If you're like many people working in businesses or organizations, you might find that you spend most of your days behind a desk, in front of a computer, attending a somewhat endless array of meetings, working through agenda and actions items, often mired in a miasma of email...and sometimes you're not sure that things are coming together, or headed in the right direction.
Perhaps what you need is to inject a little design thinking into your life!
On a recent Friday afternoon, I had the chance to do just that by participating in a "Crash Course in Desgin Thinking" at the Stanford d.school -- (the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford).
The crash course was a two-hour immersive cycle into the design process -- with about 130 people enrolled -- and we all crammed into thre d.school garage space for a brief orientation to the design mindset and process.
This visual outlines the seven aspects of design mindsets --
Our 'crash course' of 130 participants was distilled down to groups of six and then into pairs to work through a design challenge that took us through the entire design process in about 60 minutes -- here's the five steps in the design process.
- Empathize -- as a basic foundation of human centered design it's all about
- Observe - watch and learn about your users in their own contexts
- Engage - interact and interview both in formal and 'intercept' events
- Immerse - experience the context yourself
- Define - This is where you come up with an actionable problem statement - with that deep understanding of your users and the overall design space after doing the work of the empathize phase.
- Ideate - and ideate some more. Think of this as a 'flaring' step - generate ideas, lots of them and rapidly to explore solutions to the actionable problem statement. This is a very visual, fast paced stage, and I found myself challenged to keep drawing new concepts, and move past my comfort zone of pausing and refining too soon.
- Prototype - this is moving the ideas into the physical realm - the pipecleaners and paste stage. By bringing the ideas into a tangible, physical space, helps the design team and the users interact, respond and engage in ways that people can't do with words on a page. In our sub-group, one team made a visual model of a smart phone app with contstruction paper and tin foil. But we all understood the intended user experience. A prototype grows in sophistication and refinement as the project progresses (we only had one hour for all five design stages) but the process of getting it into the physical world is definitely part of the 'show, don't tell' mindset.
- Test - it's about validating, refining or findout out that you might have to go back to the beginning, because you really didn't understand your users needs, or you haven't framed the problem correctly.
I found the process stimulating and invigorating -- and uncomfortable -- as our facilitators said it should be. The design process is meant to keep you expanding, refining, refocusing on the right problem set (through that empathic human-centered design), and to keeping an active flow through prototyping and test.
The design challnge process encouraged me to have that 'bias toward action' and to draw and visualize more in the ideate phase, and finally to bring a physical prototype to life (where I usually rely on words, I had to grab a fistful of pipe-cleaners, popsicle sticks, construction paper and tape and start building!).
The d.school website offers this 47-page design process Bootcamp Bootleg guide*.
This guide and IDEO's Human Centered Design Toolkit are excellent references to the design process that can give you some new insight and infuse a dynamic, human-centered approach to problem-solving and solutions design.
The d.school space is housed in an open, airy building on the Stanford campus, with modular spaces, lots of easy moveable chairs, workbenches, tables of various sizes, whiteboards on wheels, to allow for creative, flexible, adaptable, collaborative workspaces on-the-fly. The d.school offers tours twice-monthly and if you live or visit the San Francisco Bay area, it's worth a look.
*The bootcamp bootleg is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license,