Improve Your Skills: 10 Top Design Thinking Tips - The Big Bang Partnership

Improve Your Skills: 10 Top Design Thinking Tips

Diverse team engaged in design thinking activities

10 Lesser-known Design Thinking Tips

In the landscape of problem-solving and product development, Design Thinking has emerged as a potent tool. It helps you and your team to to break free from the status quo and create innovative solutions.

This article explores 10 lesser-known Design Thinking tips that will take your skills and results to the next level.

You’ll also find my articles on the Best Design Thinking Tools and Design Thinking 101 super useful, too.

Design Thinking Tip #1: Embracing Uncertainty in the Design Thinking Process

The Journey of Discovery in Design Thinking

Design Thinking is fundamentally a journey of discovery. It is an iterative process of exploration and ideation, prototyping and testing that often leads us in directions we could not have predicted at the outset. This can be daunting, but it is also an integral part of the process. Being open to where the Design Thinking process will take you is key to uncovering innovative solutions.

Uncertainty can be a powerful driver of creativity. It encourages us to question our assumptions, explore new perspectives, and challenge the status quo. It drives us to ask not just the obvious questions, but the difficult ones – those that force us to think more deeply about our users’ needs and the context in which our solutions will exist.

Mindset is so important , and drives our behaviors, decisions and actions. That’s why it’s top of the list of my Design Thinking tips.

Design Thinking Best Practices for Navigating the Unpredictable Design Thinking Journey

Leveraging Prototyping and Testing to Navigate Uncertainty

Rapid prototyping and testing are powerful tools for navigating uncertainty. They allow us to experiment with different ideas, learn from our failures, and iterate on our solutions. Rather than seeking to eliminate uncertainty, prototyping and testing enable us to learn from it. It helps us to turn it into a source of insight and innovation.

Embracing Failure as a Path to Success

In the Design Thinking process, failure is not a roadblock but a stepping stone towards success. It is through our mistakes that we learn and grow. By embracing failure, we can turn it into a source of insight, learning, and innovation.

Design Thinking Tip #2:The Transformative Power of “Yes, And…”

Tom Kelley, founder of IDEO, champions the “Yes, And…” improv technique, where team members build upon each other’s ideas, encouraging a free flow of creative solutions. This technique fosters empathy and collaboration, enhancing the creative process, and propelling possible solutions.

In the realm of Design Thinking, the “Yes, And” technique is a supercharger for innovative ideas and collaboration. It works by building on each other’s ideas instead of dismissing them. When someone proposes an idea, instead of saying ‘but’, you say ‘Yes, And’ and add something to it.

The magic of ‘Yes, And’ is that it fosters a supportive, inclusive atmosphere that encourages every team member to contribute. By accepting and expanding on each other’s thoughts, we eliminate the fear of judgment and spark an explosion of creativity.

Embracing the ‘Yes, And’ mindset in our Design Thinking sprints has led to more robust brainstorming sessions, unlocking pathways to solutions we might never have discovered otherwise.

Remember, in the ideation phase, there are no bad ideas. Let’s encourage, build, and create. ‘Yes, And’ our way to innovation.

Design Thinking Tip #3: The Impact of Wild Card Collaborations and Extreme User Design

Harnessing Diverse Perspectives for Innovative Solutions

Wild Card Collaborations involve team members from varied backgrounds, driving creative confidence, and fostering innovative ideas. These collaborations challenge assumptions, leading to a more comprehensive list of ideas that pushes the boundaries of conventional thinking.

Mixing things up, pairing people who wouldn’t ordinarily work together, or collaborating across industries, can lead to truly innovative solutions.

What happens when an engineer brainstorms with a graphic designer? Or when a marketer works closely with a data scientist? What brilliant ideas might emerge when we move beyond our comfort zones? The answers are as thrilling as they are limitless.

Wild Card Collaborations challenge our assumptions, break down silos, and disrupt our typical patterns of thinking. They energise the team by introducing fresh perspectives and different ways of problem-solving. The result? A creative hotpot that often sizzles with unexpected ideas and solutions!

This approach is all about embracing the unfamiliar, the unknown, the ‘wild’ – because that’s where true innovation lives.

Let’s mix it up, challenge norms, and keep surprising ourselves. Dare to go ‘wild’ in your collaborations!

Design Thinking Tip #4: Extreme User Design: Stretching the Design Process

Designing for extreme users helps address the needs of people across the spectrum, encouraging us to explore new ways of solving problems. By incorporating extreme users into the design process, we can create more inclusive and effective solutions.

Extreme Users are the individuals who push the boundaries of typical product or service usage – they may be the most passionate, most demanding, or have unique needs that challenge our conventional design thinking.

So why focus on the edge cases? When we design for extreme users, we uncover needs and desires that might be hidden in the ‘average’ user, leading to solutions that can benefit everyone. It’s about diving deep into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of their unique interactions.

