Design Thinking: A Method of Solving Problems in Work and Personal Life
Would you like to know how to solve problems creatively? How to look at the problem from different perspectives using the common sense that we neglect so often these days?
Design thinking is an interesting method not only in approaching work challenges but also in personal issues. Michaela Fuleková has extensive experience in the field of customer experience and is a mentor at Butterfly Effect in the field of leading team meetings, visual thinking and creative techniques. She uses design thinking in her work and personal life on a daily basis. Miška revealed to us the basic principles of this creative approach, as well as how to make the best use of them in everyday life.
Who should be interested in the concept of design thinking? Whom can this process help?
Anyone who is dealing with an (especially complex) issue. It is nothing but common sense. Except that we were robbed of it by the current digital era and we often do things without thinking. Because there is no time to think. In practice, it looks like this – someone comes to us and says “I have an idea”, or “We have a problem”, and we start working and launch a product or service into the world, or we solve a problem that someone has identified. Often sitting behind a table, without looking at it from several perspectives and wondering whether someone needs this “idea” out there and is even willing to pay for it 😊. Or whether the problem that someone has identified is even a problem that needs to be solved.
What tasks can I solve using design thinking?
This approach is suitable for designing new products or services. Re-design of existing products or services that are not selling for some reason or the feedback on their use is not positive. It is great for solving problems that are complex, set in a dynamically changing environment, or for solving problems where we have no idea what the problem is and we need to find our way around first.
Is design thinking only applicable to user-related problems (B2C, B2B) or can I use it to solve personal problems?
I use it for everything 😊. I find that the principles (even individual methods!) of design thinking gradually and naturally penetrate all areas of my life. When I left a corporation last year after ten years, I used design thinking to literally redesign my own life. I didn’t know who I was, what my value was and what I wanted to do in my life. That is why I have mapped what I have done, what pleases me in my life, which drains my energy, and since I did not know exactly what I would be interested in and what would fulfill me, I “prototyped” several directions I would like to take and I am gradually “testing” them. I test and fine-tune or find that this direction is not for me at all.
At the same time I also help to navigate my friends and acquaintances with design thinking. Recently, I love to use it for coaching individuals and solving their personal problems.
You have had several workshops on this topic at the HubHub coworking center in Bratislava. Have you noticed any similarities to what problem / area the participating startups, employees or freelancers wanted to use this method?
Most questions are related to the topic of innovation. They are looking for another way to do things. How to involve more departments and connect individual worlds. And how to make products and services that are useful and people will want them.
PHOTO: Michaela Fuleková
Your workshops, if I understand correctly, have always been fully booked. Why is this topic so attractive to people?
This term has recently become a huge buzz word. It sounds mysterious enough to seek rocket science 😊. This usually attracts people. The curiosity. Then there are those who already know it in theory. And they are looking for practical examples to help them understand what it is all about and how to do it. They are looking for instructions or inspiration.
Please describe the steps of the design thinking process.
It begins with an understanding of the problem. With stopping and exploring what I’m going to solve. Who and what do I need to do this. Especially for whom I am dealing with the problem at all. Who is my target group? Then, I need to investigate the problem. I recommend stepping into my customers’ shoes and going through their experience. This already leads to many enlightening moments. Subsequently, observe the situation and your users in the natural environment and talk to your target group. It is a huge amount of information you get, and in order to not drown in it, see the context, and identify the main findings, you need to clean up all that data. We search for the needs that people have, the real problems that we need to solve.
Only then do we come up with a solution. Few know that the creative process also has its phases and it’s not just a messy brainstorming. We seek quantity at first, try to think of as many solutions as possible and do not filter them. Then, based on some chosen criteria, we choose ideas that we like and develop them further by prototyping. We test the prototypes, collect feedback and improve them. We even have to say goodbye to some of them. Only when we are at least remotely sure that we have found a solution, we go into implementation. And it’s in a way a never-ending story. We keep track of what’s happening to our product or service, collect feedback, and improve what needs to be improved.
PHOTO: Michaela Fuleková
Why and where did you get to know the design thinking method?
Design thinking was brought to us by the parent company. I attended the first 2-day tasting with a guy who wrote a book on Service Design and it was love at the first post-it. At that time, I worked in the customer experience department for several years and we were looking for a way to start a customer approach in people – something that would help them step into their customer’s shoes and look at it from their perspective, not from the point of view of our internal processes. At the same time, design thinking combined the magic of discovery and creativity for me.
Then I learned a lot from practice – especially on mistakes in the projects I was working on 😊. Then I went to design thinking coaching training in Berlin. We tackled both real and fictional challenges, going through all the stages of the process and hundreds of methods. They taught us using practical examples. They let us go through all the frustrations that the participants at the workshops and our projects were going to go through, and that was the best preparation I could get into my next practice. It’s still great love for me 😊.
What do you do in addition to trainings?
I am currently working for a development company where I am in charge of the process by which we design our projects. We look at how to build something with an added value for our tenants, their employees and people living around our project, instead of building just an office building. How to build a complex that will meet people’s needs and they will be happy to return there, while understanding the context of the area, the market situation and the needs of tenants, their employees and visitors. In addition, I lead workshops, mentor in Butterfly Effect and coach individuals or groups to address their life or work “challenges”.
What do you consider to be the best decision in your career?
Not to stay hidden in one department, but to be soaked in projects that didn’t seem to have any impact on my agenda. It helped me to create a network of contacts, not just to live in my bubble, but to see and understand a much broader context. I was also a bit of a migrant and changed my position several times. And then, that I am currently working part-time in a corporation and I spend the rest of my time on other projects.
What would you recommend to young people – what should they invest one year of their life in?
Definitely travel. Being able to step outside your comfort zone, discover, meet new people, other cultures, and understand that the world does not end with my own bubble. Experiment, try new things and find what they like.
What habit you have implemented in recent years has had a positive impact on your life?
There are a few. I write a diary that helps me do self-reflection once in a while. This allowed me to understand my old patterns and not to repeat the same mistakes all over again. Every time I think about something and get stuck, I take the time and space not to tackle it for a while. I’m go for a walk, start to do something else, travel – crossing the border has such a special effect on me that my head starts working better immediately. I visualize whatever I do – using simple mind maps, sketches, post-its. It makes it easier for me to see the whole context and prioritize the next steps. And it is important to be able to kill your ideas if they bring nothing useful … I also had to get used to that.
Article in cooperation with Daily Upgrade.