Lessons in #UX: How a Design Thinking workshop can help create new experiences

Lessons in #UX: How a Design Thinking workshop can help create new experiences

In my many years as a user experience designer I have tried many different techniques and approaches to “kickstart” projects. After identifying what worked and what didn’t, I “landed on” the Design Thinking workshop as my “go forward” strategy.

Design Thinking as an approach has been around for decades – the term was defined in 1969, and was formalized as an approach in the early 80s. Different people have varying “takes” on the process… Tim Brown from IDEO, in an article on the approach in Harvard Business Review, described it this way:

“(Design Thinking) is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs to what is technologically possible and a viable business strategy (to) convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Here’s how I describe it:

Design Thinking is about defining a new experience through collaborative design. By understanding the business needs, applying empathy to understand end user’s pain points and situation, and aligning and applying the best technology we are able to visualize and plan out that new experience and define the “art of the possible.”

Over the past couple of years I have facilitated many Design Thinking workshops with customers around the world. The typical goals of these workshops are:

Collaborate on defining “out of the box” innovative scenarios that can be applied in the experience
Identify opportunities where technology can be employed to “light up” these experiences
Define one to three target areas/experiences to inform the creation of a formal proof of concept/project

The typical agenda is for a full-day session with key subject matter experts in the area being explored, as well as architects and technologists who can contribute to the conversation. The first part of the day is to discuss the current experience/pain points to get people to understand the domain being addressed. This then informs ideation around potential net new experiences for users. The second part of the day is around fleshing out these “candidate” experiences in more detail. The key is to activity facilitate the room and encourage creativity and collaboration… understanding that there will be different personalities at play and that negativity should be discouraged, especially in the second half of the day.

The outputs, at the very least, are “prototypes” of these net new experiences that can then be built out into full projects. These outputs can then inform scoping activities around what it would take to make the ideas real. Based on the specific project, there is flexibility around what we can do with the outputs – at the very least, it can lead to how current experiences can be incrementally improved through process revision or the application of new technology.

In the end, a Design Thinking workshop adds value even if the ideas that are generated are not viable or followed up on, because it increases everyone’s knowledge of the area being discussed and (if properly facilitated) results in a collaborative design activity that is enjoyable for all participants. I co-lead a design thinking workshop for 200 people at a conference last year, and it was very well received and evaluated – almost everyone had a good time and engaged in the collaborative design activities.

Though if you aren’t an experienced facilitator, I’d start with around ten people… You’ll be much less exhausted.

Here’s another article on Design Thinking that I contributed to…