Extreme user design stretches our creative muscles. It encourages us to consider the full spectrum of experiences and potential solutions, breaking away from the norm. The result? Innovations that are as inclusive as they are groundbreaking!

By embracing the diversity of human experience, we can design products and services that aren’t just for the ‘average’ user, but for ALL users. So let’s dive in, embrace the extremes, and unlock greater creative potential.

Design Thinking Tip #5: Constraint-Based Design: Unleashing Creativity Within Boundaries

The Beauty of Boundaries in Design Thinking

Constraints, as argued by Tim Brown in the Harvard Business Review, can indeed be catalysts for creative thinking. Constraint-based design pushes us to find innovative ways to solve complex problems within defined boundaries, sparking creative solutions that resonate deeply with the end user.

Embracing constraints might seem counter-intuitive, and is one of the least well-known of my Design Thinking tips. It’s actually a powerful tool in design and innovation. Welcome to the world of Constraint-Based Design.

Constraint-Based Design is about using limitations as a springboard for creativity. It could be a limited budget, time, materials, or even specific user needs. Instead of seeing these constraints as hurdles, we use them to guide and inspire our design solutions.

How does it work? When we’re faced with constraints, our problem-solving abilities kick into high gear. We become more focused, more innovative, and often uncover solutions we might not have considered in a limitless space.

Embracing Constraint-Based Design starts with reframing. Look at each constraint as a unique design challenge, a puzzle to solve. Remember, limitations are not roadblocks; they are the contours that shape our creative landscape.

Next time you’re faced with a design problem, don’t shy away from constraints. Embrace them, use them as your guides, and watch your creativity soar!

Infographic listing 10 design thinking tips
10 Design Thinking Tips Infographic

Design Thinking Tip #6: Beyond the Product

Designing Holistic Experiences

In Design Thinking, we aim to create more than just products or services; we design holistic experiences. We consider not only the product design but also the broader user experience and customer experience, taking into account the emotional, cultural, and environmental contexts. This perspective allows us to design solutions that are empathetic, inclusive, sustainable, and deeply resonant with our users.

In design thinking, we’re not just designing products or services, we’re designing experiences. We’re looking beyond the tangible, delving into the emotional, cultural, and environmental context in which our solutions exist.

Why is this perspective so crucial? Because it allows us to see the complete picture, to understand our users on a deeper level, and to create solutions that truly resonate. It encourages empathy, inclusivity, and sustainability, elements that are essential in today’s world.

So, how can we think beyond the product?

  1. Embrace Empathy: Seek to understand the user’s feelings, needs, and experiences. This deep understanding can guide your design process.
  2. Consider the Context: Understand the cultural, social, and environmental factors that influence how your product or service is used.
  3. Think Sustainability: Consider the lifecycle of your product or service. How can it be more environmentally friendly, or socially responsible?
  4. Design for Inclusivity: Ensure your design is accessible and useful for as many people as possible.

In our design thinking journey, we are not just creators, we are change makers. Let’s look beyond the product, understand the larger context, and design solutions that make a difference.

Design Thinking Tip #7: Empathy Mapping

Diving Deep into the User’s World

Empathy Mapping, as described by Jeanne Liedtka in her case studies, allows us to explore our users’ needs on a deeper level. This tool helps to give us a comprehensive understanding of what our users say, think, feel, and do. This enables us to design solutions that truly resonate.

Empathy mapping is an incredible tool in the design thinking toolkit, enabling us to dive deep into our users’ minds, hearts, and lives. It’s not just about understanding what they do, but how they feel, what they see, what they hear, and what they need.

Why is empathy mapping so essential? It illuminates the subtleties of our users’ experiences, unearthing valuable insights that can shape impactful solutions. It’s the cornerstone of human-centred design, pushing us to design for real needs rather than assumptions.

So, how do we create an empathy map? Here’s a simple four-step process:

  1. Define Your User: Start by understanding who your user is. This could be based on a user persona or a specific segment of your audience.
  2. Gather Insights: Use qualitative research methods like interviews, observations, or diaries to gather data about your user.
  3. Map Your Findings: Divide a large sheet into sections for what the user Says, Thinks, Does, and Feels. Populate each section with your findings.
  4. Identify Pain Points and Opportunities: Analyze your map to uncover trends, contradictions, or gaps that could indicate user needs, pain points, or opportunities for design.

With empathy mapping, we can tune into our users’ experiences on a deeper level, bringing their voices, emotions, and needs to the forefront of our design process.

Design Thinking Tip #8: Storytelling

Bringing the User Experience to Life

Storytelling is a powerful tool in Design Thinking, enriching our understanding of the user experience. By using narratives and journey mapping, you can create a vivid picture of our users’ experiences and emotions, promoting a deeper level of empathy and understanding.

In the world of design thinking, storytelling isn’t just an art; it’s an essential tool that brings empathy, understanding, and human connection to the heart of our problem-solving process.

