Sue Feng Design

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Change by Design – Part I

I'm still reading Change by Design by Tim Brown, the CEO and president of IDEO. I am compiling an outline summary of the book for future reference. It may become useful for others interested in the book or design thinking. You don't have to be a designer to appreciate this book. Here's a look at Part I of the book:

The Power of Design Thinking

Before the 21st century, technology has helped lift millions out of poverty, and has improved the standard of living for people

The 21st century, however brought about environmental problems such as pollution and climate change

Excessive consumption of cheap goods with planned and perceived obsolescence lead about consumption and excessive waste

The innovations of the past have become routine for today's businesses

The communications revolution sparked by the Internet has brought people closer together, however, which lead to people sharing ideas with one another in ways never before done

What we need are new choices, that tackle global challenges of health, poverty, and education, while not harming the environment. We need an approach that can be integrated into all aspects of business and society, that both individuals and teams can use to generate impactful breakthroughs

Design thinking begins with skills designers have learned that match human needs with available resources within practical constraints of business. Products have to be technologically feasible, economically viable, while also desirable to the consumers. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning aswell as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols. There needs to be a balance between feeling, intuition, and inspiration, as well as the rational and the analytical.

Design thinking is applicable not only in companies in search of new product offerings, but to a wide range of organizations. It can be applied to new sorts of processes, services, interactions, entertainment forms, and ways of communicating and collaborating. Design has become too important to be left to just designers, as design doing transformed into design thinking.

There are important stages of design thinking that are acquired through doing. Design thinking is all about exploring different possibilities. There are different ways of looking at content. The linear approace is about sequences; mind maps are about connections.

Part I What is Design Thinking?

Getting Under Your Skin – How Design Thinking is About More Than Style

Design thinkers know that there is no "one best way" to move through the process of design. There are useful starting points and helpful landmarks, but innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps.

Here's what's needed:

  • Inspiration – the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions
  • Ideation – the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas
  • Implementation – the path that leads from the project room to the market

Design thinking is an exploratory process that when done right, will make unexpected discoveries along the way such that predictions may be thwarted by unexpected user feedback that may lead a project in a different but better direction. There is a process of prototyping and correcting along the way since day one. IDEO motto: "Fail early to succeed sooner."

Predictability leads to boredom, loss of talented people, and results that rivals find easy to copy. It's better to be experimental, share processes, encourage collective ownership of ideas, and enable teams to learn from one another. Yet without constraints, design cannot happen.

There needs to be the following:

  • Feasibility – what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future
  • Viability – what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model
  • Desirability – what makes sense to people and for people

When businesses attempt to narrow their innovation efforts to ideas that have more mear-term business potential, they may be settling for increment rather than innovation. At its worst, this may lead people, as Victor Papanek puts it, "to buy things they don't need with money they don't have to impress neighbors who don't care."

Designers have to move from problem to project. A project has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There should be a clear goal at the outset. There should be natural deadlines within the project. There needs to be clarity, directions, and limits to sustain a high level of creative energy.

Designers begin with a project brief. The brief is a set of mental constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which to measure progress, and a set of objectives to be realized. It's not a set of instructions or an attempt to answer a question before it has been posed. It allows for creativity to make breakthrough ideas.

The complexity of most projects today requires a smart team of people that work together. IDEO saying: "all of us are smarter than any of us." Each member needs to have a set of skills that allows him/her to make a contribution to the outcome. Each person must also have the capacity and disposition for collaboration across disciplines. This distinguishes the multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one. The inspiration phase needs a small focused group whose job is to establish the overall framework. The implementation stage requires large creative teams.

A creative culture is required. That is, believing that it is better to ask forgiveness afterward rather than permission

before, that rewards people for success but gives them permission to fail is necessary. It may be challenging to shift from a culture of hierarchy and efficiency to one of risk taking and exploration. People who make the shift are able to be more deeply engaged, more motivated, and more productive than before. Designers need to look at every problem from adult illiteracy to global warming as design problems.

Converting Need into Demand – Putting People First

The job of a designer, according to Peter Drucker, is "converting need into demand." It's not so simple though, since people are so ingenious at adapting to inconvenient situations that they are often not aware that they are doing so. People often don't know what they really want.

3 mutually reinforcing elements of any successful design program:

  • Insight – learning from the lives of others
  • Observation – watching what people don't do, listen to what they don't say
  • Empathy – standing in the shoes of others

Looking beyond the individual, we must extend our understanding to social interactions of people in groups and interactions among groups for services like social networking, multiplayer online games, and mobile phone offerings.

Today we are moving beyond "ethnographic" approaches such that designers are migrating from creating for people, to creating with people, to having people create by themselves through the application of user generated content and open-source innovation. We are mostly in the middle, though, between having companies create new products and customers passively consuming them, and the futuristic vision of customers designing everything they need for themselves. Consumers are now active participants in the creation process.

A Mental Matrix – These People Have No Process

Making clients a part of the design experience helps design thinking to diffuse throughout an organization. One needs to make use of both convergent and divergent thinking in design. First one should diverge to create many choices. Then from the many choices, converge until one has the best one. According to Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel Prizes, "To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas."

