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Former Member

Sometimes a solution looks marvelous on paper but turns out to be a failure.  Read this to get 7 design thinking tips to help your solutions swim instead of sink.  I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Austrian Innovation Forum on “Business Design Thinking” in Vienna, and now I’d like to share my personal insights from the forum with you.

I’ve conveniently organized our highlights into a convenient list of Do’s and Don’ts based on the latest trends in design thinking from the experts.  If you follow these tips, your next solution is more likely to swim than sink.

Tips from the Experts

1. Don’t isolate your thinking.

Often solutions aren’t successful because they failed to meet their intended users’ needs as a result of “silo thinking” according to Prof. Ulrich Weinberg, Head of the School of Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany.  He proposed that the main problem design thinking tries to tackle is “silo thinking”. “Silo thinking” describes the typical mindset that most physicians and mathematicians use to solve a multifaceted problem by splitting it up into many other smaller problems.

Weinberg pointed out that not only does silo thinking not work to solve more complex dreadful real-world problems, but it also fails when it is used to create solutions to address business challenges.  While silo thinking might be effective when used to develop solutions that solve small, isolated problems, it falls short when it comes to developing more comprehensive solutions that require a more holistic view.  Furthermore, silo thinking allows solutions to be developed while forgetting the users.

2. Do change your workplace from the inside out.

In order to properly take advantage of design thinking's full capabilities according to Weinberg, cultural changes need to happen from the inside out. Because fixed, inflexible structures do not support and nurture the mindset needed to deal with the problems of the modern world, they need to be adapted to accommodate flexibility and foster creativity. To do so, both sides of the brain need to be consistently activated, and giving your team the perfect workspace can support this. Rooms need to be variable and allow for both physical and cognitive flexibility.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist.

Weinberg concluded by mentioning that “Everything is beta,” meaning that final products and definite solutions no longer exist. Everything needs to be flexible, adaptive and able to be further developed—and otherwise, if something is not, it will not survive for long.  The essence of Weinberg’s ideas seemed to be embodied in the words of another speaker later in the day who reminded us: “Don’t create products for a perfect world, because it is not a perfect world we live in.”

4. Don’t kill your ideas.

At the parallel program called “Corporate Foresight” I heard another good tip: When discussing new ideas, members of a team should refrain from saying the words “but” and “try” and do not let “problems” become the center of attention when trying to innovate. The best ways to kill an idea is to discuss it to pieces, to focus on too many details, try to benchmark it and to overanalyze it.  If you make those words and topics taboo, your discussion is likely to be more fruitful.

5. Do gamify to maximize your teaching capabilities.

Clemens Schober, Innovation Manager at Kapsch TrafficCom AG, gave us further insight into the power of gamification. In order to effectively gamify, the key elements of a game need to be present: voluntary participation (nobody is forced to play), a clear set of rules, a feedback system and short-term, achievable goals.

6. Do hit gamification’s “sweet spot” and use all of the secrets to success.

According to Schober, you hit gamification’s “sweet spot” when the business and player objectives overlap.  The other secrets to gamification success lie in creating a sense of competition, a sense of community, a way for players to express themselves creatively and an element of surprise.  Schober mentioned that SAP’s “Road Warrior” sales training is a shining example.  We also use gamification for learning programs like the Partner Challange for SAP partners.

7. Do enrich your design thinking with gamestorming.

Last but not least, my favorite moment of the forum came when Dave Gray presented gamestorming to us. After reflecting on his presentation, I realized that while gamestorming has a much more scalable and simplistic framework, it uses methods similar to design thinking and has the potential to be combined with design thinking. The upside of gamestorming is that far less preparation is needed and it can be done in a much shorter time, making gamestorming perfect for both all day workshops as well as hour-long meetings.

So now that you’ve got a few useful and innovative tips from design thinking experts, your solutions will be much more likely to swim than to sink—and in the vast sea of ideas in today’s global marketplace, it is not only better to keep your head above the water, but also to keep your mind moving in different directions.

This post was originally posted on openPDA, the ressource platform for Design Thinkers.

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