Whenever we learn a new skill, it takes a while to master — and design thinking is no different. This creative approach to customer-centric problem solving can feel foreign for many business leaders. Even if you are excited to get started, it takes time to internalize the methods and to figure out how you will get the rest of your team onboard with using these new tools.
It can also be a little scary to try design thinking — especially if your team is unaccustomed to the engaging collaboration and creative techniques that are hallmarks of this approach. But you can’t let fear of mistakes get in your way. We all know, the only way to get good at design thinking is to practice, even if it means making a few mistakes along the way.
That being said, it may not be the best idea to go looking for an end-to-end human-centered design project to launch the day after you complete your first workshop. Chances are there isn’t a “perfect project” just waiting to get started on and you don’t want to force fit yourself into a problem that isn’t a design thinking match (check out this blog on Solving Wicked Problems to learn what makes a good design thinking project).
Instead, I encourage all of my workshop attendees to look at the projects they already have in progress, then to apply one or two of their newly learned methods and monitor the results. This provides three specific benefits for the newly-skilled design thinker:
You can immediately start using your newly acquired knowledge, which is the best way to make it stick.
You will see results quickly, which can help you prove to yourself, your team, and your boss that design thinking works.
It’s a low-pressure way to try a newly learned skill, and to learn from missteps before you launch an entire design thinking project.
So when you return to your office with your new design thinking skills and toolbox, consider what you are working on, what problems need solving, and where you could start using design thinking tools right away. Remember to look for problems that are meaningful, human-centered, and lack clarity in aim and solution, as this is the design thinking sweet spot. Then just start.
Once you do start using a tool, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Remember, design thinking isn’t a rigid methodology that can only be applied in a very specific way. It’s a framework intended to inspire creativity and customer-centric thinking that can and should evolve to meet the needs of your team, your problem, and your way of working.
For example, in brainstorming sessions, some teams will immediately start shouting ideas where others will need 10 minutes to think, or the option to write their ideas rather than call them out. All of these options are good as long as they deliver the desired outcome — many great ideas and opportunities to build.
Practicing these strategies in small ways will help you hone the skills, and adapt the methods based on what works and what doesn’t. It will also help build enthusiasm for design thinking across the organization and generate a shared language for design that hopefully everyone soon will want to embrace.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.
Luke Brodie is an enthusiastic Master Facilitator with ExperiencePoint. He energizes groups of business leaders through spirited deliveries of award-winning ExperienceInnovation and ExperienceChange workshops for Fortune 500 companies. He also empowers training partners to scale their impact around the globe. Luke holds an MBA from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and has worked internationally in a variety of professional roles including airline management and as a professional musician.