Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mastering Change - Just doing it.

I've read a lot of books over the years and have moved many of them out of my collection after a single read. Every now and then one comes along that is a game changer - one that was clear, simple and so powerful that I want to tell my friends about it. Mastering Change by Ichak Adizes is one of those books. It is radical in it's deep simplicity and powerful in its potential.

In the context of Design Thinking this stuff is the deep theory and practice in the Human piece of the triad. The Empathic Inquiry, Latent Needs Finding, Point of View discovery, Find their Pain leg of the stool.

In the course of 14 chapters, presented as conversations, it covers all the things they didn't teach you in college which if you don't know will blunt your effectiveness as an engineer, Design Thinker or manager at work and friend, partner and parent at home.

Here is one example, taken from the last chapter of the book. It's a set of rules about how to run meetings in a way that will foster respect and trust on a team. (I've added the record keeping item.)

I call them Structured Meeting Rules because I haven't figured out how to apply them in a Dreamstorming session, yet.

Structured Meeting Rules

  1. Whoever speaks may speak for as long as they need to.
  2. No one may speak or raise their hand while someone else is speaking.
  3. In other words; Wait your turn - no rushing, no pressure.
  4. When you have finished speaking, look to your right.
  5. Whoever else wishes to speak may then raise their hand.
  6. The person who has just finished speaking then calls the first person on their right by their first name and passes the right to speak to them.
  7. Anyone who interferes with someone who is already speaking pays a $1 penalty.
  8. Once someone breaks the rules twice, they will start loosing their next turn to speak.
  9. The meeting moderator may interrupt in order to keep the meeting on task.
  10. The penalty fines are donated to charity.
  11. Keep a record of the conversations and decisions.
In the book, Ichak explains why these meeting rules works, but I'm not going to include that here. 

In testimony to its effectiveness, I will loosely quote Stewart Resnick, Chairman and President of the Franklin Mint, from the back cover of the book jacket;

Dr. Adizes theory and practical methods have been one of the reasons we have grown from $10 million to $750 million in sales over the past ten years, without any outside equity financing.

I'll post more material from the Adizes method in future blogs and explain how they fit into the Design Thinking framework. For now, just get the book and read one chapter per day over the next couple of weeks. Once you get to chapter 12 there are some ideas you can start to apply in your daily life. Be patient, they are worth the wait and you need to know the foundational material that precedes them.

I promise you won't regret it.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

What's in a name?

One of the main challenges Design Thinking has faced is helping people understand what it is and how and why it works so well. You'd think that the most powerful and effective problem discovery and resolution process on the planet would be able to figure out a way to effectively sell itself, but after nearly half a century the controversy still rages.

Parents have known for generations that selecting a name can be a real challenge. Names convey meaning and identity. Thoughtfully selected, they can be powerful because they make a first impression. Sapphire Rose d'Stargazer leaves a much different impression than Fred D'Ull.

So, when someone with no prior knowledge hears "Design Thinking" for the first time, what impressions can they get? Unfortunately, Jay Leno didn't ask this question on his show.

Turning to the dictionary reveals cause for confusion. Design can mean one of at least three things; two are nouns and one a verb. Thinking has two meanings, one as an adjective and the other as a noun;

  1. A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.
  2. Purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.
  3. To decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object), typically by making a detailed drawing of it.
  1. Using thought or rational judgment; intelligent.
  2. The process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something.
This results in at least several different possible interpretations but two of the most obvious are;
(literally) to plan a process of rational reasoning (designed thinking) and the way designers think. which was was Nigel Cross' perspective when he wrote his 2011 book, Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work.

If we strung together all the possible meanings we'd have a plan or intention to decide to use rational thought to reason about something.

Compare that with the some of the core principles of Design Thinking;

1) Begin with empathy (Embrace feelings)
2) Ideate wildly (irrational/out of control)
3) Go Broad (radical collaboration)
4) Dive Deep (Embrace ambigutiy)
5) Build It (Prototype)
6) Fail fast and often
7) Have fun and work hard

The contrast here is striking.  Design Thinking's name is about using your cerebral cortex, the thinking part of your brain, in an organized fashion to create an intelligent plan.

Design Thinking's process starts with finding feelings, expands laterally thru brainstorming and radical collaboration, dives deep to uncover hidden interrelationships and needs, builds and tests rapid failure inducing prototypes, learning and refining until a solution is discovered.

It can look like the difference between a frantic off road, cross country race and a precision drill team marching in a 4th of July Parade to John Phillip Sousa.  Mad Max vs. The Music Man.

In previous posts we've explored how your three brains influence learning and deciding. We've looked at how low tolerance for ambiguity and complexity causes stress, which shuts down your creative processes. Now we're going to come at things from the other direction and ask the question; Based on traits, what would be a better name for design thinking?

As you recall, design thinking's purpose is to solve wicked problems, "cut cubes out of fog" and create modern day daVinci's who can guide others thru that process.  Design Thinking's ultimate purpose is to empathically clarify and simplify complex, ambiguous, situations. DT's methods and tools are intended to consider and balance the conflicts between humanity, technology and resources by clarifying ambiguity, simplifying complexity and unifying diversity.

Yes, its a big task. Properly done, the minds and hearts of all the stakeholders are harmonized and their purpose is shared. That is a very powerful combination and force for good in the world.

What would you call it?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Comparing Frameworks

Requests to compare Design Thinking to another processes often show up in DT blogs. This shouldn't be surprising, as one of the ways humans reduce the time and effort needed to understand new information is by comparing patterns. If Design Thinking could be compared to similar method from another context, like teaching, it would help teachers understand DT more quicky.

Usually the question comes in the form of a request to compare Design Thinking to Agile or Kaizen or Lean.  This is where things start to get really interesting.

Consider these representations of some processes:

The first image represents activities and the degree of uncertainty during a design lifecycle.

The second image is a version of the Design Thinking process correlated to Imagineering.

The third image is a wedding cake representation of Blooms Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

The fourth is a comparison of Agile Hardware and Software development frameworks.

Each of these frameworks express a process. The question is; Are they simply different expressions of the same process? The answer to that question is embedded in the very human process of learning thru pattern recognition and experimentation.

Daniel Bor, author of The Ravenous Brain wrote about how we learn:

"The process of combining... pieces of information to create something more meaningful is a crucial aspect both of learning and of consciousness and is one of the defining features of human experience. 

Once we have reached adulthood, we have decades of intensive learning behind us, where the discovery of thousands of useful combinations of features, as well as combinations of combinations and so on, has collectively generated an amazingly rich, hierarchical model of the world. 

Inside us is also written a multitude of mini strategies about how to direct our attention in order to maximize further learning. We can allow our attention to roam anywhere around us and glean interesting new clues about any facet of our local environment, to compare and potentially add to our extensive internal model."

Solving wicked, complex, ambiguous, problems pushes our pattern recognition capability to the limits of memory and thinking. Our emotional responses to uncertainty and risk complicate matters by biasing us to approach or retreat from the unknown. This is why DT's bias towards optimism, comfort with failure, and rapid experimentation is so powerful. It encourages us to try, gain experience, learn from that experience, build new, and extend existing, frameworks as we forge into unknown territory in an effort to learn what we need to know to solve wicked problems. 

That is also why risk averse pessimists aren't going to feel comfortable with DT. As DT facilitators we need to soften the shock of the fearful and unfamiliar by investigating others' existing frameworks thru Empathic Inquiry, presenting and experiencing DT in a context which feels familiar and is easy to understand.