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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!

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Sheba Leung

Translator. Sport lover. Traveler.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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