To Help Solve Problems, Practice a Six-Step Design Thinking Process

According to the authors of Solving Problems with Design Thinking, most leaders harbor a deep, dark secret: They believe in their hearts that they are not creative, and find themselves short on delivering innovation ideas to their organizations.

In today’s seemingly rampant innovation mania, managers and leaders cannot appear unimaginative, let alone fail to come up with brilliant solutions to vexing problems on a whim.

For most of us there will be no Moses-like parting of the waters of the status quo  that we might safely cross the Red Sea of innovation. Drowning is more likely our fate.  

– from Solving Design Problems

There is hope.

Instead of trying to part the waters, leaders need to build a bridge to take us from the current reality to a new future.

In other words, we must manufacture our own miracles.

The technology for better bridge building already exists, right under our noses. It’s called design thinking.

This approach to problem solving is distinguished by the following attributes:

  • It emphasizes the importance of discovery in advance of solution generation using market research approaches that are empathetic and user driven
  • It expands the boundaries of both our problem definition and our solutions
  • It is enthusiastic about engaging partners in co-creation
  • It is committed to conducting real-world experiments rather than just running analyses using historical data

And it works.

Design thinking is capable of reliably producing new and better ways of creatively solving a host of organizational problems.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Design for Strengths by John K. Coyle

Are you on the cusp of greatness? Do you have untapped potential and talents just waiting to be released? Read this book to learn the same creative problem-solving methodology (Design Thinking) used extensively at Stanford, Google, IDEO, and Apple. This guide will unlock your personal potential, and that of your team and your business.

By exploring the intersection of Design Thinking and strengths-finding, innovation expert John K. Coyle demonstrates what most high achievers intuitively know-that each one of us possesses a unique combination of strengths, talents, skills and capabilities to achieve breakthrough performance-but may need a code to unlock them.

Design for Strengths delivers the process, tools and mindsets required to find and maximize your hidden potential. Illuminated by a captivating narrative of Olympic training and competition, Coyle demonstrates how he used the Design Thinking process and mindset to hack the sport of speed skating and win an Olympic silver medal. This book contains real-life examples of how individuals and organizations can use Design Thinking to define the right problem, and to ask and answer a better question. Instead of “how do I fix my weaknesses?” ask, “how can I design for my strengths?”

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Design is all about action, and churches too often get stuck at the talking stage.

Face it – despite all our planning and analyzing and controlling, the typical church’s track record at translating its rhetoric into results is not impressive.

In the business world, researchers estimate that only somewhere between 10% and 60% of the promised returns for new strategies are actually delivered. Having been around ChurchWorld for over 38 years, my observation is the reality would be between 10% and 30% – tops.

Practices that consume enormous amounts of time and attention produce discouraging results. All the empty talk is making it harder and harder to get anything to actually happen. Churches expect the staff to be member-focused while the majority watches. When a staff or volunteer actually takes a risk, they are punished if it doesn’t succeed. Ambitious growth goals aren’t worth the spreadsheets they are computed on.

Getting new results requires new tools – and design thinking has real tools to help move from talk to action.

Design thinking is a simple framework and process to guide creative problem solving – a way to leverage the designer’s mindset to “solve old problems” in new ways.

Here are quick snapshots of each of the six Design Thinking steps.

Accept: Like so many problem-solving methodologies, the first step in the Design Thinking process is to admit there is a problem. Corollary to this is the idea that you don’t want to accept or work on problems that are completely intractable. There is a fine line between giving up too early and taking on the impossible.

Define: Often the “obvious” fix to a problem is the wrong one. The define stage is all about framing and reframing the problem in meaningful and solvable ways.

Empathize: This is perhaps the most important element of Design Thinking and probably also the hardest. Empathy doesn’t mean sympathy or agreeing with a particular viewpoint. Empathy means being able to shift your own thinking to emulate the thought patterns of someone else, to understand why something can make sense to someone possessing a particular mindset in a particular context.

Ideate: Probably the simplest step in Design Thinking – and yet the one with a methodology most quickly abandoned. Generating ideas without judgment is vastly superior to the simultaneous divergent/convergent process that almost every meeting in the world manages to evoke.

Prototype: Critical to this step is a “learn-by-doing” action bias and mindset. It is less about feedback and much more about the willingness to produce a less-than-perfect artifact or process that we could learn from.

Test: This phase is a decision point; either A) we have confidence to launch through quantitative data, or B) we need to return to Define, Empathy, or Prototype to tweak our problem statement, understanding, or approach. In this phase, you take a prototype – a new way of doing something – and try it in “real life.”

John K. Coyle, Design for Strengths

A NEXT STEP

It may be simplistic, but when it comes to problem solving, there are basically two kinds of problems: the simple and the complex. Simple problems really aren’t “simple” – it’s just that their solutions are often obvious, and require specific types of action to solve. Think of building a house – it’s a complicated process, but the “solutions” have been honed and refined over hundreds of years until they become somewhat formulaic.

On the other hands, complex problems do not have easy answers, and may even appear to be unsolvable at first glance. Reframing stubborn and complex challenges as design problems allows new ideas and solutions to emerge.

With this in mind, schedule a team meeting to tackle a complex problem that either exists or you see on the horizon.

On the top of six chart tablets, write the key word for each of the steps listed above. Copy and distribute this SUMS Remix to use as a guide for your team in discussing and listing actions that correspond to the six steps.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 111-1, released January 2019


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Good Cooking is Simply a Series of Problems Solved

The title of this post is actually a quote from one of the instructor chefs at the CIA’s cooking school. Author Michael Ruhlman, in “The Making of a Chef,” chronicles his time at the legendary cooking school, the oldest and most influential in America.

The comment came in response to a student’s unique suggestion of how to keep hollandaise sauce at just the right temperature to keep it from “breaking”. The chef had never thought of his idea, and encouraged him (and the rest of the class) to approach a problem from a unique angle (outside the box” thinking?).

This line of thought falls right into a post by Seth Godin entitled “Sell the Problem.” He noted that many business to business marketers tend to jump right into features and benefits, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem.

The challenge is this: if your organization doesn’t think it has a  problem, you won’t be looking for a solution. You won’t wake up in the morning dreaming about how to solve it, or go to bed wondering how much it’s costing you to ignore it.

And so the marketing challenge is to sell the problem.

I’m passionate about helping churches thrive by turning challenges (problems) into opportunities. It’s very personal with me – I want to understand prospective clients so well that I know their situation almost as well as a leader or staff member. In fact, that statement, made a couple of years ago by a pastor, is one of the highlights of my career!

It’s my job to understand their problems.

When a prospect comes to the table and says, “we have a problem,” then you’re both on the same side of the table when it comes time to solve it.

All I have to do now is follow the recipe – a series of problems solved.