All Blog Posts By Topic, Creativity & Imagination, Journalism, Marketing, Writing Tips

The Need for Design Thinking

Empathy and creative collaboration are at the forefront of innovative success. Learn more in this AAN 2014 Convention recap!

On July 12, 2014, the final day of the AAN 2014 Convention, held in Nashville, TN, Justin Ferrell, instructor at Stanford University’s d.School discussed the importance of creative risk taking, experimentation, team collaboration and the effect that the layout of a meeting room can have on innovative thinking.

When everyone—not just the design team—is given the opportunity to participate in the design process, everybody wins. By encouraging employees to try something unfamiliar to them, to try something silly and new, they have a tendency to unlock the creative potential of their organization. By having editorial, design, marketing and advertising staff working together on a hands-on project, for example—even if it’s just for a fun teambuilding or training exercise—the opportunity will inspire multidisciplinary teams to produce better content.

Ferrell offered these suggestions for getting companies into a “design thinking” mindset:

  1. Challenge Mindsets
    1. Pursue radical collaboration

i.     i.e., Have scientists work with theatre students, etc.

  1. Have unlikely teams pair up and work together on real projects that will benefit the community

i.     Work with community partners when applicable

  1. Exhibit creative confidence

i.     Respect that everyone has the ability to be creative. They just have to be given a chance to flex that muscle. This is not about analytical thinking.

  1. Challenge Processes
    1. Human-centered design focuses on human values.

i.     Reach out to people who are different from you to understand their needs.

  1. Always consider the experience of the end-user (or reader)—not just the client or advertiser.

i.     How will that product (or article) make them feel? How will they use it? How will it benefit them?

ii.     Really get inside the shoes of the person who will be experiencing what you create, and what their needs are. Then make the world a better place for them.

  1. i.e., The importance of empathy: Doug Dietz redesigns MRI scanning machines for kids and their families
    1. Watch video:
  2. Problem solving depends on how you ask the question.

i.     i.e., 5 + 5 = ?, vs. ? + ? = 10

  1. Test out rough prototypes and get feedback from real users.

i.     “Fail early and often.”

  1. Show. Don’t tell.
  2. Be mindful of the process.

i.     Empathize

ii.     Define

iii.     FOCUS

iv.     Ideate (brainstorm)

v.     FLARE

vi.     Prototype

vii.     Test

viii.     = Solution

  1. “Genius hits a target no one else can see,” Ferrell said.
  1. Challenge Space
    1. Create a specific creative meeting space designed for the types of activities and outcomes you hope the meeting will produce.

i.     Have people work face to face.

ii.     Use furniture on wheels.

iii.     Hold meetings in flexible spaces.

iv.     For more ideas: Read Make Space (2012).

  1. Download free meeting space templates:
  1. Activity: Get started on “design thinking” today!
    1. Download free ideas:

In summary, Ferrell said innovation is a (design) process, not just a singular event. Most people are hard-wired. When they encounter a problem, they go directly to a solution, according to Ferrell. Instead, he suggests that people come up with a long list of ideas or possible solutions (without analyzing them until after the whole list is finished). Then, he said to pick your best idea/solution and run with it.

Creativity inside an organization starts when one’s internal confidence in their abilities is paired with their employer’s openness, allowing them to apply their creative skills. Those opportunities manifest creative output and have a positive impact on the entire organization.

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