5 Ways Design Thinking Advances Workplace Problem Solving

While the term “design thinking” may be mistaken as an exercise for designers only, after recently completing IDEO’s Hello Design Thinking course, I learned that design thinking is a process that should be practiced by everyone at an organization. IDEO defines design thinking as a process for creative problem solving, and here are the five ways that this mindset can transform and advance a workplace.

1. Design thinking unlocks creativity in every employee, and in turn, improves the overall idea creation process.

David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, believes that everyone at an organization has creative potential, and with the right process in place, everyone can tap into this creativity to develop bigger ideas and collaborate more with one another.

2. Design thinking inspires new ways of thinking by observing what people really need.

The first step of design thinking is to seek inspiration by observing people and the problems that they are facing. When a team observes the actual people facing a specific problem, the team is then able to explore new ways of thinking, which leads to designing better products and services for this group of people. While observing, it’s important to look for and identify patterns, passions, adaptions, body language, and the unexpected. These observations allow the team to then better understand who they are designing for.

3. Design thinking encourages the development of bigger ideas.

The second step of design thinking focuses on pushing past obvious solutions in order to generate multiple out-of-the-box ideas. Developing a variety of concepts helps the team consider many solutions to a problem instead of just executing the first thing that comes to mind. One ideation method that IDEO encourages is a Mash-Up, which involves bringing unexpected concepts together to spark unique ideas and test them in a creative setting.

4. Design thinking makes these big ideas tangible.

After generating a list of ideas, the next step of the design thinking process is to work together to create rough representations of the ideas by sketching, building prototypes, and moving the idea forward. Any idea can be made tangible through a prototype, but during this phase, the goal is to build something that allows the team to receive feedback from a test group. The prototype should be a fast and loose idea that allows the team to communicate it to others to then create a better version of the initial concept.

5. Design thinking communicates the idea through a personalized story.

Crafting a personalized story about the idea inspires others towards action and helps others connect with the concept. Instead of only sharing business statistics to sell the idea, telling a compelling story often resonates with the audience better. When telling a story, incorporating personalization, emotion, anecdotes, and a call to action will help drive the point home. Not every story will resonate with everyone, but expressing enthusiasm, empathy, and energy when telling the story will help the idea come to life.

Learning and adopting this design thinking process will help take workplace problem solving to the next level by increasing collaboration and advanced ideation. Like any new process, design thinking takes practice and time to implement, but is well worth the effort.