Did you ever notice that although it is easy to explain design thinking to others, it is damn hard to teach it to them? I discovered this on the go, while I was teaching and coaching students, start-ups and management teams. Maybe hard to believe, but the hardest group are students. They listen, they nod their heads enthusiastically, but their lack of confidences is a genuine killer. Missing information and extreme ambiguity transforms into a drive to analyze everything to death. Design thinking becomes design research, which becomes brainless surveys that only amplify prejudices. No refreshing options are created, no new ways of thinking are explored.
Maybe you think: they did not try personas / sprints / think visually / start with why / … (choose your favorite DT tool), because then…..everything would be fine. After years of working with students of the TU’s, Hogescholen and at Cube Design museum, I tried it all. And with startups and managers things were very similar too, although they had far more confidence. I had to acknowledge not one method worked well for all. Or in all situations! Of course: design thinking starts from the premise that every situation is unique, so possibly teaching design thinking also requires a situational approach. Does every student need a dedicated approach, then?
I was not happy with this way of thinking, so I explored other ways. I let managers do exercises that design students do. I tried directive teaching (‘just do it like this’) and reflective coaching (‘why didn’t it work out?’). I let students rewrite my readers, in a language and with examples students understand. And slowly, slowly it became clear to me that design thinking is about a mindset: that they nee dto embrace the fact that there is not one root-cause to a problem. That there is not one ‘best’ solution. That there are many ways to frame a situation… And starting from this pluralistic perspective, I developed a ‘method’ that is radically iterative. I named it 1-10-100. The first iterations are all about finding the right frame and each exploration of a frame should not take more than 1 day. I let students develop up to 10 frames, until they could not possibly find other perspective to interpret what was ahead of them. Then they choose 2 or 3 frames to develop into concepts, within 10 days. And once concepts were ‘final’, they evaluated and compared these, together with clients and users. Only then a ‘regular’ design process started, with in-depth research, ideation and working ourt every detail. They could easily take 1000 days for this last stage.
What I noticed is that already after two weeks, their self confidence rose to a level that enabled them even to joke and smile on what they made. They knew they had valuable ideas, much appreciated by their client. And they still had plenty of time to take it all the way. I witnessed how this 1-10-100, even starting as ‘extreme cyclical time management’ turns into the mindset we name ‘design thinking’.
That is why I wrote a bookabout it, for other teachers and coaches. And yes: it should have been English in hindsight….
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