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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 February 25, 2020

5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

“Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days. A purpose.” – from the popular show, “Westworld”

It’s different for us all. My personal quest for purpose began with five stages of grief and one startling realization that everything’s endlessly fragile. Adversity, as it happens by rule, found me terribly unprepared, so I decided to take my time. Today, I can honestly say that I’ve grown.

Ugliness and beauty, good and evil, pain and laughter – everything in the universe consists of two forces that are opposing but complementary. In the face of difficulty, that is the only mantra you need.

Here’s how I learned it and why you should too, with five simple rules.

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1. Embrace the Complexity

Quite insidiously, adversities come in all shapes and sizes. Paralyzing physical disabilities, mind-wracking mental problems, ruthless emotional havocs, all leading to the same painful acknowledgement: all the beauty in the world cannot possibly make up for the ugliness that surrounds us. Shattered to pieces, helpless and bare naked, we sit in our therapy chairs, apologizing for being so negative.

Eventually, what it all comes down to is the nature of negative emotion. Our positives overshadow our negatives, thus wrongly teaching us that the road to well-being is paved with nothing but positive feelings and thoughts. How utterly wrong!

“If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative”, Woody Allen said.

It’s a classic “learn from your mistakes” rule, but in this case, it implies growing from negative experiences. Make peace with your negativities and embrace beauty and ugliness alike! Accepting this marvellously complex world just as it is will allow you to find purpose in adversity and meaning in misery.

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2. Find Balance, Regain Control

Still, accepting adversity is only the first step toward eventual victory. One can endure only so much trauma in life; if we’re not prepared to deal with difficulties in a productive way, even the minor setbacks can get us off track. Our strengths come from learning, and the best way to learn is through a series of trials and errors. Just like phases of grief or stages of drug addiction, adversities suggest a disabling loss of control, so find your way to regain it.

Some call it the coping mechanism; for others, it’s a spiritual will. However you choose to name yours, know that not all supporting systems are equally beneficial, though each is effective in its own way. Escapism was mine, but it only helped me retain the illusion of beauty. It wasn’t until I opened up toward the ugliness and accepted the naked truth that I was finally free. Whether you choose to dwell in art, religion and spiritualism, thus feeding your resilience from within or to reach out to others for help, choose wisely.

Whatever the means, the second rule is a golden one: find your inner balance and stick to it. Eventually, it will lead you out of the vicious circle.

3. Fight with Patience

My bargaining turned in depression with a single touch. Fearless and free, my dance instructor timidly put her hands on my shoulders and I realized, for the first time, just how tense, stiff and cloistered I was. And just like that, I started letting go. Adversities have their sneaky ways, but in my experience, becoming aware is what hurts the worst. It took me a year to recover from this little moment of self-discovery, and I know remember it as the edge of the rabbit hole.

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Some sufferings are impossible to console; I know that now. The only way to get through is to, well, get through. Depression and despair are only the beginning of the excruciatingly unnerving process that ravages the mind and shrivels the soul, and once they strike, there is no easy way back. So, fight them with patience. When your head starts spinning and your feet lose ground, go to your happy place. Over there, you’ll be reminded that nothing is forever, not even our little existential psychosis.

Take a deep breath and say “om”. When things cannot be combated, they have to be endured, so practice patience and learn to let go. Finally, keep repeating to yourself that this too shall pass.

4. Keep Swimming

Nothing is impossible, in the end. Your negative thoughts will gently pour into your positive ones, just as two streams come together to become a river. In the event of the inevitable disaster, one can only be as calm as still water. Suffering teaches patience, and the latter gives rise to flexibility. Ultimately, what is life than a series of unfortunate events and a handful of bright moments in between? If adversities are impossible to avoid, than learn to glide through as smoothly and patiently as water does with rocks.

Even if spirituality isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you have to admit that this is one solid metaphor. Staying adaptable in the face of change will soothe your panic attacks and keep you sane and sober-blooded. Even if you fail, you’ll know exactly how to breathe and face what’s in front of you once it eventually strikes again. Stay calm and visualize a better tomorrow; if anything else, it will give you strength to dive deep and weather the storm. And, in case there’s somebody’s hand to reach out to, grab it firmly and don’t let go.

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Being flexible against adversities takes a lot of learning, just as staying brave demands a lot of courage. It’s a long, arduous step-by-step routine, and you can reach the end only by swimming on. Persist, even when you fall.

5. Never Stop Searching for Inspiration

And, if it’s a guidance you need, where else to seek it than in experiences of others? Find it in art, in people around you, in chance encounters. The pure beauty of perseverance can be discovered where you expect it the least, so never stop searching for inspiration. If self-help literature soothes your pains and clears your mind, don’t let cynics discourage you. Your path toward reconciliation is nobody’s but yours to choose.

Ever heard of Nick Vujicic? Or Nando Parado? Inspiring people sound their yawps over the roofs of the world, sometimes voiceless, sometimes limbless, sometimes both. Born without arms, Jessica Cox became the most unusual certified pilot in the world, and you can rarely see her without a smile on her face. If you’ve already ripped all of your bucket lists and said goodbye to your dreams and plans, meet Sean Swarner, who’s officially became the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest. The stories just go on.

Make your own guidebook! Pen down your positive thoughts, cover your walls with quotes and devise your personal mantras. Whenever things get hard, they’ll be there to remind you of what you need to do. It’s the simplest of all life hacks, and one of the most effective ones.

Find beauty in the world, but never stay blind for its ugliness. However daunting, adversities and emotional pain challenge our inner strength, thus making us resilient and allowing us to grow. As soon as you recognize them as the wind in your sails instead of the devastating storm, the purpose will become simple and clear.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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