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5 ways to boost your creativity with design thinking

Lavonne Boutcher
Posted by Lavonne Boutcher on Jan 24, 2017 7:00:00 AM

Nothing worth doing comes easy. But we all want the effort to pay off. Even something as potentially game changing as design thinking has to be worth the time and energy required to pull it off. The design thinking process is a proven set of principles to boost creativity, fuel collaboration and deliver better experiences to your customers. But it requires flexibility and openness to some culture change.

Ready to get started? Here are five tips to get the most from your design thinking implementation:

1. Mix things up

Great minds think alike. It’s one of those phrases we’ve all likely heard or said, but few of us really believe it. The best ideas come from different minds viewing a problem from a variety of perspectives. And there’s no better way to get that collective mindset working for you than with design thinking. This unique approach to problem solving focuses on seeing everything from the customers’ perspective.

It’s easier to get that 360° view when you have people with different roles, skill sets and views working together. As one design thinking advocate points out in this Forbes article, “cross-functional blending of teams adds real value” when you’re looking for solutions that matter to customers, not to the team working on the problem. “Fragmented functions equal fragmented decisions,” and no one feels the pain more than the customer.

2. Identify the right problem

Defining the precise problem you’re trying to solve (and making sure it’s the right one) is a critical step in the design thinking process. This Fast Company article provides a good overview of what design thinking is and why defining the right problem is so important. It suggests “constant and relentless questioning, like that of a small child, Why?, Why? Why? Until finally the simple answers are behind you and the true issues are revealed.” By challenging your assumptions, you’ll avoid settling for obvious solutions and are more likely to discover what really matters to your customers, and ultimately, to your business.

Team facilitator and design thinking trainer Hannah Feldberg-Dubin says it’s also important for teams to be the ones making the decisions. Teams involved in the process have to be empowered to identify the problem and determine how they’re going to solve it. Ultimately, the solution will be customer-focused but will be based on the team’s insights and research.

3. Make the sky the limit

Ideation is a critical step in design thinking. It’s when all that creative energy is unleashed. And when teams are brainstorming ideas, there should be no wrong answers. Every idea is worth exploring.

Dreaming big doesn’t come easy – you actually have to work at it. In her design thinking workshops, Hannah introduces teams to the discipline of divergent thinking, where anything goes and the only goal is to generate as many unique ideas as possible. Organizing, refining and prioritizing come later. She says by taking an open-minded approach, teams always come up with better ideas and more unique solutions.

4. Support visual collaboration

Design thinking is about doing. The end goal is to create something and then ask people what they think of it. To do that, you have to turn that great idea into something tangible. “You don’t just talk about it but try to get it into somebody’s hands or put it in front of somebody,” says Hannah. “Make it as real as you can so you’re not just talking about it in theory.” You can draw it, write it on a note pad, even build a prototype – anything to make it visual, understandable and easy to relate to. “Take it out of your head and put it somewhere visible where people can see it and talk about it and give feedback on it.”

She likes how easy it is to make ideas real using Span™ Workspace. It transforms brainstorming mainstays like sticky notes, sketch pads and flip charts into digital tools teams can use to contribute and refine ideas, whether everyone is in the same room or not.

5. Assume you’re never done

The feedback process is where the real magic can happen. It’s when your solution is put to the test. Hannah says once you create something and get it into somebody’s hands, it’s time to ask people what they think about it. “This is where we say, ‘Hey, we created this thing. Are we right or are we wrong?’”

If it’s wrong, the team goes back to the drawing board and does it again. But she says that willingness to embrace the fact that you’re not going to get it right on the first try is key to the evolution that’s needed to transform a solution into something new and powerful.

Design thinking means thinking differently, so go slow

Even design thinking’s strongest proponents suggest going slowly. To do it well requires a big culture shift and that’s not easy. Hannah suggests starting with the steps that can easily fit into your existing workplace.

Maybe it’s simply a change in the way you run your next design review session or team check in. Change things up by allowing time for some freewheeling thinking then follow up by refining everything into more workable ideas. By introducing design thinking in small steps and building from there, you’ll have a better chance of getting your team on board with this new and more creative way of working.

Topics: Creativity Design Thinking