Design Thinking: Relevant Brainstorming—Inspire and Connect!

By Susan Kerosky

“Design thinking is about accelerating innovation to create better solutions to the challenges facing business and society.” Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Change By Design – 2009

I was facilitating a client’s team recently and I heard “We have no problem generating ideas—it’s finding the right ideas to move our strategy forward that’s the challenge.” How often have you heard something similar within your organization?

One of the critical aspects of design thinking is transforming your insights into actionable ideas. When your organization sets aside time for brainstorming, you are deliberately moving the thoughts of the team into the abstract—asking them to open their minds, explore possibilities—share their craziest ideas—and envision a different future.

As you grow design thinkers within your organization, you will start to see more ideas generated to keep to solve the most challenging and complex problems within your business. Yet, how will you know which ideas are the best? How will you know which ideas will have the greatest impact? 

Consider three important elements that can test your ideas for meaning and impact:

  • Is it inspirational?– Does it generate excitement and energy and galvanize others to get to work on the idea right away?
  • Is it relevant?– Does it address the initial challenge or problem that inspired the brainstorming in the first place?
  • Is it connected?– Will the idea drive meaning and impact and solve a real problem for your organization?

In my last blog, I shared the concept of understanding extremes as part of the design thinking inspiration process. These same extremes can be considered as another lens to test your ideas for meaning and impact.

Building on the coffee example I shared in my last blog, I have two extreme coffee drinkers in my family:

  • My nephew, who is a self-proclaimed coffee nerd, whose daily coffee routine is designed to prepare the perfect morning cup of coffee.
  • My husband who purchases his coffee from the office vending machine (for .25¢) every morning and has for the past 13 years.

If I were a coffee purveyor and looking to solve the slow business during the afternoon and evening hours, I would look to generate ideas to increase the flow of traffic into my coffee shop.  I might have many ideas on how to solve this business challenge:

  1. Develop an afternoon blend
  2. Host live music
  3. Provide expert advice on the latest in coffee brewing technology

In reviewing these three ideas, the third is the most inspirational, connected, relevant and would be exciting to my nephew, the coffee nerd.

Going for quantity is one of the key tenants to good brainstorming.  Selecting the best idea that meets all three elements will ensure that the idea has the best chance to drive meaning and impact within your organization.

Design Thinking is the latest innovative approach to organization change and strategic planning.  As a certified Design Thinking Instructor, contact me to learn how this exciting concept can give you the tools to reach your team goals.

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