses in our brains and stomachs, we shared stories and snacks after lunch. A fellowship tradition is to bring something from home to share. People always interpret this in beautiful ways - vegan chocolate from Melbourne through to Korean sweets and impossible-to-solve puzzles. We learned about the Coastal Salish loon, how delicious vegan chocolate can be, and that someone always brings maple syrup to a fellowship (this time it was surprisingly not a Canadian).

unschoolsf sharing treats

After delicious treats and conversation, it was time to explore another scintillating subject – Gamification and Game Theory. What makes people want to do things, or avoid them? How can we use cognitive behavior theory to help people achieve better outcomes (whatever that means)? What are the principles of game mechanics, modes, mechanisms, and motivators that we can apply in everyday life? [One anonymous fellow may already be planning exercise interventions for her significant other – watch out, partners!]

adam little prototyping

For a final fantastic session, UX designer, UnSchool alum and prototyping master Adam Little (UnSchool NYC alum and UnSchool Berlin Cohost) gave a sessions on the “Five Tips for Prototyping Your Next Great Idea,” followed by a fun and active prototyping design challenge. Six teams were given real local SF businesses with imaginary expansion ideas, and had to develop the prototype pitch using user feedback solicited from other people in the group. With prompts like creating a Nest thermostat service for climate deniers, Blue Apron for Tinder dates, and Lyft for Hummer owners, the prototype challenges were sassy and demanding.

unschoolsf day 2, adam little

After teams presented their fantastic ideas, it was time to reflect on the day with the cohort. Jessy and Regina used a Mad Libs-inspired format to facilitate the session. (For those of you who haven't had the joy of playing, Mad Libs is a fill-in-the-blanks word game that results in hilarious stories.) One of the winners was “If Cognitive Science had a spirit animal it would be a hedgehog because it’s prickly and amazing.”

unschoolsf laughing

Fellows were then split into five groups for the evening’s final activity – dinner together in the Mission district of San Francisco, with a twist! Each team received an envelope with a secret challenge, to be completed and shared with the group tomorrow morning. Can’t wait to find out what these fun folks are tasked to disrupt!.