For an Analytical person like me who finds comfort in planning and knowing the details, the testing phase of the design process is the most nerve wrecking. After a point, you can’t really do much but wait and see what happens. It is beyond our control. That is uncomfortable. Pragya and I were as prepared as we could be on 26th Dec to test our experiments that were directed to answer critical questions for us to design a volunteer program for government hospitals in India. We used excel sheets (yes, plural) to analyze the idea, break it into parts to imagine how to test it, how could it be executed. We spoke to people to build relationships in hospitals in which we would conduct these experiments.
And finally we landed in India. With the help of the staff and administration of the hospital, we got a tour of the hospital to understand the procedure and experience in the hospital. We went back home and planned some more. Who will we talk to the next day, what do we want to say, what do we want to ask, why and every possible thing that could be said, done or go wrong. And then we waited..
We looked at each and then the paper in front of us that had our plan on it. After working for months on this project we now shared a rapport where we would think the same things at the same time. This was one of those moments. We were both thinking ‘What now’ and we both agreed that we were as prepared as we could be now we only have to let go and wait to see what happens..
What happened the next day was something that was not on that piece of paper or any of the Excel sheets. We met Sonu.
While we were conducting interviews, we could see from the corner of our eyes a young girl looking towards us from a distance. She later dragged her family along to talk to us. She asked us what we were doing and started following us. She is Sonu. After we asked her a few questions which were a part of our ‘plan’ we got distracted by other patients who needed help. She patiently followed us and would shyly suggest ideas on how we could approach the patients. ‘Can I help you guys help these patients?’
Pragya and I looked at each with the biggest smile on our face. ‘Yes!’ She joined us in our testing until she was called back by her family. It is a good feeling to be working on a project that you are really passionate about. It is a great feeling when you see your work grow from concepts to tangible forms that creates the impact you envision but it is an amazing feeling when someone else, especially from the community you are trying to work with, recognizes the value of your work and believes in it.
We came back home with an amazing feeling. Not because someone approved of our idea but more importantly, someone wanted to be a part of it. Someone dedicated their time to contribute to it. I feel I would have felt the same amazing feeling even if she would have followed us to tell us why she wouldn’t want to be a part of it.
Testing, experimenting and prototyping is not about passing or failing, it is about learning. That day we learnt that the prototyping phase makes us nervous, the uncertainty of the phase makes us uncomfortable but its important to acknowledge it and then go ahead with it. Fear is paralyzing. If we wouldn’t have gone to the hospital and stuck to our plan without checking our assumptions, we would have never met Sonu. We would have never learnt what we know today. It is only after uncertainty that you can arrive at certainty. We can only plan so much. What comes out of uncertainty and surprises you, is beautiful. Don’t be scared of it. Go in with an open and curious mind. Be willing to be proven wrong and in fact, hope for it.