Design Thinking - Amy & Matthew 7

29 Nov 2016 Latest News

Introduction to Week 7

If you've been here before, feel free to go right down to this week's post.

If this is your first time reading about Amy & Matthew, here's a little intro: Our education doesn’t stop when we finish school/university anymore – and to be honest for successful people that was never the case anyhow. However, now - more than ever – knowledge is key to career development. There are other components too, though; emotional intelligence, soft skills, ICT skills, a different approach to management and leadership.

In this column, we would like to have a look at these changes from a new angle and in a new format – that of a discussion between Matthew, a man in his early sixties, and Amy, a young woman who is just taking her first management position. They have been paired to exchange experience and knowledge, to further their understanding of how career development works nowadays. It is a mutual mentoring set-up, where each is learning from the other. The main medium is open dialogue but articles and videos are used to illustrate some points and/or give more in-depth insight.

Along with the column, we provide tips, exercises, surveys and resources, to empower you to update your own career development wherever you feel it would be beneficial.

All these resources will be combined, week by week, into one e-book “People & Co Career Growth Manual - Your Guide to Career Development in the 21st Century”

If you would like to read last week's post in the series, click here.

Now, let's start the seventh session:

Week 7 - Design Thinking

Matthew has invited the whole department to join this session and has asked Amy to run it as an interactive workshop, since he thinks that understanding - and experiencing - the principles of design thinking will be beneficial to everyone.

Note to the reader: You're welcome to follow along and do the workshop as well. All you need is at least three colleagues, a flipchart and a few markers.

A: So, we've decided on an 'open workshop' format for today, highly interactive, to get everyone involved, learning by doing. I'm going to explain the process briefly and then we'll jump right in together.

I chose the model used at Stanford Design School. The five basic elements of this model are: empathize - define - ideate - prototype - test.

There are several models around that use different numbers of stages and various names but in principle they are all pretty much the same. They focus on human need and interaction, on iterative approaches and on getting to a solution.

I'm going to explain and explore them in a linear manner here, but they don't have to be applied like that. You can implement several stages in paralell, leave some out, focus more on one... it's entirely up to you. It's just important to make it about action, creativity, empathy and solutions.

So, the elements play out like this:

Empathise - talk to those affected by the issue you're trying to solve, understand their pain and their wishes.

Define what you're working on 

Ideate - brainstorm ideas, go crazy, don't hold back, be playful and creative, whatever you do, don't censor at this stage.

Prototype - create a rough model, make your idea tangible, palpable, something that your user can interact with and give you feedback on.

Test - go out there and let potential users play with your prototype, see where they get stuck, what is intuitive, what needs explanation, etc.

To try the process out, I'm going to ask you to work in groups of four on issues that we're all familiar with:

1) My inbox overwhelms me, I'm constantly playing 'catch up'

2) I'm so busy, I don't get a chance to do the long-term stuff, like strategy

3) There are certain tasks I'm forever putting off

In each group of four, form two pairs. You'll work together with this partner for the entire workshop, while the other pair will be your users. So first you need to decide who will be users first and who will be designers first.

Then the users decide which of the four problems they can most relate to.

Designers, you now have five minutes to find out what your users are feeling when they experience this problem. How does it affect them, their work and their interactions with others? You want to feel completely able to put yourselves in their shoes. 

I recommend to ask open questions, starting with 'how' and 'what'. Try to reach the emotional level.

Five minutes, then switch roles. Choose a different topic to work on and go for another five minutes.

Now define the exact issue. Complete the sentence: We are solving for...

Ok, now we're going to form new groups. Who is working on issue 1 - the overflowing inbox? Issue 2... etc. Form three groups of 'designers', one for each issue. Share your insights and brainstorm solutions together. Use a lot of sketches and diagrams to communicate ideas, you could also use mind maps and flow charts. Anything that gets you away from just words to a more visual representation of your ideas. No full sentences, definitely no full paragraphs, shout out ideas, sketch to clarify, quick, rough, the more ideas, the better. Sit around one of these big blank posters and go for it.

10 minutes to work in these groups.

Now go back to your original groups of four. Ask your users for feedback on your ideas. Encourage them to be completely honest. It might hurt a bit right now but it saves you a lot of time later. Don't get too attached to your ideas. This is not about 'selling your idea', this is about getting an honest evaluation. So just take in the feedback you're getting, resist the urge to justify yourself and your idea.

Five minutes for each pair.

Ok, now we move onto the next stage - now it gets to be really hands-on!

Try to make a physical model of your best idea, the one the users found most accessible and useful. Play, try things out, symbolise at least one crucial element of the process with your prototype.

For example, if your solution to the email issue involves sorting into different categories or folders, you could build a model where one box is at the top and there are chutes leading down to several smaller boxes at the bottom.

Or if your solution to the time management issue involves the important and urgent grid, you could represent it with four physical, different-coloured boxes.

I'll give you ten minutes for that.

Now ask your users to test your prototype. In return, you test theirs. Give each other feedback, again focusing on creating the best possible product. Resist the urge to justify, just listen and take in the comments and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this experiment and want to learn more/take it deeper, you can also try this Crash Course by the 'dschool' at Stanford University.

Next week we'd like to get your feedback on how it worked out.




Apply the principle of action and multiple iterations to your upcoming projects. How can you swing into action straight away? What can you try out?


Work through the process described above yourself. Just find yourself a couple of team mates and go! In some cases, it might work to get together virtually, but video conferencing facility would be vital to make that work.







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