A first encounter with Design Thinking.

Today’s problems are so complex that you need teams working effectively to bring ideas and products to life.

Since finishing my EMBA I decided to focus on my efforts learning and studying design thinking.

It has been a very interesting ride, and one that has opened my eyes to new experiences and provided me with a new way of engaging with my discipline.

I feel refreshed, even if im late to the party, that I’ve gotten in touch with this framework.

To get into design thinking is not an easy task if you are coming from a more traditional branch of design. It’s a relatively new approach to the creative process popularised by the design consultancy IDEO and then adopted by companies such as IBM, Airbnb and Innovation Labs around the world as well as universities.

Successful creatives I know within my industry have heard perhaps the term but really if you are not in product or digital services it is highly unlikely that you have been exposed to this methodology.

In essence, design thinking is a framework that is used to create human centred solutions to real world problems. At least that is how I can best sum it up.

It consists on a series of steps that you can apply using workshops (live or virtual), and you follow a framework to define problems, and generate innovative solutions.

Below are the five stages of design thinking.

  1. Empathise
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

For me the radical thing about design thinking is the fact that you can use this framework with people that do not have a creative background and generate amazing solutions to problems.

I helped facilitate a design thinking workshop a couple of weeks ago and I got for the very first time in years, that ecstatic feeling of discovery that I’ve had back in university whilst working in “blue ocean” experimental projects and discovering that anything is possible with design if used with logical operations.

It is quite seldom that I experience these blissful moments, and I had one of them while facilitating this particular design thinking sprint.

The challenge was to help a tourism startup refine their product after Covid-19.

We ran with my friend Michael Wickam from Abandon Creative a series of workshops that were more business oriented, we tried to structure a bit the business model using the lean business model canvas, then we created user personas, and did our own brand and blue ocean strategy workshops, some custom made competitive analysis workshops and in the end we had to create our own version of a design thinking sprint to run in two hours, that we ended up lasting about four.

The solutions that came up from the whole team on how to improve the product were just beautiful. To witness the power of giving a framework to a team of photographers, cinematographers, CEOs, developers was just mind blowing and it made me realise how important it is to have such a clear framework (or series of frameworks) that can help empower teams, dissolve egos, and create solutions that are human centred and also have a real tool for fostering innovation.

A screenshot of the workshop prototype stage.

Nowadays, you need tools like design thinking to give access to a creative method to generate ideas, regardless of background or hierarchy, in the end the best idea wins, always.

These level the playing field and dissolve the ego, and focus the energy on what really adds value, the product, service or solution that you provide.

The idea of relying on a single person to drive innovation forward, I think, it’s pretty much in decline and a bit ridiculous, with these tools you can give everyone the possibility to become one and contribute meaningfully to the table. It makes for better marketing and gives you accountability, but the present is working in dynamic multidisciplinary teams to solve human centred problems.

This is just a very brief introduction and early thoughts about my experience with design thinking. If you want to hear a very clear explanation about design thinking I recommend to listen to the following podcast (SPANISH) interview with Guillermina Argerich for the most clear explanation (with roleplaying included) of design thinking, its uses applications and future.