Thinking has been hyped but more and more people questioning its value, impact, and relevance. Often people associate thinking with the discipline, or seen as a creativity tool that produces tonnes of Post-Its.

Many people mistake Design Thinking with the design process itself — there are many design methods which are part of a design thinking workshop, but it is broader and more holistic. Design is the main driver for Design Thinking, but Design or Designers do not own it! Design Thinking forces us to bring all the disciplines together to create one vision.

What do we need for organizing a Design Thinking workshop?

First, we have to build up an environment which forces an “out-of-the-box thinking”. For the actual conduction, we need interdisciplinary teams which focus on solving human problems. And before solving a problem you have to find one.

In the following I will describe my Insides from leading and being part of a Design Thinking workshop and how visualizing your thinking can transform the way we work.

Recently we organized a 2 days Design Thinking workshop in our Innovation Room @IBsolution for one of our clients. My task was to lead our client (team of 8–10 people) through a series of exercises intended to help them become more comfortable with visual thinking and communication. 
My main goals for the day were to give these team members methods and strategies to think bigger in a more creative way and I wish they become more comfortable with a different, more visual way of working. Them being part of a new kind of experience is a great way to rethink or reorganize their daily work.

Lead other to try new things! “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” — Einstein

Further I will show you a sampling of things we did and what I learned from the day. I will not tell you the process of Design Thinking, because it can be read everywhere. The small will make the difference in conducting a Design Thinking Workshop.

Do you remember the expression “out-of-the-box thinking” I mentioned earlier? Everywhere you here “Think outside the box”!
Now I’ll tell you: “First you have to think inside the box”. Before Thinking outside you have to understand the box (your actual situation of the problem). How big is the box? What material is it made of? What things you have to transport inside and so on. Design Thinking requires understanding constraints. My lessons learned is once you understand the constraints of the problem you can go further. In a Design Thinking Workshop, you should not stay inside — do not limit yourself. There are no rules only some hints and advices. But first things first.

Sometimes you just can’t wrap your mind around a topic unless you map it out and process it in physical space. If you stuck in any kind of topic — grab a piece of paper and start mapping out your thoughts. For me drawing always helps to distill my thinking. Therefor I grabbed a paper and start drawing — under the headline “IDEAL IDEATION”.

First you should begin every workshop with a warm-up activity. Cause the most creative moments happen when the mind is relaxed. Second make clear that there will be no judgement for ideas. Go for quantity, not quality. Present and discuss the ideas while sticking them on a wall. And YES this could look like just a tonnes of post-its. Following you cluster these ideas and find themes. Based on your user’s need you have to prioritize them. After a while the flow of ideas often slows down. Now you can add new challenges: What if a superhero would design it? Or in a more particular way: What if Steve Jobs/Albert Einstein… design it?

While sticking Post-Its on the wall either you talk or you listen. If you talk maybe you can start taking visual notes — it could be a great way to achieve a common understanding or to start a discussion. Even better than standing alone on the whiteboard is to collaborate — draw with others!
In this context — have you already heart of active listening? And what’s about visual active listening? This is another impactful way to distill what you are hearing from others. You’re not only fully concentrating on what is being said either on what is seen rather than just passively “hearing” the message of the speaker.

  • Additional note: Visual Literacy. Traditionally, we think of “literacy” as the ability to read, write and interpret text. But as we want everything to become more visually dynamic, we have to find out how to learn from these visual elements. Most important part of visual literacy is to think critically of what you see.

What challenges have you faced with trying out a new way of thinking at work? Do you have some tips to overcome them? One challenge I’m always faced with: After one of these workshops you went back to work … The days before being part of this workshop you’re excited about the potential of design thinking and you want to try it in your organization. You walk into work the next day, and… it’s business as usual. Some people ask and listen about this “workshop”, but after everyone is doing their work in the way they’ve always done… Currently I’m working on a few tips which could help to apply design thinking back at work. (I will share as soon as possible!)

In the end: Design Thinking is still great! — In 2 days, we got a minimal viable experience, driving organizational change and vision dynamics.



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