Mikel's Reflections on Week 2

Question: Did our design thinking workshop change the way you approach problem solving? In what way? How might you apply this methodology going forward?

This last week at MotherCoders we were introduced to Design Thinking by Molly Wilson from Sliced Bread Design. It was all completely new to me: a major shift in thinking. I definitely NEED the shift.  

Design Thinking gives me scaffolding for breaking down and solving problems, with the confidence that you will get a right answer at the end of the process. But what is meant by the “right” way to solve a problem?

The Conventional Way: Problem → Solution

Molly Clare Wilson

Molly Clare Wilson

Molly, our Design Thinking instructor, had us start the day with an exercise where she asked us to design the ideal way for new mothers to find parenting community and resources. Not yet trained in the Design Thinking arts, I started by thinking about what I would want. Then outlined a website with aggregated resources for new moms to reference.

There was really no process here. I came up with all the solutions. I imposed my guesses on the problem to create a solution, without any feedback. And really it was just so broad as to not be particularly useful or feasible.  A good lesson in what NOT to do.

The Design Thinking Way: Elevating Empathy

Molly presented us with this process, which comes out of the Stanford d.School, one of the great epicenters of Design Thinking thought leadership:

She then re-framed the question and asked us to solve this problem for someone else-- to identify the user. We partnered up and got to work. We ‘empathized’ by interviewing each other. Through this interview I learned of a very specific need that stemmed from my partner’s premature baby’s NICU stay that I could never have discovered, let alone addressed, on my own. When using this process it feels much more like the solutions are grown organically from the problem and the user/target audience.

Learning To Love Feedback. And Testing. And Testing Again.

There are many ways any problem can be solved, but not all solutions are created equal. My takeaway from Design Thinking is that it elevates human empathy as the most important principle to optimize for in a solution. Don’t solve the problem the way you think it should be solved, the way you would solve it for yourself, or even the way a room full of smart people may solve the problem...solve the problem in a way that considers first the reality of the person with the problem, then allow for their reality to shape the solution, through iteration and feedback.

Love the feedback. I often worry that I have to have all the answers and create all the solutions out of thin air. Having a ‘process’ divides things into bite-size pieces. It creates interactions and feedback loops that makes things doable. The lesson really hit home the importance of testing and testing and testing iterations--constant feedback.

Got feedback on this post? You can find Mikel on Twitter at @mikelb.