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Thinking Like A Designer Can Help You Solve Problems Like A Boss

Thinking Like A Designer Can Help You Solve Problems Like A Boss

Common sense would lead you to believe that “design thinking” involves thinking like a designer — in this case, usually a product, industrial or graphic designer. But if you research the concept further, you’ll find numerous long-form articles, books, businesses and crash courses all built around the idea of design thinking. Everyone from entrepreneurs and engineers to farmers and regular Joes are using the design thinking process to create healthy habits, achieve their goals and tackle life’s dilemmas. You can, too.

What Design Thinking Looks Like

The New York Times recently broke design thinking down into five simplified steps:

  1. Empathize: Learn what issue needs to be solved
  2. Define the problem: This can be tougher than it looks
  3. Ideate: Brainstorm, write down ideas, make lists and come up with possible solutions
  4. Build: Start making a prototype or creating a plan
  5. Test: Seek feedback from others while testing your prototype

Let’s take a look at how these principles can be applied to your everyday life and work.

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Conquer Procrastination: Just Try It With Prototypes

Many people assume that designers are creative. While this is certainly true, in reality, it’s not the driving force behind great designers. Design thinking involves overcoming the fear of failure. Industrial designers often create rapid prototypes using cheaper materials than the final product, which enables them to save money and time and also get the project in motion. Even if the first few prototypes are scrapped, there are undoubtedly takeaways that can be applied to each new model.

This type of thinking can be applied to help with procrastination. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, tells Psychology Today there are three types of procrastination:

  1. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers
  2. Decisional procrastinators who cannot make a decision
  3. Avoiders who are the most common type and generally avoid their fear of failure or even success

This video illustrates how fear is the main factor behind procrastination. People don’t realize they are often avoiding that term paper, quarterly report or buying a gift for a loved one because they are afraid that they will fail if it’s not perfect or that the people involved will be dissatisfied with the results.

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Instead of being conquered by fear, think like a designer. Whatever problem or assignment you’re procrastinating, make a prototype by dividing the tasks into small chunks and tackling the first one. Getting started often leads to a confidence boost as you recall successes from the past.

Take Criticism Well: Thrive on Feedback

Designers must take and apply feedback on every project. It is important for them to establish a positive collaboration environment with their clients. Instead of dreading it, they expect it; they may even be lost without it. Taking criticism well, whether it’s constructive, rash or misplaced, is a huge advantage for your professional and personal well being.

Douglas Stone, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and co-author of “Thanks for the Feedback,” provides three reasons people take criticism poorly:

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  1. It may seem wrong or unfair
  2. They dislike or disrespect the person giving it
  3. It may rock the listener’s sense of identity or security

Designers take feedback and criticism less personally because these three conditions don’t apply. They won’t get far as a designer if they disrespect a client or lose confidence due to feedback. More importantly, criticism can’t be wrong or unfair because the client is trying to satisfy an audience that they understand more than the designer.

Think about this principle when receiving criticism. Where is it coming from? Who is the boss, manager or colleague looking to please? If it still feels misplaced, take the appropriate steps needed. But don’t forget that everyone is trying to please someone other than themselves.

Be a Better Salesman: Visualize With Storytelling

Sales skills are beneficial to nearly all areas of life. Everyone needs to be and is a salesman at some point. Job interviews, romantic or platonic relationships, or just for overall self-confidence and worth: listening, connecting, explaining value and other sales skills all get you closer to your desired result. And thinking about the final result is where design thinking and sales overlap.

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Designers have to explain details while relating how overall project goals are being hit. A good piece of design, sales and problem-solving put together is what Samsung did their TV, The Serif. Over the past few years, curved TVs have flirted with popularity thanks to their cool design, but they’re expected to remain subdued in 2016 due to drawbacks like limited viewing angles and exaggerated reflections. Samsung unconventionally collaborated with the French design team Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec to make sure they developed something that had the “cool” feel of curved TVs, and then they sold the it with a sleek video and PR campaign. Fast Company called it a design masterpiece.

Samsung used design thinking to visualize the entire flow of this project and examine how objectives were being met — similar to how great salespeople visualize the end result for motivation and focus. This is key as they present the same or similar sales pitch to different people with different goals.

