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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
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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!

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Reference

More by this author

Sheba Leung

Translator. Sport lover. Traveler.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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