First thoughts on Design Thinking

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Thinking, thinking, thinking.

MACE has really got me thinking. It has got me thinking about thinking. It has got me thinking about thinking about thinking.

It seems this course will involve a lot of thinking!

This made we aware that generally in my day-to-day work I don’t have to think very much. I generally know what to do; know somebody else who will know what to do or simply go with my instincts without necessarily analysing why. It is difficult to know if this is a bad thing. Thinking takes time and we are often led to believe that good management is about utitlising time with maximum efficiency. Often management decisions are reduced to a chain of binary logic yes/no responses. It might be believed that the ultimate CEO does not have to think at all and just knows the answer instinctively. There are even books with titles such as ‘Blink: The power of thinking without thinking’ by best-selling author Malcom Gladwell.

With this sort of mindset I found our introductory session with Corrine a little bit testing. It even made me wonder how much easier this course may have been when I was younger and my mind was less cluttered with preconceived ideas. I was reminded of school when term would start after the long summer holidays. Initially having to use a pen again would be uncomfortable, one’s hand would cramp and the writing would be all over the place. This was how using my brain was feeling.

For our first task we were divided into small groups, each with a particular character trait.

In my group Can was deaf, Thierry was only able to act under instruction from Can and I was blind. We were then sent on a mission to find the nearest toilets and use their facilities whilst acting out our diabilities. By stepping outside of our normal perceptions it made us much more sensitive to the requirements of an otherwise banal function. We had taken our first tentative step towards ‘Design Thinking’.

On returning to the study space we were introduced to the USER model for Design Thinking. This convenient acronym refers to a model designed by Corinne to define the stages for effective design thinking.

We looked at how the design of the toilets fitted with the USER System Model, identifying who fitted into the categories of Designer, User and Community. We also looked at what the ‘Rules’ were, the ‘Objects’ and the ‘Roles’. For the design of the toilets this was reasonably simple to define. I did find part of my mind screaming that we were over analysing it. The design had involved very little creative thought. The position of the external soil pipe, internal mains water and entrance would have defined where the cubicles and urinals had to be positioned. There was only one option really. The rules regarding the proximity of mains electrical items in relation to water were the reason for the hand dryer being in a counter intuitive position. On reflection I now wonder if what may have been frustrating me was that we were applying the USER model to a situation that clearly hadn’t used it and even if it were applied would have resulted in limited improvements? Maybe my brain was just cramping.

For our next task we were again spilt into groups and each visited a different retail outlet. My group’s was the Apple store. By chance, as a group we all had very different preconceptions. One of us was a true Apple affectionado, one works in Apple’s largest UK store, one had only been in the UK for month and as for myself, I am a recent Apple customer. I had actually visited the store once before when my new iPhone4 was playing up. I thought they might be able to help at the Genius Bar. I discovered I should have booked an appointment and would have to return four days later when the next slot was available. I was not at all impressed and ended up solving the problem by using online forums. From this I learned the benefits of a collaborative approach to design thinking, taking a variety of perspectives. As a team we observed the customer/ user experience of the store to create an event map. On return to the study space we applied the USER DT Model. What was interesting to me was how the positions of the User and the Community overlapped. It was discussed how this is very much the intention behind the Apple brand and store design. Buying an Apple product or entering the store offers a chance to join the Apple ‘tribe’ and they make it very enticing. I am thinking about how this blurring of the boundaries can be reflected in the USER DT Model? What happens when the User is so much of an intrinsic part of the Community. And, in the case of Apple who are now bigger than Microsoft, I wonder how will the Community evolve with the influx of ‘uncool’ Users in grey suits.

The User as an intrinsic part of the Community

When I began work on setting up my blog on WordPress I began to think about how the USER DT Model applies to the blogosphere. Suddenly the defined roles become even more blurred. As the User the Blogger also plays an immense role as a Designer; the layout, the content, the links, etc. Again, the User is also part of the Community.

The User is also the Designer. The Community is made up of Users

I hope that as the MACE course progresses I will better understand how this works and how to apply the model correctly.

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