Design thinking— bringing a sense of wonder to your work

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein

This past weekend I attended a panel session titled, Thinking like a designer hosted by the Toronto Offsite Design Festival. The event featured notable Toronto designers and creative thinkers including, Helen Kerr, Zahra Ebrahim, Paddy Harrington, and Greg Van Alstyne. They discussed the value of design thinking and its impact on business.

We’ve all heard of entrepreneurial thinking—in fact, I wrote a blog about the topic. But design thinking was a new concept for me.

Tim Brown, who coined the term, describes it as “a human-centered approach to innovation… that integrates the needs of the people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Simply put, design thinking is an approach that fosters innovation.

What makes design thinking so powerful is the designer themselves. They have specific traits that make them ideal problem-solvers, including being:

  • Curious- They have a natural appetite to understand how things work and use a hands-on approach.
  • Collaborative- They will share ideas with their colleagues which accelerate the idea generation process.
  • Empathetic- They have a deep understanding of their client’s needs.

The full concept of design thinking is far more complex. It’s clearly explained in this article published in the Harvard Business Review. But here’s the gist— all of us can apply design thinking into our work by bringing a sense of curiosity and adventure. Not only does this practice spur new ideas, it will also awaken your senses and bring passion to your work.

In this video, Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, illustrates the way this famous design duo integrated it into their everyday lives.

Here are three ways you can integrate design thinking into what you do:

  1. Be curious- bring a sense of wonder to your work and your life. As Charles Eames said, “don’t delegate understanding”.
  2. Accept uncertainty- not every idea will work. That’s okay; uncertainty is part of the process. Your ‘mistakes’ will guide you to new ideas and innovations.
  3. Question the status quo- why do we do it this way? Because we’ve always done it this way is not good enough. Here’s an opportunity to innovate. Ask questions and stop accepting mediocrity.

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