After taking part in an immersive week of creative problem solving at Field Guide, I returned to work with new insights about design thinking, the designer's role and design in general.
Design thinking is a tool. A tool that can help individuals, business and organizations solve challenges creatively with a focus on people’s need and values. As a designer I view design thinking and the act of design from two vantage points. The act of design is a sophisticated skill that is learned and practiced over time. Designers train their sensitivity to nuances in their environments, to see patterns and understand human needs from those patterns. One of the most important skills they hone is their ability to create and communicate through form, from products to experiences.
Design thinking is a philosophy as well as a process that is human centered and from what I've observed can be learned quickly. Yet, despite it's ease of competency, design thinking has no plug and play system or formula you can simply install and roll out into your organization or business. Where this process becomes difficult for all is in the stickiness of our learned behaviors and habits. Everyone has a method for problem solving that may be discipline specific or individualized. It's difficult to change this process both as individuals and as institutions from what I’ve seen and also experience.
How might we then an individual become more flexible and agile in our problem solving process? In addition, how might we use aspects of design thinking to modify but not completely alter our method for problem solving?
I recently took up the sport of rock climbing. I started with a class to understand the basics then practiced and progressed on my own. I've probably made a lot of mistakes along the way and I certainly question my climbing methods but I've learned that I need to consult with expert climbers when I get stuck on a particularly challenging route. I’ve also hired guides to teach me about outdoor climbing, the history, techniques and safety. And, I've also accepted that I can individualized the manner in which I get up the mountain.
What Field Guide demonstrated for me was the need for teachers and mentors to learn and progress in any new endeavor. This is not a new idea and can be seen in companies such as IBM, Mayo Clinic, and General Electric that embed designers to help teams reframe a challenge in their process with a particular tool from the design thinking process. Most teams are not using design thinking to radically change their whole process but they pick and choose an aspect to help them iterate on an existing idea or create prototypes to learn. As you attempt to exercises and hone your creative intelligence accept that you can tailor the design thinking process to suit your needs. And then invite a designer to the table as your guide, guru, and cheerleader.