10 KEY WORDS FOR DESIGN THINKING

Hervé Collignon Blog, Non classé

THE 10 DESIGN THINKING KEY WORDS

The exercise of summarizing Design Thinking into 10 key words is adventurous but as an introduction to this discipline, it has been reported to me as a useful way to explain this process. There are all equaly important and fundamental to start applying it with your teams.

1- FRAMING

If you want to find meaningful and viable solutions, you need to have a well identified problem. But how do you define your business problem? How do you make sure it captures the essence of the challenges you are facing as a company.  This is here the starting point to every single design thinking journey. Having a properly framed problem, also called as a Wicked Business Problem (WBP), is one of the most challenging step before to start the journey. The answer cannot be included in the question (it seems obvious but it is a trap which you will easily fall into at the beginning). Ensure the question is open, fair, engaging and don’t forget to get the full support from the sponsor of the project. Finally, validate it with different functions (R&D, Finance, Marketing, category manager,…) within the company and see how people react. Take the necessary time to improve it if necessary.

2- EMPATHY

This is a muscle you will have to exercise. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the others is not an easy task. Although this talent is recognized as an intuitive skill for designers and probably a common point among creative people, it remains a difficult behavior for most of the population. Being able to read the emotions and decrypt the motivations or the frustrations which people experience when facing a situation is not a competency everyone is familiar with. A simple exercise can help getting use to it: put you imagination at work and choose an ad in a magazine with minimum 2 people on the picture. Imagine what they said, thought, did and felt in the scenery.

3- COLLECTIVE CURIOSITY

This principle is important whenever you need to create a mindset which facilitates innovation process. Whenever you need to crack business problems or create new opportunities, the diversity of perspective and experience among the participants as much as the variety of discipline represented will contribute to understand and reveal solide human centered solutions thanks to a Collective Curiosity approach. This principle allows cross-pollination and helps everyone in the team to build on each others ideas. This is what makes the conversations rich, honest, open and constructive. None has the right answer, but everyone has the right to ask questions and share his way of seeing the world.

4- INSPIRATION

Muses have always inspired artist. In large corporation or even in start-ups and more generally in the context of a business organisation you don’t have such resources internally (personally I have never used one). Instead the World is full of incredible talents, which you can hear on TED talks or even find on YouTube. Inspiration is surrounding us and has never been so accessible. But inspiration for the sake of it is useless. It has to serve your purpose and illustrate your point, connected to your business challenge. The location where the workshop takes place should help inspire the whole team. It can also be in the way you configure the room or name the teams. There are many ways to open the ears, the eyes and the mind of the participants. Remember how easy it is to access the World with internet. Last tip: never underestimate humor to inspire your own team. It helps people expressing themselves when they have to step out their comfort zone.

5- STORYTELLING

A hero, an obstacle, a quest/treasure, an enemy, all these are helping to create a story. But why telling a story? Because in a story you can convey emotions, you can bring the reader to follow your journey and empathize with the hero. You can list all the steps into which the user is going through. You can evaluate the high and the low emotions. In the context of a Design Thinking Workshop, your hero is the user. It is a fabulous enabler to empathize with the user and follow him in his journey with the product, the service, or the solution you have created. It is not only a way to deviate from the standard concept presentation, it is instead an easy way to live the life of the users and step in his shoes.

6- IDEATION

It is similar to a brainstorming session, with blue sky ideas, with impossible concepts or too obvious ones. The classic leitmotiv « you can’t say NO » applies and each team should be able to write 50 ideas from the simplest to the most unexpected. On my opinion, the ideation phase is probably the easiest part of the Design Thinking process if you have prepared properly the initial phases and draw the correct hypothesis. It is always surprising to see how different ideas can be even inside a team. It is even more amazing to see how different can be ideas among different teams but in a same workshop, within the same company, for an identical wicked business problem. The key insight which I got from all the workshops I have facilitated is the difficulty for participants to overcome their fear of the white page. One tip to avoid such an obstacle is to provide paper with something draw or written on it.

