Design thinking, or using the processes and mindset of a designer to get a fresh perspective on anything from a mobile phone to team dynamics in a hospital operating room, is the hot new term coined in the world of architects, product designers, and artists. The radical proposition is that design thinking may bring value to any field and nearly any situation. In Design Thinking, a June 2008 Harvard Business Review article, IDEO‘s Tim Brown shared his depiction of the concept with flavors of empathy, optimism, and iteration.
After working in the field of product design for nine years at IDEO, and now at Design that Matters, I became particularly interested in how people working together in any context can foster powerful, productive interpersonal collaborations by adopting the habits of designers. Jimmy Guterman’s interview with Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds in a 2009 MIT Sloan Management Review article, How to Become a Better Manager… by Thinking Like a Designer, presents an inspiring mash-up of design thinking applied to group dynamics. I believe the article’s insights are applicable to everyone. We can either derive energy from close collaboration with others, bringing multiple people together to become more than the sum of our parts, or we can find that we are repeatedly mired in counterproductive, king-of-the-hill, grandstanding competitions, or blasé meetings for meeting’s sake.
This post is the first in a series of summer blog posts that will elaborate on some of the themes in Guterman’s article, including fostering trust, meaningful communication, and creativity within groups. My hope is to help collaborators construct a rewarding and productive interpersonal dynamic that provides inclusion and satisfaction, yielding great ideas and solutions.
Elizabeth Johansen is the Director of Product Development at Design that Matters, creating new products and services for the poor in developing countries. Elizabeth’s passion to create a positive social impact through design have led her to facilitate more than 20 design thinking workshops and speaking engagements. Prior to DtM, Elizabeth worked for 8 years as a product designer at IDEO.