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Tried & Failed

Overview:A student team from our East Coast Branch in Boston, MA used design thinking to solve one problem in their school community: students forgetting to bring their uniforms to daily sports practices, which resulted in them not being able to practice with their team that day. Their solution ultimately failed, but here is a recap of what they tried and learned using the design thinking process.

Empathize: High school sports coaches are frustrated with students who constantly forget to bring their uniforms to practice, which means they can’t play with their team if they are not in uniform. Students have to bring their uniforms home each night, wash them, and remember to bring them back the next day. Students are stressed out with the regular demands of school and have a lot to remember each day with their homework, club meetings, teams, etc., and they need and want physical exercise after a long day of classes to practice with their team.

Define: The problem is that students keep forgetting their sports uniforms and need a temporary solution to get sports clothing at school.

Ideate: The best idea from our brainstorming session is to supply students with a cheap way to rent sports clothes from school for a short period of time. We would purchase a certain amount of extra uniforms (30 pairs) of shorts and shirts that would be rentable from the school insignia store. We would donate 10% of our profits to a local charity. We would have a limit to the number of clothing items that people could check out at a time to prevent people continuing to rent and not return clothing (similar to the old Netflix “3 DVD’s out at a time” policy. We would charge people a cheap starting price at check out to cover the price of washing the clothing when it is returned and also the fee would go toward the cost of repaying the initial investment for purchasing the 30 sets of uniforms. Each day that someone does not return the uniform, they will be emailed and automatically charged for another day until the price of either the shorts or shirt is paid off with 5% interest.

Marketing: In order to promote our design thinking program, we plan to purchase 30 pairs of shirts and shorts that have a small but visible design thinking logo on them. This would be a good way to promote DT4T and promote how we solve other problems in the community. We plan to ask the Student Leadership Council for seed funding. If they decline our request we will plan a fundraiser to raise money.

Pros of using a DT4T logo on the uniforms:

- Advertisement for DT4T

- Allows us to identify who is wearing a rented pair of clothing

- We would always be able to know what is part of the rental service and what is not

Cons of using a DT4T logo on the uniforms:

- This would cost slightly more and might not be an affordable option

- We would need someone to design a cool design thinking logo

- Logo uniforms need to be maintained (logo could fade when laundered)

What could go wrong with rental uniforms?

Possible problems with renting is that people would forget to return the clothing before they go home after practice. This would decrease our inventory which would consequently decrease the number of people renting due to lack of supply.

Solutions to rental problems:

- Only allow people to have 2 items of clothing out at a time

- Each late day, the person who hasn’t returned the clothing will be automatically emailed and charged for another day of rental until:

- The items are returned

- The items are paid off with 5% interest.


To test this idea, we will implement a small prototype of our rental service that will not be expensive if it is a failure. This will also give us a visual of how the system will operate. If all goes well, we will hopefully implement a fully functional system by the start of next semester.

We will not order the custom shirts and shorts with a logo; rather we will use clean clothing that we ourselves own for this test since that’s free.


- This small test will take place over the course of 2 weeks.

- This test will tell us if the solution:

- Is popular enough to continue and grow into a full-scale operation

- Is economically feasible if people return clothing on time

- Has any bottlenecks or other issues we need to address

- We will track:

- The name of each customer

- How they treat the clothing

- If they return the clothing on time

- If they like the system and want to give feedback


After testing this idea for two weeks, unfortunately it was not successful. We learned:

  • it was too hard to get students to staff the rental desk and wash the clothes each night (people on our team were too busy to make that daily commitment)

  • too few students were aware of our service

  • students prefer their own clothes and didn’t want to wear someone else’s clothes

  • students would rather not go to sports practice than pay to rent a uniform if they forgot their own

  • students weren’t motivated by our model to donate 10% of profits to a local charity

Next steps:

We will regroup and find another problem to solve in our community, hopefully next time with a more successful solution!

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