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How I Rewired My Brain to Think Like a Designer and Unlock My Creativity

How I Rewired My Brain to Think Like a Designer and Unlock My Creativity

Design is not a subject confined to the creative industry. In fact, it is something that we all might want to learn.

According to a 2014 assessment conducted by the Design Management Institute, design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage over the last 10 years, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228%. [1] These companies include Apple, Coca Cola, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walt Disney, etc.

Amazed by the remarkable success of these companies, many entrepreneurs want to learn how to think like a designer and apply the design principles to their work so that they can have a big success.

But design thinking is not only useful for entrepreneurs. It is also useful for ordinary people like you and me. Design thinking contributes to both business success and individual success, as it helps unlock your creativity and break away from the chain of traditions.

What Is Design Thinking? It’s About Creative Problem Solving

Design thinking is a concept defined and popularized by Rolf Faste in the 1980s. It is a problem-solving practice which attempts to actualize your concepts and ideas and to create a practical yet creative resolution of issues. Unlike the conventional problem-focused one, a design mindset is solution-focused and action-oriented. It explores different possibilities to bring out the most desirable outcomes.

As a human-centered innovation, design thinking shows understanding to the people affected or served by your ideas. The aim is to cater users’ unmet or unarticulated needs by a deep knowledge of customers and their problems. This increases the chance of success when implementing your ideas.

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5 Things You Should Know to Think Like a Designer

A design thinking process can be divided into five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

1. Empathize

The first stage of a design thinking process is to understand the problem in an empathic perspective. Design thinking is a human-centered design process so empathy plays an important role in it. Instead of making assumptions, immersing yourself in the environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the problems involved is rather crucial. In other words, design thinkers should always put themselves into others’ shoes.

2. Define

The information you gathered during the Empathize stage should be used in the Define stage to define the core problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.

To put it simply, you should define the problem from the perspective of your customers or whoever you serve, instead of from the perspective of a provider.

For example, instead of saying ‘we need to increase our page view by 10%’, it is better to define the problem statement as ‘readers need some high-quality content’. This is how design thinking values the unmet needs of customers.

3. Ideate

When everything is ready, designers can start generating ideas to solve the problem. The most important part of it is to think outside the box. You should try to identify new solutions and view the problem in alternative ways.

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Possible ideation techniques include brainstorm and worst possible idea. They are ideal to stimulate free thinking and to expand the problem space. You should try to get as many ideas or solutions as possible at the beginning and then consider their feasibilities to come up with the best way to solve the problem.

4. Prototype

The Prototype stage is an experimental phase. The idea is to produce a number of scaled down versions of the product to be shared and tested within the team or outside the team.

Through such kind of experiment, the team will be able to identify the best possible solutions. The solutions are investigated one-by-one and they are either accepted, improved and re-examined, or rejected according to the feedback from the users.

At the end of the stage, the designers will have a clearer picture of how real users behave and think when they interact with the product.

5. Test

The final stage of design thinking is to rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during the previous stage.

Design thinking is never a linear process. In practice, tests often inspire new ideas for the project. The information collected from the testing phase is often used to redefine problems and inform the understanding of the users. So the final stage does not really mean the finale.

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Design Thinking Makes You a Better Achiever

The above description is perhaps illustrated from a business perspective. But how can ordinary people like you and me include design thinking in our daily life?

Case 1: Design thinking helps you perform better at work

Let’s say you want to boost your productivity at work.

First, you should ask yourself why this bothers you. Perhaps your low productivity makes you feel exhausted at work.

When you try to define your problem, explore if there’re other possibilities for causing the your problem. It not, define your core problem. Maybe you find yourself hard to stay focused.

Then, it’s time to explore solutions. Brainstorm and research for all the possible solutions. Maybe you should take some breaks during work, or maybe you should turn off any devices that would cause distraction. Try them out one by one and choose the best to be tested. At last, you will find the best way to solve the problem.

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Case 2: Design thinking helps you achieve a personal goal

What if it’s a personal goal? Yes, design thinking works for a personal goal too. And it has helped me to overcome workout laziness.

I am one of those who are lazy to go to gym. At the first stage, I ask myself, ‘What would going to gym really do for you?’ As a sport enthusiast, I want to perform better by strengthening my muscles.

The answer is not surprising. But what is the problem? I finally find that the excuse I give to myself every time is quite similar: it’s too rush to do it before work, or it’s too tiring to do it after work. So I come up with the problem statement, ‘I need to find a suitable time-slot for gym’.

Then I try to think of different available options: before work, during lunch break, after work, in the weekend, and so on. In the following stage, I try all the possible solutions one by one. At last, I choose to the best options and see if it works. It turns out that this really works for me!

So obviously design thinking is not only an approach for us to create success in business but it also helps us to solve problems in our daily life! Remember the five stages of design thinking and follow it next time!

Reference

More by this author

Sheba Leung

Translator. Sport lover. Traveler.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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