October 24, 2010

Change by Design - by Tim Brown

How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation.

[Good book indeed, on how to grow creative thinking and design process in an org]

Three spaces of innovation.
Desirability, Viability & Feasibility

It was the necessity is the mother of all inventions as inspiration, the problem or opportunity that motivates the search of solutions. There are three overlapping spaces over the course of a project: an inspiration space in which insights are gathered from every possible source; an ideation space in which those insights are translated into ideas; and an implementation space in which the best ideas are developed into a concrete fully conceived plan of actions.

'Fail early to succeed sooner' is what they say at IDEO. (other such phrase is go slow to move fast forward). Chance only favors the prepared mind - Louis Pasteur.

The classic starting point of any project is the brief. The brief is a set of mental constraints that gives the project framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which they can measure progress, and a set of objects to be realized; price point, available technology, market segment and so on. A well-documented brief will allow for serendipity, unpredictability and the capricious whims of fate, for that is the creative realm from which break-through ideas merge.

There is a popular saying around IDEO that "all of us are smarter than any of us'. and this is the key to unlocking the creative power of any organization. We ask people not simply to offer advice on materials, behaviors or software but to be active in each of the spaces of innovation: inspiration, ideation and implementation. The dream team should have interdisciplinary skills, an individual needs to have strength in two dimension - the T-shaped person made by the famous McKinney company. On vertical axis, every member of the team needs to posses a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contribution to the outcome. (Multidisciplinary experts - T-shaped person). A creative organization is consistently on the lookout for people with the capacity and the disposition is what for collaboration across disciplines. Should move from T-shaped to cross T-shaped (from multidisciplinary to inter-disciplinary). Multidisciplinary team, each individual becomes an advocate for his or her own technical specialty and the project becomes a protracted negotiation among them, likely resulting in a gray compromise. In an interdisciplinary team, there is a collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.

Design thinking is the opposite of group thinking , but paradoxically it takes place in groups. Group thinking is to suppress people's creativity and design thinking, seeks to liberate it.

Henry Ford remarked, " If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said 'a faster horse'. This is why traditional technique such as focus group and survey rarely yield important results. These conventional market research is good for incremental innovation, but not for rule-breaking, revolutionary, game-changing, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why nobody ever thought of them before (e.g. Sony's Walk-man, Apple's iPad/iPhone/iPod). The three mutually reinforcing elements needed in any successful design programs are insight, observation and empathy.

The quadrant approach is the following

X- Axis: existing users and then new users
Y-axis: existing offering and then new offering.

Q1 - existing users and existing offering : manager or create incremental development
Q2 - existing users and new offering - extend the product (evolutionary)
Q3 - new users and existing offerings - Adapt (evolutionary)
Q4 - new users and new offering - create new solution (revolutionary)

Insight: learning from the lives of others
In an analytical paradigm, we simply solve for the missing number; in design paradigm, the solution is not locked away somewhere, but lies in the creative work of the team. The evolution from design to design thinking is the story of the evolution from the creation of products to the analysis of the relationship between people and products and from there to the relationship between people and people.

Watching what people don't do, listening to what they don't say.
There is nothing simple about determining whom to observe, what research technique to use, how to draw useful inferences from the begins to point us toward a solution. For insights at that level, we need to head for the edges, the places where we can expect to find 'extreme' users who live differently, think differently and consume differently.

Empathy: Sstanding in the shoes of others
The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and service that will improve lives. Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations. This layer - beyond the functional and cognitive- comes into play when we begin working with ideas that matter to people at an emotional level. Emotional understanding becomes essential here. what do the people in your target population feel? what touches them? What motivates them?

Convergent and divergent thinking:
Westerners are taught to take a series of inputs, analyze them, and then converge upon a single answer. in Divergent thinking, we are collecting all possible ideas or solutions and in the convergent thinking, deciding among existing ideas/solutions the best possible options.
If the convergent phase of problem solving is what drives us toward solutions, the objective of divergent thinking is to multiply options to create choices.

Linus Pauling said, " To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas'".

Analysis and synthesis:
These are natural complements to divergent and convergent thinking. Without analytical forms of thinking, we would not run large corp. or manage household budgets. In analytical process or tools are used to break apart complex problems to understand and manage it better.

Synthesis , the act of extracting meaningful patterns from masses of raw information, is a fundamentally creative act; the data are just that -data- and the facts never speak for themselves. In every case we may think of the designer as a master storyteller whose skill is measured by his or her ability to craft a compelling, consistent and believable narrative.

An attitude of experimentation:
Organization should have 'intelligent design' - a bottom-up experimentation and guidance .from above. Following are the rules:
1. The best ideas emerge when the whole org. ecosystem -not just its designers and engineers and certainly not just management - has room to experiment

2. Those most exposed to changing externalizes (new tech. shifting consumer base, strategic threats or opportunities) are the ones best placed to respond and most motivated to do so.

3. ideas should not be favored based on who creates them

4. Ideas that create a buzz should be favored. Indeed, ideas should gain a vocal following, however small before being given org. support

5. The gardening skills of senior leadership should be used to tend, prune, and harvest ideas. MBAs call this risk tolerance. I call it the top-down bit

6. An overarching purpose should be articulated so that the org. has a sense of direction and innovators don't feel the need for consistent supervision.

A culture of optimism:
Without optimism - the unshakable belief that things could be better than they are - the will to experiment will be continually frustrated until it withers. Positive encouragement does not require the pretense that all ideas are created equal. To harvest the power of design thinking, individuals, teams and whole org. have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power to create new ideas that will serve unmet needs and that will have a positive impact.

What we learn from the hospitality industry, where brands are built on the delivery of great experience, is that transforming the culture of an org. is every bit as important as designing the lobby or the curbside service. Empowering employee to seize opportunities when and where they see them and giving them the tools to create unscripted experience is an essential element of that transformation. rather than delivering a set of instructions created for them by a bunch of designers somewhere, we encourage them to become design thinkers themselves.

There are strict rules for brainstorming - defer judgment, encourage wild ideas, stay focused on the topic & the most important of them is 'build on the ideas of others'.

Visual thinking:
Design professional spend years learning how to draw and they learn to draw so that they can express their ideas. drawing express both functional characteristics and its emotional content.

Design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately for integrative thinking. In 'The Opposable Mind' based on more than fifty in-depth interviews, martin argues that "thinkers who exploit opposing ideas to construct a new solution enjoy a built-in advantage over thinkers who can consider only one model at a time".

Building to think:

Since openness to experimentation is the lifeblood of any creative org., prototyping - the willingness to go ahead and try something by building it - is the best evidence of experimentation. David Kelley calls prototyping 'thinking with your hands' and he contrasts it with specification-led, planning-driven abstract thinking. both have value and each has its place, but one is much more effective at creating new ideas and driving them forward.
(e.g. doing it with Legos are simpler approach)

As the prototypes unfolded, we learned that a story needs to be repeated many times, before people understand how it applies to them and many more times again before they change their behavior.

Design Challenge:
There is almost no trick in the design thinker's tool kit more enjoyable to observe or more productive of results than a design challenge. Design challenges are not only a great way to unleash the power of competition, they also create stories around an idea, transforming people from passive onlookers into engaged participants. People love the idea of following bands of adventures as they compete to archive the impossible. Reality TV has exploited this fascination with dubious results.

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