Friday, December 4, 2015

First Principles of Design Thinking

Gordian Brain Knot
Two years ago posted a video on YouTube of Elon Musk explaining the First Principles Method of problem solving, which he characterized as a "boiling things down to the most fundamental truths." That got me thinking about what the fundamental truths of Design Thinking might be.  There are a handful of core characteristics;
  • Start with Empathy
  • Embrace Ambiguity
  • Novice Mindset
  • Radical Collaboration
What does “empathy” mean exactly, and how is it different from sympathy or other emotional experiences?  Frans de Waal and Stephanie Preston compiled a list for their 2002 article, “Empathy: Its Ultimate and Proximate Bases,” which appeared in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.  From Design Thinking's interest in determining of Point of View it appears DT considers both emotional and cognitive empathy.
  • Empathy: The subject has a similar emotional state to the object as a result of perceiving the object’s situation. Empathy preserves the distinction between self and other. The subject’s emotional state is partially focused on the other, often resulting in kind or helping behavior.
  • Cognitive empathy: Apart from being emotionally affected, the subject cognitively understands the object’s predicament and situation. This implies perspective-taking and attribution.
Although there are many creative skill building techniques, until recently there hasn't been much addressing the development of empathy or tolerance for ambiguity, both of which are important because if you lack either, your creative teams' abilities are probably compromised. There are some simple tests which can be used to gauge capabilities in these areas.

Empathy Quotient Test - developed by Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge.

Roman Krznari says we can cultivate empathy and use it as a radical force for social transformation.
Here are his Six Habits of Highly Empathic People;
  1. Cultivate curiosity about strangers
  2. Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities
  3. Try another person’s life
  4. Listen hard—and open up
  5. Inspire mass action and social change
  6. Develop an ambitious imagination
Tolerance for Ambiguity - from a study at the University of California, Berkeley

With regard to ambiguity there is a deeply neurobiological component having to do with the structure and function of the brain.

Your brain has three parts which respond to various stimuli differently in the creation of thoughts, feelings and reflexes. What is interesting is the way stimuli are filtered as they travel from the spinal cord to the cerebral cortex, passing thru the emotional brain. In particular, the Amygdala is the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation and works with the the deep layers of superior colliculus (DLSC), to elicit defensive behaviors. These defensive behaviors can be helpful when analyzing and critiquing ideas, but can be show stoppers in brainstorming sessions.

For that reason, when building a team, it would be a good idea to have a balance of skills.
This is reminiscent of Disney's Three Rooms process.

No comments:

Post a Comment