If you ask people what a design is, many might think of trendy products or something that one does for a profession. Many also underestimate its value.
International design firm Ideo and Stanford University are pioneers in promoting Design Thinking. Ideo defines it as a method and spirit of human-oriented design. Designers would consider human needs and behavior first, and then the technical and commercial feasibility of a design.
I was introduced to the concept of design thinking more than a decade ago. I was managing a listed firm at the time, and the concept inspired me to rethink company operations and the way we engage with our customers.
In applying design thinking, the first step is to learn to forget. One has to delete all existing ideas and premises. For example, some engineer training programs prohibit students from using certain equipment in order to encourage them to think out of the box. The second step is to think as a user; this is to find out the real issues and demand from users, then fix them in a creative way.
Many managers like to run brainstorming sessions, where people gather to offer creative ideas before the best solution is found.
However, my own experience shows that brainstorming is not very helpful. In many cases, someone would dominate the discussion and the others would just listen rather than come up with their own solutions.
A better approach I found is “Post-it storming”. Everyone in the group writes down their own ideas and posts them on the board anonymously, after which all the ideas are discussed and the best ones are chosen. That would let everyone express their own views rather than let one person dominate the discussion.
I prefer team discussion with a focus on specific topics to a free-wheeling brainstorming session as each idea is sorted out much better. This usually leads to the best solution after thorough discussion and consideration.
The answer to any question won’t come along by itself. We have to find it out through observation as well as trial and error. However, governments, companies or non-governmental organizations always act fast even before they consider other ideas and options. Such an attitude usually ends up in failure.
The full article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 16
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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