Think like a designer by focusing on the end result to improve your sales skills. Understand that no matter how awkward or cheesy you may think you sound, genuine passion cannot be hidden. Great salespeople take a genuine interest in whomever they are talking to and uncover their needs. Do the same when a sales opportunity presents itself to you.

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Last Updated on December 16, 2018

12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

We all look for a better and happier life, but somehow we realize it’s our attitude that makes it hard to lead the life we want. How can we build a positive attitude? Grant Mathews has listed out the things (from the easiest to the hardest) we can do to cultivate this attitude on Quora:

1. Listen to good music.

Music definitely improves your mood, and it’s a really simple thing to do.

2. Don’t watch television passively.

Studies have shown that people who watch TV less are happier, which leads me to my next point…

3. Don’t do anything passively.

Whenever I do something, I like to ask myself if, at the end of the day, I would be content saying that I had spent time doing it. (This is why I block sites I find myself wasting too much time on. I enjoy them, but they’re just not worth it when I could be learning something new, or working on projects I care about.)

Time is incredibly valuable.

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4. Be aware of negativity

A community that considers itself intelligent tends to be negativity because criticizing is seen as a signaling mechanism to indicate that you’re more intelligent than the person you corrected. This was irrationally frustrating for me – it’s one of those things you’ll stay up all night to think about.

5. Make time to be alone.

I initially said “take time just to be alone.” I changed it because if you don’t ensure you can take a break, you’ll surely be interrupted.

Being with other people is something you can do to make you happy, but I don’t include it in this list because nearly everyone finds time to talk with friends. On the other hand, spending time just with yourself is almost considered a taboo.

Take some time to figure out who you are.

6. Exercise.

This is the best way to improve your immediate happiness.

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Exercise probably makes you happy. Try and go on a run. You’ll hate yourself while doing it, but the gratification that you get towards the end vastly outweighs the frustration of the first few attempts. I can’t say enough good things about exercise.

Exercising is also fantastic because it gives you time alone.

7. Have projects.

Having a goal, and moving towards it, is a key to happiness.

You have to realize though that achieving the goal is not necessarily what makes you happy – it’s the process. When I write music, I write it because writing is inherently enjoyable, not because I want to get popular (as if!).

8. Take time to do the things you enjoy.

That’s very general, so let me give you a good example.

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One of the things that has really changed my life was finding small communities centered around activities I enjoy. For instance, I like writing music, so I’m part of a community that meets up to write a song for an hour every week. I love the community. I’ve also written a song every week, 37 weeks in a row, which has gradually moved me towards larger goals and makes me feel very satisfied.

9. Change your definition of happiness.

Another reason I think I’m more happy than other people is because my definition of happiness is a lot more relaxed than most people’s. I don’t seek for some sort of constant euphoria; I don’t think it’s possible to live like that. My happiness is closer to stability.

10. Ignore things that don’t make you happy.

I get varying reactions to this one.

The argument goes “if something is making you unhappy, then you should find out why and improve it, not ignore it.” If you can do that, great. But on the other hand, there’s no reason to mope about a bad score on a test.

There’s another counterargument: perhaps you’re moping because your brain is trying to work out how to improve. In fact, this is the key purpose of depression: Depression’s Upside – NYTimes.com

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I can think of examples that go both ways. I remember, for instance, when I was debating a year or two ago and my partner and I would lose a round, I would mull over what we had done wrong for a long time. In that way, I got immensely better at debate (and public speaking in general – did you know debate has amazing effects on your public speaking ability? But now I really digress).

On the other hand, there’s no way that mulling over how dumb you were for missing that +x term on the left hand side will make you better at math. So stop worrying about it, and go practice math instead.

11. Find a way to measure your progress, and then measure it.

Video games are addictive for a reason: filling up an experience bar and making it to the next level is immensely satisfying. I think that it would be really cool if we could apply this concept to the real world.

I put this near the bottom of the list because, unfortunately, this hasn’t been done too often in the real world – startup idea, anyone? So you would have to do it yourself, which is difficult when you don’t even know how much you’ve progressed.

For a while, I kept a log of the runs I had taken, and my average speed. It was really cool to see my improvement over the weeks. (Also, I was exercising. Combining the two was fantastic for boosting happiness.)

12. Realize that happiness is an evolutionary reward, not an objective truth.

It’s easy to see that this is correct, but this is at the bottom of the list for a reason.

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