We need analysis to break apart complex problems to understand them better, and synthesis to put together pieces to create whole ideas, to identify meaningful patterns. They are important in creating options and making choices. The "seeds" of design thinking involve a continuous movement between divergent and convergent processes and between analytical and synthetic.

Rules for intelligent design:

  1. The best ideas emerge when the whole organizational ecosystem as room to experiment.

  2. Those most exposed to changing externalities 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 buzz should be favored.

  5. Senior leadership skills in "gardening" should be used to tend, prune, and harvest ideas.

  6. There should be an overarching purpose so the organization has a sense of direction and innovators don't feel the need for constant supervision.

Along with experimentation, there should be a climate of optimism. Optimism is the belief that things can be better than they are now. Optimism requires confidence, and confidence is built on trust. Brainstorming can be valuable, but there are rules to follow: defer judgment, encourage wild ideas, stay focused on the topic, and build on the ideas of others.

Visual thinking through drawing can be used to express ideas by simultaneously revealing the functional characteristics as well as emotional content of an idea. Drawings may depict new ideas, help take notes on observations, or to build on ideas of others. Our ability to construct complex concepts that are both functionally relevant and emotionally resonant is the most valuable tool in design thinking.

Building to Think – The Power of Prototyping

Prototyping – the willingness to go ahead and try something by building it. David Kelly calls prototyping "thinking with your hands"

Prototyping generates results fast, such that making them helps one experiment and decide among competing ideas. They help make the ideas tangible so you can refine them and zero in on the best solution. The goal of early prototyping is to give form to an idea to learn about its strengths and weaknesses and to identify new directions for the next generation of more detailed prototypes.

Prototypes can be physical models, but they may also be storyboards in developing a movie or it may consist of people acting out a service process such as a fictional IT support team. Acting out scenarios and role playing is helpful for seeing how well a product works, whether it's a physical object or a service. It's also important to prototype business models.

A successful prototype is not one that works flawlessly, but it's one that teaches us something. In the inspiration stage designers may make sketches and quick mockups, scenarios to explore new services, product offerings, and customer experiences. In the ideation stage, there are more sophisticated prototypes made. When an idea is almost ready for implementation, it will often be tested.

Returning to the Surface – The Design of Experiences

Innovation is "a good idea executed well." Unfortunately, good execution isn't easy. Most products never reach the market, and those that do end up becoming junk. Uneven quality, unimaginative marketing, unreliable distribution, unrealistic pricing are all problems with poor execution.  Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound, and smell. Human centered design thinking allows us to use our understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

Getting people to change is difficult, but getting people to try something new by building on behaviors that are familiar to them. Sometimes people perform unconscious acts that suggest a promising direction. Building an experience culture by making everyone a design thinker may be an effective way to improve a business such as a hotel chain. Creating an experience culture requires going beyond the generic to design experiences perceived as uniquely tailored to each customer though.  Transforming the culture of an organization is just as important as designing the physical aspects. Allowing employees to seize opportunities when and where they see them and giving them the tools to create experiences is an essential element needed for that transformation.

Spreading the Message – The Importance of Storytelling

Robert Wright, a journalist, wrote in a book Nonzero, that as we learned how to spread our ideas, our society structures expanded from nomadic groups to tribes, to villages, to cities, to states, and finally, to supranational organizations and movements. We rely on stories to put our ideas into context and give them meaning. Storytelling plays an important role in the human-centered approach to problem solving.

Storyboards and scenarios are ways to visualize an idea as it unfolds over time. Time is the "forth dimension" in a designer's tool kit. Designing with time means thinking of people as living, growing, thinking organisms who can help write their own stories. It will be far more effective to engage individuals as active participants in their own stories.

Letting people tell their own stories resolves two obstacles in the path of every new idea: gaining acceptance in one's own organization and getting it out into the world. More good ideas die because the organization and market rejects them. New ideas make life harder because people are presented with new choices, each with unknown risks, including the risk of making no choice at all. A good story well told should deliver a "powerful emotional punch".

Sometimes the story itself is the final product when the point is to introduce a meme, or a self-propagating idea that changes behavior, perceptions, or attitudes.  Storytelling plays a vital role in communicating an idea's value to its intended audience so that some of them, at least, will want to go buy it. Sometimes advertisements are only effective if they can get people to tell their own stories, by getting people talking about the ad or product.

Design challenges are great for finding the best solution for a tough problem. They unleash the power of competition as rival design teams attach a single problem. They also create stories around an idea, transforming people from passive onlookers to engaged participants.

It's essential that storytelling begins in the early life of a project, and be woven into every aspect of the innovation. In other words, document your work as you work, rather than at the end of a project. Starting to document from day one helps keep the story in real time.

Storytelling should not have a tidy beginning, middle, or end, but rather, an ongoing, open-ended narrative that engages people and encourages them to carry it forward and write their own conclusions. The story may begin with the early stages of a product's development, and move forward to implementation, and later to the customers who write the last chapter of the story themselves.


Posted on: August 29, 2012Categories: ReviewsTags: books
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