The success of applying design (thinking) to your business problems isn’t just in the process you follow or the activities you undertake. Anyone can pick up a copy of d.school’s amazing tools and start using them. Often, in haste to get going, they ditch the one vital page in the download – the design mindset.
CEOs and companies around the world are starting to turn their back on design thinking saying that it isn’t producing the outcomes it promises. And with that, there are groups of embarrassed business units wondering what they’re doing wrong. From our experience, the companies that are not succeeding are simply omitting the most important factor – or secret ingredient if you like. It is the design mindset that enables the process and activities you use to create true impact and value to your business.
So… what is the design mindset? At Empathy we think of it, and coach the companies we work with to act, in this way:
– Focus on human values and need finding: Develop a deep understanding of the people that matter most to the project (or problem you’re trying to solve). Do this through conversation, observation and experiencing, first hand, what it’s like to be them
– Collaboration: Unite teams by working together. Create cross disciplinary teams with diverse perspectives and expertise. Include relevant parties from around the business. Make sure people’s strengths cover each part of the process
– Learn by doing: Have a bias towards action and trying things out. Know that it’s ok the fail early and in a safe environment
– Experimentation & prototyping: Build lo-fi and life-sized representations as early as possible. Engage real users with your prototypes and refine. Do this again and again and again
– Systems mapping: Create clarity from complexity by synthesising and visualising the way people, solutions and business systems all connect
– Visualisation & storytelling: Be visual in what you do and explain the wider story. A picture paints a 1000 words. Show don’t tell.
So… why is the design mindset so important? Well, in the words of Fun Boy Three’s hit song “It ain’t What You Do… It’s the Way That You Do It”.
Since IDEO released their method cards to market back in 2002, there’s been a plethora of similar packs and books released with a wide range of activities aimed at designing your way to success. Of course it’s important to follow the right process and pick suitable methods for what you’re trying to achieve. There is definitely a skill in that! But as Roger Martin comments in the film Design & Thinking “The danger of the whole design thinking movement is that people will push it so far that it makes it a formula”.
A mindset is defined as “the ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation”. How you approach the design process and the methods you select is all important. Your approach is what gives you the edge to succeed. It’s what brings the process and activities to life. It’s what brings a uniting culture to your team.
Talented people who find success are said to have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset. The traits of the growth mindset correlate somewhat to the design mindset. In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. You ask what you can learn from experiences that can help you go forward next time (Learn by doing). You aren’t afraid of failing. Instead you fail fast and fail often. The growth mindset is about developing over time through experience, passion, dedication, growth, and learning, not genius.
Over the next six weeks I’m going to post some thoughts on each of the mindsets. I’ll post examples of how they can be successfully applied by your team alongside whichever process and methods you’re using. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show you how to avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve seen and experienced ourselves.