Design Thinking 101

Design thinking is key to maximizing both brainstorming potential and project direction. Thanks to the D-School at Stanford, the picture above highlights 5 simple steps to designing a better project or product. This blog post however is not to reiterate how to design think, but rather what design thinking can offer you. Here are 5 reasons why you should consider design thinking for your next project:

  1. Perspective
    • Gaining or even changing perspective is difficult. We’re often so close to our own biases that we don’t even need to articulate them. Deliberately empathizing with the target audience is an invaluable exercise in changing perspective. Your dedication may be unshakable, but your approach may be askew. Try mapping out the life of, and needs of, your target audience, and defining what is most important to them before proceeding with innovation.
  2. Fresh voices
    • People who both lead and dominate discussion don’t have to be in charge of either of those roles in design thinking. Encourage your quietest team members to contribute by deliberately silencing the leaders, choose a random facilitator for each session, or ask your team to bring inspiring youtube clips or artifacts to the meeting. The opening stages to design thinking should be wild and unpredictable.
  3. Planned brainstorming
    • The only thing worse than a long-winded office meeting is a long-winded brainstorm session. Planned brainstorming has a limit, and design thinking will allow you and your team to close the door on brainstorming in a collective and convenient way. Try having your teammates bring ideas to the meeting before it starts, have them share their ideas with another, then present on each other’s ideas. Feel comfortable closing the door on a brainstorm session when it’s time to prototype.
  4. Distillation of ideas
    • Ideas are always good until they’re shared, then we may realize most of them are flimsy. There’s no better way to distill ideas into useful prototyping directions than to bounce them off other team members. Keep in mind that by empathizing wholeheartedly with the target audience, your ideas should resonate well with your team.
  5. Rewarding experimentation
    • By the time you move on to prototyping and testing your ideas, you should feel good about how radical your brainstorming process became. It’s equally as valuable to cull bad ideas from the table as it is to find the right idea to proceed with. And as the process becomes increasingly refined, feel free to return to the brainstorming process for something a bit more specific.

Design thinking doesn’t have to be the kryptonite of your group focus – and don’t expect it to be the savior of every project. Try it out here and there with intentionality. Tap into the creative potential of your team by pushing them to the edge of their comfort zones and welcoming their ideas as invaluable parts of the process. So next time you hear someone suggest design thinking a solution, give it a chance!