“Look at his shoes.”

At one company, such guidance was tied to identifying the professional designers. Upon telling one of the designers that, she responded, “It should be “just check for a pulse.’” Her point: we are all designers. Simply, it is easy to employ design thinking in your business. Here are ten lessons gleaned from the Digital Agency Network’s design thinking conference in Austin, Texas.

  1. Go talk listen to your customers. Don’t go talk with them, go listen to them. Kick the ball into play with a question that opens up something new, such as ‘why don’t all of your employees like our work?’ or ‘if you were our CEO, what would you change?’
  2. The one with the prototype wins. Renee McKaskle, the former CIO of Hitachi Vantara, often walks around the offices with a flipchart and markers. She knows people need to see it, simply, to help advocate for it.
  3. Design thinking isn’t a workshop. If a company treats quality as the Quality Manager’s job, it usually has poor quality. Same deal here: what we do is design thinking, and some of us have a bit more background, training, and accountability in the area.
  4. Go talk listen to your customers… more. Yeah, you guessed it. But, perhaps not in the way you think. Include your (would be, past, and current) customers in working to solve common design challenges.
  5. Do little things differently. Little things mean trying new foods or vegetables, turning into that neighborhood you’ve driven by 100 times wondering what it is like, or saying something past ‘hello’ when you see a neighbor. In all of these, you’ll find the new, make new connections, and come up with the next big thing (or at least something useful to solve a problem at work).
  6. Investigate your non-competitors. One conference attendee wrote, “There is considerable value in understanding how shared challenges are tackled in other industries, as diversity in perspectives can often translate into that breakthrough idea you’ve been seeking.”
  7. No light under a bushel mentality. Do this stuff in the open. Those interested will show up and pitch in, let alone help quell the naysayers.
  8. Solve it with them, not for them. People are much more interested in what they help build. If your team goes off and designs and then shows up with a ‘ta-dah!’ that wows, great. Trouble is, that’s giving a fish vs. teaching another to fish.

Business people have a lot going on … luckily, the eight tips above will help your work get done easier with design thinking principles at play in the background.

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