Why is storytelling so crucial? Because it allows us to see through the eyes of our users, to feel their joys and frustrations, and to immerse ourselves in their world. It bridges the gap between us and them, transforming abstract data into tangible, relatable experiences.

So, how can we incorporate storytelling into our design sprints?

  1. User Personas: Craft detailed user personas that highlight their motivations, frustrations, and goals. Make them real, make them relatable.
  2. User Journey Mapping: Visualize the user’s experience from their point of view. Capture their emotions, interactions, and touchpoints along the journey.
  3. Narratives in Prototyping: Use storytelling when presenting prototypes. Narrate the user’s interaction with the product, not just its features.
  4. Storyboards: Visual stories that illustrate how the user interacts with your solution can effectively communicate the value of your design.

In design sprints, storytelling enables us to step into our users’ shoes, to feel their needs and desires, and to design solutions that truly resonate.

Design Thinking Tip #9: Driving Momentum in Design Sprints

The Role of Urgency in Design Sprints

A sense of urgency is a critical factor in the success of a Design Sprint. Tim Brown also emphasizes the importance of urgency as a driving force for innovation. Techniques like timeboxing and visual countdowns can create this sense of urgency, maintaining momentum and helping the design team to stay focused and engaged.

A sense of urgency can be the potent catalyst that propels us from idea generation to innovative solutions. It’s about stoking the fires of momentum, creating a focused, fast-paced atmosphere that fosters creative breakthroughs.

Why is this sense of urgency so beneficial? Because it helps us shake off the shackles of perfectionism, encourages swift decision-making, and maintains a steady rhythm of progress. It’s a race against the clock that stimulates our creative energies and pushes us to think on our feet.

So, how can facilitators foster a sense of urgency?

  1. Timeboxing: Set clear, tight deadlines for each activity. This helps maintain momentum and encourages rapid ideation.
  2. Visual Countdown: Use a visible timer to create a shared awareness of time ticking down.
  3. Progress Updates: Regularly remind teams of their objectives and the progress made so far.
  4. Encourage Decisiveness: Reinforce the idea that it’s better to make a decision and move forward, even if it’s not perfect.

Design Thinking Tip #10: Cultivating a Culture of Innovation Through Curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful engine that drives the Design Thinking process. By asking the right questions and constantly challenging the status quo, design thinkers can stimulate creative problem solving and generate innovative solutions. Encouraging a culture of curiosity is a great way to ensure that new ideas are always on the horizon.

In the realm of design thinking, curiosity isn’t just welcome; it’s essential. It’s the driving force behind every question asked, every problem explored, and every solution crafted.

Why is a culture of curiosity so crucial? Because it propels us to challenge the status quo, to ask ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’ It encourages us to dive deeper, explore different perspectives, and uncover hidden truths that can lead to breakthrough innovations.

So, how can we foster a culture of curiosity?

  1. Encourage Questions: The only ‘stupid’ question is the one unasked. Encourage team members to ask questions, no matter how trivial they might seem.
  2. Cultivate Openness: Create a safe space for ideas to be shared and explored without fear of judgment.
  3. Embrace Experimentation: See every ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. Every experiment, whether it succeeds or fails, is a step towards the solution.
  4. Keep Learning: Encourage continuous learning. The more we know, the more we realize there is to know – and that keeps the curiosity alive.

In our design thinking sprints, we’re not just problem-solvers; we’re explorers. So, let’s ask, let’s learn, let’s explore.

Conclusion: The Transformative Power of Design Thinking

Design Thinking, as discussed in the Design Management Institute and highlighted by great leaders like Tim Brown and Jeanne Liedtka, is a journey. It’s an iterative process of understanding the user, defining the problem, ideating possible solutions, creating prototypes, and testing them – all with a deep focus on the human point of view.

It’s a brilliant process, although its complexity can make it challenging at times. These Design Thinking tips will help you navigate successfully through your sprint journey.

In recent years, the use of Design Thinking has gone beyond product development and business strategy. It’s now impacting our personal lives and society at large. It has become a tool for tackling complex problems, fostering a culture of innovation, and creating a positive impact.

These Design Thinking tips, when leveraged correctly, will enable you to innovate design solutions that truly make a difference.

The power of Design Thinking lies in its versatility. Whatever your profession, Design Thinking offers creative approaches. These can help you challenge assumptions, rethink the status quo, and drive innovation.

In our increasingly complex and interconnected world, Design Thinking offers a beacon of clarity. It encourages us to ask the right questions, challenge our preconceptions, and view the world from a different perspective. And in doing so, it empowers us to create solutions that are innovative, effective and deeply human.

Remember, Design Thinking is not the only way to innovate, but it’s a great way to start. So let’s challenge assumptions, think critically, use these Design Thinking tips and put the human at the heart of our design process.

If you’d like any facilitation help for your Design Thinking sprints, or more Design Thinking tips, we’d love to chat to you. Please get in touch today.