learning & change

Six Mindsets to guide your Collaborative Design Process

At Soji, human-centred design principles guide how we work with our clients.
Whether we are building development programs, supporting change initiatives or helping our clients shape their workplace experiences, the idea of putting people at the centre of the design effort epitomises what we love about our work.
Over the years, we’ve found that certain ways of thinking can profoundly impact the quality of outcomes we achieve when collaborating on designs.

Get Curious – Open up and lean into the possibility of what might be. Leave your preconceived ideas behind.
Curiosity is a foundation for great design. It allows us to step outside our entrenched narratives and learn about how others see the world. Adopting a stance of a naive beginner or impartial observer gives us permission to ask obvious questions about topics that might have been otherwise skipped over. This is particularly helpful in the initial phases of a design challenge.
One way to bring curiosity into your change design is to create a purposeful and deliberate discovery phase. Invest time at the outset of your project to consider what your real opportunity or challenge is. This stage is where about staying open and gathering data that might point in different directions so you can truly learn about the system for which you will be designing.
Curiosity helps us throughout the whole process, but applying an extra dose at the beginning can be incredibly helpful to make sure you are solving the right problem.

Here’s a great blog post from Warren Berger about questions and innovation.

Build Empathy – Bring heart into your work. Shift your perspective and think about what matters most to the people involved.
Immerse yourself in the data and stories you’ve collected and look for insights and new understandings that emerge about the situation when you look at it from different perspectives. Keep an idea of the person you are designing for at the forefront of your mind.
Personas are archetypical customers/users whose aspirations, frustrations and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group.  Use personas and empathy maps to step outside your perspective and imagine what your customers would value.
The more we learn about the people we are designing for, the better our solutions will be. Empathy is curiosity without judgement.

Here’s a great blog post from the Neisel Norman group about empathy mapping

Make Things – Make your ideas tangible with low fidelity prototypes with which people can hold and play.
When designing in collaboration, creating a physical representation of our ideas can significantly speed up the ideation process. The problem with describing our ideas and concepts using words is that something always gets lost in the translation. When misunderstanding occurs, it can suck the energy out of the process and steal momentum away. When we create a tangible thing separate from us as designers, others can engage with it in a much more practical way. It is easier to see if something works if people can try it out. The feedback is usually immediate and helpful. Making things allows us to test our hunches and keep moving forward quickly.
Use napkin sketches, crazy eights or mad libs to generate ideas that others can build on.
When you notice a conversation getting stuck, make something to play with —thinking with your hands a powerful way to unlock creativity and innovation. Even if they don’t survive the design process, the tangible outputs will provide valuable compost for future work.

Here is a simple flow for rapid prototyping from Ideo’s Methodkit and a  blog from Interactive Design Foundation on Prototyping

Test and Tinker – Run mini experiments that don’t cost much and make quick changes based on what you learn.
When we design, our assumptions often guide us. The best design evolves from these assumptions tested in the real world. Real-world prototyping can be expensive, and the more expense associated with the product, the higher the stakes. This practice aims to reduce risk earlier in the process. Move quickly to the point where you can make something real and put it in front of someone else for feedback. The faster you move, the less attached to the product you’ll be and the more likely you’ll be able to let go of bad ideas. Play with the experiments and tweak your ideas based on the feedback you get.

Here is an experiment card from the Board of Innovation.

Embrace Ambiguity – Hold things lightly, stay flexible and ready to adapt. Don’t get paralysed by the need to know everything.
People-centred design is often a bit fuzzy. The initial stages have you gathering information about a system before you have a clear idea of the solution you’ll need to design. In the best design projects, we find that the initial problem definition usually changes as you learn more about the actual needs. Working with this much ambiguity can be tricky. It takes a certain level of grace to share your ideas with some conviction and simultaneously be ready to let them go as soon as they aren’t serving the process. We find that following a straightforward and tested design process can help here. A sprint with discrete stages that uses well-understood tools and a facilitation process can help the design team move through the ambiguity and create high impact designs.

Here is a link to an article on how we can learn about uncertainty from the world of jazz improvisations (link to Soji Blog post).

Stay Positive – Stay optimistic, build on others ideas and if things aren’t working, pivot to where the energy is.
This mindset is the most important and probably the least well understood. Staying positive isn’t just about smiling and encouraging others. It’s about going where the energy is and being present enough to notice when to shift your attention and a team. When a design team embodies this mindset, they usually don’t get stuck. They keep moving forward, creating new ideas and paths and engaging with the challenge in different ways

Check out this Positive Psychology Workout for designers.

If you’d like to know more about how Soji’s approach could help with your most important and urgent challenges please do not hesitate to reach out to us at info@soji.com.au.

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