This audiobook turned out to be a great collection of articles on design. Each article has a specific purpose, is concise, and packs a big learning punch. Some articles are just ok, but most are outstanding.
by Tim Brown (IDEO)
Design thinking means meeting customers desires, in a strategic, viable business method, that’s also technologically possible. Tim highlights the importance of being design thinking shepherds, guiding and growing the abilities of non-designers.
He identifies five key parts that make up a great design thinker’s personality profile:
1. Empathy: Imagining from multiple perspectives, great designers see the world in minute detail.
2. Integrative Thinking: Taking an analytical approach, they have the ability to see all the elements, even contradictory ones. They take a confounding problem, and turn it into a novel solution.
3. Optimism: No matter the constraints, great designers believe that there is always a way to improve on the status quo.
4. Experimentation: Great designers understand that a massive changes does not come from small incremental feature additions. To make massive change happen, they propose experiments to push new directions.
5. Collaboration: The lone genius designer has become the interdisciplinary designer. They work collaboratively, and have significant experience in multiple domains.
Reflecting on Design Thinking
by Tim Brown (IDEO)
Idea: Tim looks back on the progress and developments over the past few years. He identifies that great design satisfies both our functional needs, and our emotional desires. It’s not the first product that always wins. It’s the first product that does the job, and we love, that will be successful. Products that are truly meaningful, are the ones we should strive to create.
Innovation is made up of three phases: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Design thinking should be leveraged in each phase. Brown focuses on how to improve inspiration and ideation in this article.
What’s promising? What holds things back? How might we leverage constraints as creative springboards? What assets do we have that we can take advantage of?
- Ask: How might this problem be solved with existing solutions?
- Ask: How might we leverage existing behaviours?
- Explore: Exploring lots of bad ideas eventually become few good ideas, which in turn become the singular, eventual solution.
- Create a culture of rapid experimentation and learning, and develop success metrics like: average time to first prototype, and average number of users exposed to the prototype. If you get work in front of users early, and often, they will help you emerge from the ambiguous fog.
Why Design Thinking Works
by Jeanne Liedtka
This article is a toolbox of design process methods, as well as highlighting the potential pitfalls of design thinking, and the ways to solve them. I really enjoyed how Liedtka illustrated the entire design process, and showed how the output of one step becomes the input of the next step.
Innovation is only possible when it: lowers the cost and risk of change, has employee buy-in, and offers superior solutions to the ones that exist today.
How the activities of design thinking can help
1. Immersion: Examine what makes for a meaningful customer journey. Data can’t tell you what people aren’t able to articulate. The best way to truly understand the customer experience is to experience it by living it. After experiencing, and gathering lots of information, find a shared hallway in your office, and post-up the insights, allowing passers by to take it in–the photos, quotes, emotions. Key stakeholders can highlight key information, that will be used for future solutions. Next, cluster post-its and search for insights. These insights become a set of shared knowledge.
2. Alignment: Ask “If anything were possible, what jobs would be accomplished through our experience?” Prioritize by importance first. This helps to reduce the tendency to pick less risky ideas first, and gives ideas a fighting chance against the status quo.
3. Emergence: Once you understand the customer needs, carefully plan who will participate, what challenge will be given, and how the conversation will be structured. Use the insights from before to determine design criteria. Use the design criteria to do individual brainstorming, gather and share ideas, build on them creatively by using “yes, and”. These participants deep understanding of the user’s situation will help them become champions in the long run.
4. Articulation: Emergence generates many somewhat feasible, somewhat attractive ideas. Next we test those ideas against implicit assumptions. Question them: What would have to be true for this solution to happen? What are the assumptions about why it would work? Fight the bias to pick the first solution, or the overly optimistic solution. The output of this step is a portfolio of diverse, well thought through ideas, with their assumptions vetted, and with the support of committed teams.
5. Testing: Carry out building, and testing prototypes with users. The goal is to learn as fast as possible, and to move forward. It is not a box-checking exercise, nor is it to fine tune, it may reveal necessary radical change. Embrace it. The output of this process are learnings you can use to do more testing, and when you have sufficient confidence, use the prototype to inform the final refined solution.
6. Build the refined solution: Work with the team to shepherd learnings, and insights, using experience and knowledge to determine a way forward in difficult decisions.
The Right Way to Lead Design Thinking
by Christian Bason and Robert D. Austin
Idea: In order for design thinking to be adopted, it must have the right stewardship.
Bason and Austin set out to find solutions to the following design problems:
1. Feedback received from customers is sometimes overly emotive.
2. Divergent thinking can feel like spinning wheels, and wasting time.
3. Iteration can be uncomfortable.
Teammates need guidance to navigate the process, to ensure that it goes smoothly. They identify three ways to overcome these challenges: Leveraging empathy, encouraging divergence and navigating ambiguity, and rehearsing new features.
Leveraging empathy is all about understanding the reality of using your products and turning that information into a positive force for change. By positive force for change, they mean something constructive, and forward looking. Start by gathering a wealth of data, and framing insights in a way that directs focus towards the goal. Set aside pre-conceptions about the product and strive to approach with a beginner’s mind. If the problem feels too big and overwhelming, think in steps that move in the right direction. These activities help to build a visceral understanding, and can be a powerful reminder later in the project, if we forget why we are doing something.
