Design Thinking Building Strong Teams

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Design thinking is a creative problem-solving approach that not only helps develop innovative solutions, but it can also facilitate the creation of common ground between the people.

Teams are the foundation of a successful workplace. Working in teams can be difficult members don’t spend time building common grounds.

Design-thinking develops 3 components:

  • Team Communication
  • Tangible Artifacts
  • Democratic Team Culture

Team Communication

The most important issue team faces is the inability to communicate efficiently. Every individual has different interpretations of the same concept or idea, due to their varied backgrounds and experiences. For example, team members who are experts in different disciplines may bring clashing business practices or expectations. This can lead to hate and frustration among the individuals

In simple words, teams’ success depends on communication. The collaborative nature of design thinking encircles this friction by involving all team members from the very beginning in a workshop-based approach. As the whole team moves through key exercises together, a shared understanding develops and the common ground begins to be built. When teams have understanding, their focus can move from what to how.

Design thinking for teams

This comprises of concepts, ideas that refer to team experiences and processes. For example, during the starting phase, i.e empathize with design thinking, the team strives to understand what users think and do when they try to accomplish a specific goal. Let’s think of a scenario, “Jay is a new user and feeling incompetent because he can’t figure out what sign-up question field he has left empty and he is scrolling up and down the page.” As the team gets to know this user, it develops a shared, unambiguous understanding of who the user is and what he or she needs.

Later on in the process, Jay becomes a shortcut for a new user that needs assistance during signup. This becomes a meaningful advantage as the team moves forward with the project.

Tangible Artifacts

A key principle of design thinking is “show, don’t tell.” Throughout the process, the team produces several tangible artifacts like empathy maps, journey maps, storyboards, and wireframes, to name a few. The outputs have a wide range of team benefits such as:

Design Thinking Artifacts.
  • Visualization of ideas

Visualization of the ideas can transform culture and languages. When we use images to abstract concepts it reduces the risk of misalignment because everyone has a visual baseline of the concept. Presenting an idea in the form of stories, wireframes, prototypes, videos, even low-fidelity mockups are more likely to successfully convey the meaning than just words.

  • Providing a common plan for the team

The artifacts represent the teamwork and serve as a fixed, persistent reference point. They are the physical representations of team understanding which can clarify further doubtfulness and misunderstandings. Team members can go back and refer to those common visuals to make sure they do not deviate from the common ground that they have built so far.

  • Building a strong group

When groups see the outcomes that they can refer to, they are more likely to be motivated and see themselves as successful and more committed to the collaboration. Each artifact counts as a point won by the team by its efforts and increases team strength.

Democratic Team Culture

Design thinking is inherently democratic as it relies on cross-disciplinary and cross-hierarchical participation. Balance each member’s contribution. Traditionally in organizations, hierarchy plays a role in whose ideas and opinions are to be heard. Many companies use the “hippo design methodology” (make decisions based on the highest-paid person’s opinion) and the loudest voice or the highest rank wins. In the design-thinking process, no individual’s idea is larger or louder, team members use sticky notes to write down their ideas. Each idea that is put on the wall carries equal weight and are anonymous. 

Design Thinking Decision making

In the design-thinking process, ideas are evaluated democratically. Team members listen to other’s ideas rather than being persuaded or impacted by what others may think. Each team member casts votes to the one they like the most. The wall turns into a heat map visible to everyone, and the solutions with most votes move forward. 

Thus, the decision-making process is done in open and based on majority voting rather than the opinions of any one individual. The wall also becomes a valuable artifact as it documents the team history and process. Anyone can look at the wall and understand what the team collectively agrees on.

Conclusion

The design-thinking process brings teams together, focuses on shared, unambiguous goals instead of wasting endless time in disagreement. The collaborative culture created during the design thinking process motivates employees, improves job satisfaction and retention, and further increases the possibility of a productive outcome.

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