Getting the Right Mindset for Design Thinking: Embracing Chaos and Collaboration


The design thinking process should lead to a common, acceptable and human-centered solution that will actually benefit the most people possible.

Design thinking is an exciting framework incorporating a tried and tested set of tools and techniques that can be used to involve your users and stakeholders in digital projects in an engaging and valuable way. Design thinking can be applied to almost anything, from developing ideas for new digital products, to defining areas of content. You can even apply design thinking techniques in projects completely unrelated to digital customer experience, and even outside work!

There are many practical elements to consider when putting design thinking into action including how you structure workshops and selecting the right design thinking techniques. But at a deeper level to make design thinking a success you also need to have the right mindset. A design thinking session should feel very different to a traditional user involvement in a digital project, both for participants and facilitators.

An important element of design thinking is an underlying philosophy and mindset that emphasizes the value of having a diversity of contributions from a wide group of stakeholders and users. While traditional user research and requirements gathering for digital projects does stress the value of speaking to a diverse set of people, design thinking comes from a very different angle. It says that every contribution and idea has potential value; it embraces the chaos of gathering feedback, however crazy, conflicting, unstructured or tangential it seems; and it changes the role of the “expert” in the room to be a true facilitator who avoids influencing contributions. It is essentially a bottom-up rather than a top-down process.

Natural Design and Artificial Design

A good way to consider this philosophy and mindset is to think about natural design and artificial design. Design in the natural world such as a forest or a river is very chaotic.

If you look at a forest, for example, the tree branches can twist around each other in different directions. There are roots that straddle the surface but reach deep below, and a plethora of plants weave themselves between the trees. Overall, the design is twisted, tangled and chaotic.

But at the same time nature works with interaction between all the different parts to make up a whole which has its own inherent logic, but is also incredibly beautiful. There are also amazing examples of individual design – the bark of the tree, a leaf on a plant, and so on.

We then have artificial design, which is introduced by man. When we design a house, or a picture, or the layout of a website homepage, we approach this with structure and intent. We try to put some kind of order in the design to make it work for us. We have a problem in mind to solve, we have a frame of reference and experiences we draw upon. And we approach the design with a sense of logic. This approach has its advantages, but it’s essentially from a top-down perspective; we’d perhaps have some initial idea, but we’d then hire a web designer or specialist expert who then comes and designs a solution.

Related Article: How to Put Design Thinking Into Action



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