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Design Thinking is the world’s leading approach to innovation. This sentence no longer surprises anyone. But what do I care if I’m not a designer?
In the English language, the term “design” does not merely mean how something looks. Rather, the essential questions of a design are: How does it work? What does it create? How is it used? Ultimately, a design solves one or more existing problems; good design does this in a compelling way and in a way that people enjoy interacting with. Probably very few people who work with Design Thinking have the term “designer” on their business card. But all these people are looking for solutions to specific problems. And since we are all, regardless of our professions and our hobbies, problem solvers in a certain way, patterns of behavior from the Design Thinking world are helpful for all of us. Or maybe not. But we won’t know until we try it. This brings us to the first behavior pattern…
1. Try things
Design thinking is all about testing ideas as realistically as possible to quickly find out what works and what doesn’t. At the same time, new ideas emerge and it becomes clear how the current idea can be improved. At the same time, new ideas emerge during testing and it becomes clear how the current idea can be improved. Many ideas can be tested with a manageable risk. This is much more effective than any discussion about pros and cons. Much faster. And it’s more fun.
2. Use a timer
A task requires as much time as is available for it. Research has shown that moderate time pressure favors the creative process, both for individuals and groups. You can consciously take advantage of this, for example by setting yourself a visible (!) timer. If we divide a problem into subtasks, complexity can be managed much better. The motto is to find new insights step by step and hypothesis by hypothesis. This is especially valuable at the beginning of a work process or when you get stuck. Simply set the timer and draw your most important ideas, connections, the problem to be solved, any limitations, etc. on a piece of paper during this time. Don’t write, draw! Why? See below…
3. Use your hands and activate both sides of your brain
When people draw their ideas, shape them with modeling clay, build them with Legos or portray them in a small role-playing game, abstract ideas are focused on the essentials and thus become easier to understand – even for external parties. In addition, the combination of craft activities and mental work activates both sides of the brain. This results in a deeper understanding of the possibilities that present themselves and inspires new ideas. In addition, self-perception changes: one has more confidence in oneself and dares to have “bigger” ideas. Even if you can’t draw and have two left hands, it’s worth turning your back on the screen every now and then and drawing and creating instead. On the one hand, it is purely a matter of practice. On the other hand, there is no requirement that the drawing or the clay figure must be beautiful. The impact is created either way. And don’t forget to set a timer!
4. Create speed and momentum through limitations
When we develop a certain speed, many things become easier. Keeping your balance while standing on a bike is incredibly difficult, but riding around with it is much easier. It’s the same with creative thinking. Ideas lead to ideas lead to ideas and so on. The start is often especially difficult. When anything is possible and unlimited time is available, it becomes even more difficult. That’s when it can make sense to limit ourselves on purpose, to block out certain aspects and instead have a clear focus. What does a solution look like if we only have 50$ at our disposal? What is feasible by the end of the day? If I can only show one slide, what do I show? Suddenly the options become clearer, the thinking process starts. By the way: this approach can be excellently combined with tip no. 2.
5. Focus on needs, not solutions
Solutions are important, no doubt at all. Great solutions excite people, but at the same time we are often confronted with solutions that are not completely convincing. In addition, solutions become outdated relatively quickly. That’s why people want to optimize solutions, develop them further, find alternative approaches. A common mistake is to disregard the underlying needs. At best, this is a missed opportunity to break new ground. At worst, it results in “solutions” that no one wants. History offers numerous examples of companies that have failed and still threaten to fail because they were concerned with mobility, not with railroads, with entertainment, not with television. Most of them no longer exist. Our conclusion? Regardless of the context, it’s worth asking what the underlying needs are and making sure you really understand them.
6. Chase crazy ideas
It may sound contradictory, but the facts are clear. The most valuable insights for further work very often emerge from crazy ideas, some of which are even completely out of touch with reality. There is a reason for this. When we turn established assumptions upside down, it gives our brains a chance to leave the trusted ways and carve a new path through unexplored territory. This increases the likelihood of experiencing a surprise. And ultimately, innovations are just that; things that no one has thought of in this form before and that are therefore new and exciting. It is therefore worthwhile to follow even unrealistic, crazy lines of thought and to turn assumptions upside down. What would it be like if everything were different? If there were no gravity? If my company wanted to sustainably annoy as many established customers as possible with the new product?
7. A partial solution is better than no solution at all
If something is “perfect,” either someone has trouble with criticism or no one has looked closely enough yet. Perfect, comprehensive solutions are incredibly rare (and if they are, then only for a short time, see point 5) and even more rarely do they emerge in a “big bang” in the first attempt. Rather, they are composed of many components and have been adapted and improved again and again. Therefore: as soon as a (partial) idea can be concretely tested and / or implemented without serious risks, this should be done. Starting from this first prototype, a systematic improvement process can be started. Adjustments are needed anyway. Whoever makes mistakes faster, learns faster. Who learns faster, achieves more! For this to work, however, it is important to make new, different mistakes again and again…
8. Kill your darlings
Certain ideas simply click with us. And no matter how good they are, they can suddenly no longer make sense in the overall context or block the way for other ideas. That’s why it’s worth taking a close look every now and then: what are my favorite elements? Do they really fit into the overall construct? Don’t hesitate to leave out these elements, at least for a test, and find a solution without them. It hurts at first, but it’s definitely worth it!
9. Make things visible and tangible
Abstract ideas are temporary – physical objects remain. And they also stay in the mind much easier, it’s simpler for other people to relate to, interact with, and build upon. Physical objects set themes and draw focus to what’s there. It’s never wrong to hang your work on the walls, use large formats, build a model, etc. The idea is not to create a museum, but rather to use these things as a constant invitation to think further and to add new ideas directly or write them into it – for oneself and for everyone to see!
10. Get feedback
We can’t get outside of our own skin. This makes it all the more important to ask other people for their feedback. Different perspectives never hurt, it is still up to us whether and to what extent we incorporate feedback into our work. The earlier you get feedback, the lower the probability of failing fundamentally and investing a lot of time in the wrong idea.
We want to avoid that. Therefore the question: how do you like this article? What could you learn, what was already clear to you anyway? Which tip will you try out? And what should we definitely pay attention to when we write our next post? We look forward to your feedback.