Design Thinking Workshop, brandh@ckers Meetup: June 3, 2013

Last night, brandh@ckers put together a panel to discuss, albeit at a very high level, the design thinking methodology.  It’s a rich topic with a lot of opportunity to delve into its many aspects much further- I suggest a Meetup dedicated solely to the methodology (in NYC) – But definitely a good top level discussion.  The panel included representatives from the likes of Parsons and Stanford’s (where all of this came about).

Interesting Points:

On DT team structure and collaboration:

Teams should be “flat” and “open” in the sense that they should be comprised of people representing a diverse array of disciplines.  In regards to the collaborative nature of these teams, it is important to respect the diversity of thought found on the team and to empathize with the team dynamic and structure.

On empathy:

“Empathy” is a cornerstone of DT and you’ll hear it thrown around, probably more than any other off the buzz words associated with the discipline.  It is an easy concept to grasp but difficult in practice.  In practice, it’s difficult to truly separate oneself from a situation and, for example, interview a user.  A tip for empathizing with an interviewee is to use the “5 whys” method.

On DT regarding the agency/client relationship:

A client may (most likely) come to an agency with a brief which defines what they believe to be the problem.  DT tells us to challenge these assumptions.  In an ideal world, a DT team will reframe the project brief, challenge the assumptions and validate those assumptions through DT research.  Clearly there are large hurdles to jump here as a client has limited time and the agency is working for them.  It’s ultimately a trust and relationship issue.

On prototyping:

Creating lo-fi prototypes is not a unique aspect to DT methodologies (we see it in many digital agile methods as well as creating MVPs as a cornerstone to the lean startup method) but it is just as important to DT methods as other disciplines.  Fail fast.  Iterate.  This principle allows for the client (and designer!) to not prematurely fall in love with the product.  A tip mentioned on iterating is to iterate the correct problem, then the solution, then the problem…Ideally the iterations will converge.  Also important to remember is that a lot of good design comes from a lot of bad design- iterate to a point of successful and impactful design.

On measuring Design Thinking:

Measuring innovation is upcoming and new.  Some recommendations to do this is to measure what actually gets better outcomes, number of iterations, path to revenue…  Basically, we are iterating metrics to decide the best aspects to measure.  We are still in a discovery and best practices phase.

Design Thinking is Spreading:

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of this movement is how we can apply this methodology not to just creating products, but how we can innovate social change, organizational change, etc., etc…  There seems to be no limit as to how the methodology can be applied- we just need to understand where it can be used to our greatest advantage.