Design thinking has become a hot buzzword. And rightfully so: it’s incredibly promising. (Go here, here, or here for some great resources and examples.) We’re trying to contextualize design thinking as a leadership mindset – to nurture leaders grounded in human needs, able to identify and formulate insightful problem statements, capable of generating rich and viable ideas, and the agility to pivot when things (inevitably) turn out different than you think.
The five days of Leadership+Design Studio, just concluded at the waterfront offices of Mithun, were both exhausting and energizing. And they revealed some truths about the connection between design and leadership.
- Keep the focus on the user. Throughout the experience, both teachers and students found the human-centerd nature of design thinking to generate creative thinking and leadership. On the last day, for instance, teachers prototyped a new practice to take back to their school – but were challenged to keep it grounded in student needs, rather than their own pre-conceived ideas. What would the world be like if leaders based their thinking on human needs and motivations?
- Don’t jump to the solution. Often, we think of leaders are people who have answers. Our five day design thinking process revealed how jumping to the answer too soon – before we even have clarity around the problem – can cost us time (and innovation). Groups who jumped too far ahead found themselves circling back to think through the situation again.
- Share solutions early. Young leaders are often encouraged to develop “high-fidelity,” slick presentations of their ideas – waiting until they feel perfect before they share them. The result? Less than perfect ideas. By prototyping rapid, low-fidelity models - sharing short iPhone films of their innovations after 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, for instance - young leaders got quick feedback and developed better answers in the end.
Design thinking is not THE answer for education. It is AN answer for education. What would the world be like if we trained young leaders to work with these habits of mind?