How Design Thinking Shaped Content for Children’s Television
Commissioning Editor, Children's BBC, U.K.
Kez is bringing a more empathetic lens toward understanding her audience at the BBC.
IDEO U COURSES COMPLETED:
Insights for Innovation, Storytelling for Influence
“I appreciated the importance of taking content as prototypes, testing them, and iterating—to not be precious about it, and to see it as a creation that can be made with the audience.”
Tell us what you do and what your work typically entails.
I work as Commissioning Editor at BBC, working with independent production companies across the UK to create non-scripted content for children. I help through all steps of the process, from discovering new companies to honing their ideas to watching final cuts and getting them on TV. Before COVID-19, there was an enormous amount of travel involved, since I’m constantly meeting new companies and filming around the UK. Oftentimes, I work with 12 companies at a time, so it’s very busy.
I’m also helping with our diversity and inclusion work. I want to make sure we keep the momentum going, constantly pushing and challenging ourselves. It might feel difficult and painful at times, but if we can get it right, we will be a better company as a result of it all.
“It taught me how to sit with discomfort—to really see and learn from every small moment.”
Why did you initially seek out this IDEO U course?
I was selected to join the Clore Fellowship Program, which brings together a cohort of 20 international leaders to learn together across several months. We also share our own experiences, and one member of the group works in design thinking. He ran a workshop and I was fascinated by it. It challenged my way of thinking and it felt like a door had unlocked for me.
As part of my fellowship, I had an educational budget, so I started seeking out design thinking opportunities. I was originally going to travel to the U.S. for an in-person course, but it fell through due to the pandemic, so I started looking online.
I really liked how IDEO U presented itself—it felt genuine and exciting. I also like that it had always been focused on online learning, so it was miles ahead of other universities that were just catching up in that space. The timing of the course worked out perfectly, so it felt like it was meant to be!
During these uncertain times, how did the IDEO U course help you to navigate and move forward?
It taught me how to sit with discomfort—to really see and learn from every small moment.
I was able to interact with an international cohort, which I’d never have expected to do before lockdown. I’m in England, but the fact that I was able to feel close to people in the United States was powerful.
I took the course during George Floyd’s murder and everyone was sharing their experiences. I appreciated being able to have these conversations and talk about how we were feeling in our breakout rooms, just sitting together with the moment. That’s why I also appreciated our course leader. It was a real skill to bring together people from all over the world on Zoom and create an atmosphere where people felt safe to talk and really heard.
“It was a real skill to bring together people from all over the world on Zoom and create an atmosphere where people felt safe to talk and really heard.”
How has IDEO U helped you with your goals?
The focus on process and understanding your audience (what they believe, love, do) is so relevant to the way we talk about content at the BBC. You can get lost and forget the audience when you’re creating content, so it was a really useful reminder to make things as relevant as possible to the person you have in mind.
We have research groups where we take BBC content to schools to test. In the past, I always made something perfect before showing it to the kids, but it meant they had little wiggle room if they had comments or suggestions.
In the IDEO U course, I appreciated the importance of taking content as prototypes, testing them, and iterating—to not be precious about it, and to see it as a creation that can be made with the audience. We don’t want to focus on small differences, but rather on whether it makes our audience laugh and where we can make it better. It was a great reminder of the importance of early prototyping.
Are there any learnings that really stand out to you from this course?
We did an exercise where we were given the same picture and everyone had to share what they noticed. Everyone in my group saw something different. It was a simple reminder of how much of our own upbringing and lived experience contributes to every decision. I can stop and think, “Whoa! Hang on a minute—if it wasn’t me looking at this, how would someone else interpret it?” This exercise tied back nicely to our diversity and inclusion work, because there is always more than one way to view a situation.
I also realized the process is more important than the product, because the product will come out of the process. In TV, it’s all about the end product. But if you get the process right, the product will be right, because it’s the natural conclusion. That was a real “aha!” moment for me.
“I enjoyed the people in the course, too. It felt like every time we were in a breakout room, we had a fantastic discussion.”
Did you have any questions before starting the IDEO U course?
I love real human contact, so I was concerned about whether it would work for me as an online process. I wondered if the course would be useful, or if it would feel like a pure indulgence. I also wasn’t sure if the workload would be too much on top of everything else.
However, I found that it was a very well-paced, helpful course with generous timelines. I especially liked the simplicity of the weekly assignments. We weren’t asked to do anything huge, so we could bring as much complexity as we wanted, depending on how much time we had.
And how did you end up feeling about the online experience?
It was my first online course that I’ve taken, and it was really great. At first, I thought it was a bit American that we got green stars everytime we did something—but soon, it became addictive!
I really liked the weekly meetings and workshops, which were based on the video content. They encouraged me to watch the videos beforehand; I realized I’d get more from the course if I kept up with the program. I enjoyed the people in the course, too. It felt like every time we were in a breakout room, we had a fantastic discussion.
Specifically, I loved that we were required to comment on other students’ work. Everyone really put thought into their assignments, so you really get drawn into the projects. It was a joyous experience and beautiful to get responses from other people. You put the work in, but you knew that it was going to be seen by others and get some feedback. The funny thing was that we were all in different time zones, so assignments would get uploaded through the day and night. It felt like a real community in terms of the work. Plus, I made friends along the way—I’m still in touch with somebody that I worked with on an assignment.
What advice would you give someone who is considering a course with IDEO U
I recommended the other Clore Fellows to take an IDEO U course! It’s worth doing and you really get out of it what you put in. If you’re motivated, curious, and ready to enter an experience with your whole self, then these courses are for you.
If you take the course, my advice is to make sure you bond quite early on with at least one other person, so you can support each other. Don’t be afraid to just approach someone you never met before and ask if they want to go through the process together. It makes it a far more rewarding experience.
Develop empathy for your customers and surface insights for creating products and services they want and need.
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