How doe we as designers explain a methodology for a process we do not fully understand? We can do this by leading by example, jumping fearlessly into the unknown. When faced with ambiguity, we are stretching to find solutions, it’s not a lack of direction. Knowing where we want to get to is clear, but how we get there is up for us to figure out.
Instead of trying to control ideation, embrace positive chaos. Always generate at least seven different approaches, to get beyond the early options. To be truly innovative, generate extreme ideas, and use them to learn and generate new ideas.
Rehearsing New Features
Create tangible design prototypes to help address skepticism. “Failed” prototypes are a valuable step in the process. It’s important to spell out what you aim to achieve, and for who. User feedback leads to ideas that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, and is an absolutely crucial step.
We cannot commission design thinking and walk away. We must help team members to understand the realities of working in ambiguity, and highlight why this is a constructive, positive part of the process.
Design For Action
by Tim Brown (IDEO)
Idea: In order to innovate, you’ll have to go up against stiff resistance. By treating this resistance to innovation as a design challenge, you can be more successful.
With complex artifacts, the design of their intervention, introduction, and integration into the status quo is more crucial to success than the artifacts themselves. In this article Brown focuses on the intervention stage.
A way around this is the hybrid approach, taking the status quo, and merging it with the new change. Although often easily accepted institutionally, this often does not mesh with a designers goal: to create the best possible solution.
Problems typically highlighted
1. This doesn’t address the problems I believe are critical.
2. These aren’t the possibilities I would have considered.
3. These aren’t the things I would have studied.
4. This isn’t an answer that’s compelling to me.
With all of these potential problems, winning commitment tends to be the exception to the rule.
Overcoming Challenge Through Iterative Interaction With Stakeholders
1. Go early and say, we think this is the problem we need to solve, to what extent does that match your view?
2. Iterate and go back and say, here are the possibilities we want to explore, based on what we agreed on (in step 1), to what extent are they possibilities you imagine? Are we missing some? Are any of these non-starters?
3. Iterate and go back and say, we plan to do the following analyses on those agreed upon explorations, to what extent are these analyses that you’d want done? Are we missing any?
4. Introduce the strategy: At this point when you present the strategy, it is almost a formality, and stakeholders aren’t shocked or surprised by something out of left field.
When launching a complex product, intentionally keep complexity down in the first release. The first step of a product launch is user acceptance. They need to learn a completely new system. The second step is expansion. Once the users understand the core experience, you can add new features that introduce complexity. Design products so that they can evolve.
Steps in designing an Intervention
1. Prime stakeholders by establishing an anchor for the future change.
2. Create a new model, based on knowledge experts, and an understanding of user needs.
3. Learn about the hurdles to launch, and create a pilot project to test the waters. Test assumptions, and tweak based on pilot user insights.
4. After the success of the pilot, other groups will want to participate. Expand and launch the next stage. Repeat all over again.
The Innovation Catalysts
by Roger L. Martin
Intervention is many small steps, not one big one. Don’t worry about getting things perfected before communicating with users or stakeholders. Communication is the way forward.
Intuit realized that on their Net Promoter Score (NPS), they had improved their detractor score, but couldn’t increase the top end. People using the product weren’t passionate about it. Marketing got people in the door, but product quality was what they stuck around for.
Intuit adopted a philosophy of “design for delight”. They introduced innovation catalysts: people with broad perspectives on design, knew what great design looked like, who were collaborative, outgoing, and influential. They embedded these innovation catalysts within teams, to encourage teams to consider the customer perspective, and embrace design thinking.
They shifted away from presentations, and toward customer insight, and experiements.
They introduced a new four week cycle centred around three activities:
1. Painstorm: What are the biggest pain points for customers? Is this a problem that we could solve?
2. Soul Jam: In one week, generate as many ideas as possible, narrowing down to one, and build a prototype.
3. Code Jam: In two weeks, write code that’s good enough to test out ideas.
Know your Customer jobs To Be Done
by Clayton Christensen
Today’s tech-centric companies have more data than ever, and yet products continue to fail. It seems as though we’ve mastered innovation, and yet we haven’t. Why is that?
Most data creates correlation: Most managers make decisions based on correlation. The data however is often related to the actual cause. Instead of focusing on correlation, focus on the specific jobs your users need to accomplish.
Data models make you a master of description, but failures at prediction
If a product does a bad “job” of the task we hired it to do, we won’t use it again, for the task we want to accomplish, we’ll find another one. Jobs to be done theory helps you identify the causal drivers for product use, and enables you to build the right product.
You are in the business of “the job” your users set out to accomplish. Your goal is to meet that job, not to create a technical artifact (the software). Successful innovators solve problems, while addressing user anxieties, and the inertia that holds users back. Jobs aren’t just function, they have social, emotional attributes that matter. Jobs are complex, multi-faceted, and require a precise definition.
Principles for Jobs to Be Done
1. Job is shorthand for what an individual seeks to accomplish in a specific circumstance.
2. It usually involves more than just a task, it’s an experience.
3. Circumstances the user faces is more important than the user characteristics and trends.
4. Good innovations solve problems that had inadequate, or no previous solution.