Just for a moment, imagine if job titles didn’t exist, and instead, we introduced ourselves by our talents. 

  • Would first impressions feel more natural? 
  • Would we try to connect with the person and not his or her title?
  • Or would we be less intimidated or more impressed?  

Sometimes titles at work can get in the way of a breakthrough to a problem. When you’re creating anything–a plan, process, product, or sandwich–you want to consider designing for someone who is not you. Why? Because the sole purpose of design is to humanize the workplace. 

So, to accomplish this, let’s start with the basics:

Why Design Thinking?

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” -Albert Einstein

Design thinking has a human-centered core that encourages organizations and teams to fall in love with the problem and not the idea. The benefit is that it leads to better products, services, processes, and relationships. 

Solving a problem (big or small) can be tough for those who need to see the big picture. Still, the beauty of design thinking is that it encourages collaboration in a systematic way. There are five phases, and regardless of your skillset or personality type, you play an important role. 

What is Design Thinking?

“Creative confidence is the belief that everyone is creative, and that creativity isn’t the ability to draw or compose or sculpt, but a way of understanding the world.” – David Kelley, Founder, IDEO 

Design thinking is a methodology and mindset that teams can apply to nearly any challenge, function, or industry. The purpose is to enhance collaboration and stay innovative from a sales, marketing, and services perspective. For example, Netflix used design thinking to make their visual library easier to consume. Blue Cross Blue Shield used design thinking to make benefits easier to understand for customers. Fidelity Bank and Capital One used the approach to create a banking experience for a modern and mobile workforce.

Design thinking is a systematic approach that uncovers the user’s experience in five different phases. Designing is an iterative process and sometimes the phases won’t be followed in the same order as shown below. Instead, the project’s phase and status shape where to begin. 

      • Empathy – Understanding users and their behavior
      • Define – Focus on the problem
      • Brainstorm – Think differently; quantity over quality is the goal
      • Prototype – Build your ideas as if you were right
      • Test – Gain feedback as if you were wrong

Break the Ice

Design thinking uses several mini exercises, sometimes referred to as stoke activities. The purpose of these creative bursts is to energize the room and to embrace humility! The more we feel comfortable in our environment the more willing we are to share.

For example, When Design Museum Boston invited me to speak on the topic of design thinking, I was so excited. However, when I started my talk I froze! I picked up the mic and said, “Hi! Oh my. I’m a little nervous. Do you mind if I start with an exercise?” I looked into the crowd of smiles, and I led them through “make it rain,” where we made rain sounds by snapping our fingers, drumming our knees, and stomping our feet.

When leading a diverse group with many different backgrounds and perspectives, breaking the ice may seem silly at first. However, it’s crucial to help connect people with one another and even level the playing field.

Design Thinking Is Not Solely for Designers

“Innovation is everyone’s job.” – Josh Ulm, Executive Consultant, Bluescape 

Have you ever said the following?

  • “Oh, I’m not creative!”
  • “I’m not a designer!” or my personal favorite….
  • “I possibly can’t do that – I’ll get made fun of! I’ll look stupid”

Remember this: we don’t go into a problem knowing the solution; we go into a problem trying to understand why the person is having one.

Which brings me to the next point…

Start with “Why?”

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” -Simon Sinek, Author, Start with Why

Think of a problem you want to solve. Do you want to unpack some real pain points? To do so, understand a user’s behavior by observing, researching, or interviewing them. Ask a pointed question and then follow up with “why” five times.

  • “Why?”
  • “Why do you think that is?” “
  • “Why did you feel that way.”
  • “Why is that the only option?”
  • “Why are you <Add a feeling>?”

The First “why” is equivalent to the first pancake on a Saturday morning; you might as well throw it away. It’s not until the person warms up to you when you realize, “I got this!”

Be You

Think back to a previous project, task, or homework assignment where it didn’t compliment your skillset. How did you feel? What did you do?

You may have felt insecure. Insecurities are real. However, we develop them because of the pressure to be perfect and when we don’t have the wiggle room to fail.

My favorite people in this world are kids and the elderly. They are fearless, and they don’t mind trying things out. They are not afraid to say “no!” especially if it’s not something they are passionate about. Yet, they are still cute.

No matter your style of thinking–if you’re analytical hit us with the data or if you’re a creative, let that freak-flag fly–the beauty of design thinking is you don’t need to be perfect; design thinking is like a professional playground. It’s about connecting with other people and trusting the creative process. It’s also about leaning on each other’s strengths to help bring the project across the finish line.

The more confidence you have in who you are, the more you can instill confidence in others. If you need to flip your mindset, take a self-assessment like “Stengthfinder” and encourage your team to do the same. It’s helpful to take a moment, reset and introspect.

Level-Up with Digital Transformation

The world is big, but the world wide web is more significant. Leveraging tech helps broaden your reach to other people and different mediums.

Physical sticky notes are fantastic for brainstorming, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they are analog. This introduces some limitations: not having enough physical space to work, schedule conflicts to overcome, or the “need” to be in-person to participate. Going from analog to digital is probably the most undesirable part of design thinking. Analog tools, like the notecards, sketches, empathy maps, and dot voting are all important data.

Real-time software like Moleskine Smart Writing, Bluescape Collaborative Workspaces, or Conference Tools like WebEx or Zoom can help bring ideas in from anywhere. At the same time, you can easily take the data out for your lean-agile practices, for example.

Believe it or not, design thinking is not about thinking. It’s about taking action. Now that you have your tips explore design thinking courses on Linkedin via Lynda.com or search for a Design Thinking Meetup in your city.

There’s no better way to learn than to try

By Thuwaiba Thezine. Thuwaiba Thezine, a technology professional and remote worker, founded an art and creative flex studio called Ideal Mixer, located in Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood. Ideal Mixer was born following a Design Thinking Bootcamp with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Thuwaiba and her partner met Bill, a creative, self-reliant artist who is homeless, disabled, and veteran. Thuwaiba was amazed that Bill was seeking knowledge to feel confident and comfortable to expand his street art business online. She wondered if this meant human connection drives satisfying decision making and increases self-worth more than online tools can do on its own