7- FLEXIBILITY

It is a no brainer to say the World is getting more and more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA*).  The capability to adapt, to understand and see with clarity in an environment which evolves at the speed of internet/light requires certain skills. One of them is the agility. We have to become more agile. What does that mean practically? Agility is a recurrent word which large organizations integrate as a nice wish, or in the best case, in their strategy. How agile are we with our business model? How agile are you with your organization? How agile are you with the always changing technologies? How agile are you with your users who interact with your products/services? The way Design Thinking operates has to be highly flexible. Participants should be able to switch of team, individuals should be able to think out of their comfort zone, board members should accept the outcome of what users tell them and project sponsor should accept their Wicked Business Problem is not the one initial thought. These are few examples on why flexibility is essential to a more efficient Design Thinking mindset.

(*VUCA is an acronym which you can find more about on Wikipedia here)

8- LOW RES PROTOTYPING

« Progress ideas quickly and cheaply to succeed or fail quickly and cheaply » Although this is accepted by start-ups because taking risks is part of their DNA, it is certainly a much more difficult exercise for large corporations. In an article in the September 2015 issue of HBR,  Mauro Porcini, PepsiCoChief Design Officer shares a very clever example. If in a room with different people I say : « knife »,  everyone will see different kind of knife in his mind depending of his culture, his expertise, his needs or his unmet needs. If I show them a knife, and in the room we have a marketer, an ergonomist and a scientist, everyone will be able to comment according to his own set of skills. This illustrates pretty well the benefits of prototyping. It makes the exercise tangible and helps everyone to bring his expertise in a more focus way. If it is faster it is cheaper and low res prototypes reduce risks when it comes to validate concepts. Last point regarding low res prototype: don’t work on making it beautiful or attractive. This is not the purpose. Low res prototype can also be a sketch, a role play or a game into which you user will interact and show what works or what doesn’t.

9- ITERATION

Design Thinking is a non-linear, adductive and iterative process. It implies the capability to build on each others ideas. It leverages a culture of doers. Iteration is the ability to accept feedback as a gift, read between the lines and integrate insights into your prototype to improve your first idea. Iteration is an easy task if you know how to capture what users say and sometime do not express. You learn by doing, sometime you fail. Your capability to accept the failure and progress your concept is not an option. In 1954, Tefal pans where invented this way. It was originally a teflon paint which a Dupont engineer added to his fishing gear to dismantle it more easily. Sharing his finding with his wife, she advised to apply the paint on a pan because eggs were always sticking on it and it was difficult to clean it… He tried. The success among her wife’s friends went viral and two years later Tefal was created. The company is now internationally renown and sell non-stick cookware all over the planet. The story does not tell how many prototypes were developed to make this innovation produced at large scale. Still, this iterative process was a real culture within Tefal for years. Every employee were encouraged to share ideas and add their valuable insights and feedback with the CEO.

10- COLLABORATION

Today most companies work in silos. Each function stays and works within their own area of competencies. Too many meetings to update each others and most of the outcome are alignments between functions with very rare thinking out of the box solutions and for sure, a good risk assessment to kill employee own initiatives. This is not what we call a collaborative approach. Let’s say if you look at a challenge from your perspective and only based on your expertise, whatever you propose is just one solution which is highly influenced by your own understanding of the situation. If you have a multi-functional group which look at an aligned and framed problem, there are good chances the outcome of the exercise is more complete, as long as you let everyone express his point of view and work toward a consolidated solution. Very few companies have understood this benefit. This is unconventional and not promoted internally and most of the time it scares upper-management. But the value is instantly noticeable. Note that most of successful start-ups have adopted this approach. Everyday such type of work environment is mentioned in innovation newsletter as a reference for their collaborative mindset. I recommend a book written by a friend of mine, Kursty Groove, and which illustrates perfectly this concept. The book name is « I wish I worked there! » Have a look, you might be surprised. Beside the fancy aspect of most of the example shared, it references all type of organization, from start-ups to large international corporations.

If you would like to know more about Innovation with Design Thinking, you can contact me directly by email or via Skype