Designers know something the rest of us don’t. They know how to take a problem and create a solution that works. And the solution also fills a need.
One more important thing about designers: they know that good design needs both creativity and emotion.
You can extract out the elements of this kind of thinking and apply them to any sort of problem. It’s a big business in fact. All sorts of industries are using design thinking to find creative solutions to tough problems.
You can use design thinking too.
Like most of us, you likely have some stubborn problems in your life that aren’t easily solved. It could be something that is wrong or it might be that there are things you want, but you aren’t entirely certain how to get them. Or it could be that you have only one solution to a particular problem, and it’s not an especially good one.
Design thinking can be applied to all of these types of problems and lead to creative solutions and massive growth.
So, what is design thinking and how can we bring it into our lives?
Foremost, design thinking is a way of thinking where people are at the center. These people are the ones that experience the problem. In your life, that would be you primarily and whomever near you that is affected by the problem as well.
The goal is then is to find workable, creative solutions to the problem. It’s a hand’s on approach where solutions are tried and altered as needed until the problem is solved.
Remember it’s in finding solutions to problems that brings growth. There is little growth in letting problems linger. When problems linger, they bring suffering. Suffering is no way to have a good life. So the faster you bring yourself out of pain and suffering, the faster you grow towards a greater version of you.
Fueling growth with design thinking
We get so hooked on thinking about problems, and rarely do we focus on solutions. This is why design thinking is so great. It shifts your focus towards solutions.
There are four basic steps to the process.
Understand the problem.
At the heart of design thinking is understanding the problem. This can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s not that easy to get to the heart of a problem. There are usually surface issues that disguise the real problem.
As you know this often shows up in emotional reactions such as anger, sadness, depression or frustration. These may seem to be the problem, but they often cover a deeper problem.
So you have to work to truly understand the problem. This is where changing point of view can really help. You can do this yourself or you can get the help of a coach or friend to assist you in looking at your problem in a new way.
Sometimes it helps to zoom out and see the bigger picture in order to reframe the problem. Taking on a third person view of yourself has been shown to help when it comes to handling problems. This takes some practice, but you get better at it the more you do it.
Next bring in the empathy.
Empathy is a key part of design thinking. It recognizes that humans experience the problem, and that the main goal in solving problems is to make life more enjoyable and meaningful.
As part of examining the problem, you need to understand the deep need that isn’t being met. Here you are moving beyond the actual problem to a place of empathy and emotion. Filling that need in a new way now becomes the goal.
With the problems in your own life, sometimes this step is hard, since you are so close to them. Try observing yourself, how you feel, and what you believe about the problem. Use kindness and compassion. You can find a lot of information in your observations.
This part of design thinking uses your creativity.
It’s essentially brainstorming possible solutions. The goal is to both think of many ideas, then to develop a few of the best ideas. Think of every possible approach, even if they seem crazy. That’s part of the process. If you open your mind, you can come up with all sorts of possible solutions to any problem. Some will be things you haven’t considered before.
If you have done a good job or reframing the problem, often you can get ideas that you had never even thought of. That’s the benefit of expanding your thinking. And of course, other people can be a big help here in suggesting other options that you would have never considered on your own.
Experiment and iterate
In this stage, you start testing out different solutions.
You don’t need to wait until you have a perfect idea. You begin with one that seems workable and try it. If it fails, you rework the idea or try another based on the results you get. Each attempt gives new feedback and insight into solutions for the problem. You learn and take that with you into the next approach.
A warning here. Be prepared to fail and fail often. Design thinking does not promise perfect solutions on the first try or ever.
Instead it gets you moving. Design thinking is action-based. You don’t sit around and talk about the problem forever, you get out and try things. As you already know, life demands action. Growth needs action, as do goals, dreams and visions.
Keep a good mindset
It’s important to stay confident as you apply this type of thinking. Don’t get discouraged by the stumbles along the way. Everyone who succeeds has many failures under their belt.
Instead, believe in yourself. Know that you can solve a problem. You will find a way. This is actually easier than doubting yourself. It might feel strange at first if you aren’t used to it. Practice feeling yourself expand, letting in more good things.
Look out for whatever you can learn along the way. This is important for discovering new solutions. They often rely on the wisdom we have already gained. Keep adding to your knowledge bank and keep moving forward.
Design thinking is a hands-on approach that focuses on finding solutions to problems. Your life is the perfect place to apply its principles.
Design thinking is built on understanding problems and figuring out needs. As you think about your own difficult problems, ask yourself about the needs you want to meet.
With this knowledge, you can begin to find new solutions that address those needs in new ways. You don’t need to fall back on the standard answers to problems. They often don’t work for most people. You need unique solutions that work in your life.
Your creativity is one of your greatest gifts. Remember it is an expression of yourself as you generate solutions. Often it’s only the solutions that suit your way of expressing yourself that are going to work. Test out those ideas. Improve them and try again.
Don’t let failure stop you because failure means you are learning and growing.