ReFrame U

How do you tackle your wicked problems? What methods do you use to begin reframing your thoughts? 

This coming weekend I am very fortunate to be working with three talented facilitators to offer an intro to design thinking workshop, pulling from IDEO & Stanford d.School (d=design) methodologies. In the session, we will define both the what and why around the utility of a human centered design (HCD) approach to design better solutions. We'll then tackle a challenge in depth with step one of defining the proposed problem. And, YES, we'll work it all the way through to solutions in the form of tangible products. 

If you're like me, you may have already been to plenty of these events and even consider it old hat by now. If you have this mindset, may I ask you to reThink that assumption and read on?

I've been asked when reframing really starts. From a process perspective, I'd encourage you to exercise your thinking brawn immediately: redefine your problem as a possibility.

It might be worth clarifying my thoughts on reframing: essentially it works to identify what underlying assumptions exist and "break free" from them. Examples include Zappos & Morning Star: each took on new approaches to org structure with first identifying what assumptions drove their current model; they mashed those with what their employees said truly motivated them and built environments to support those needs. Today each runs flat organizations (hello, holacracy!). While not perfect on day one, the results have been colorfully successful with an increasingly engaged, thriving workforce. Win!

In these stories, you'll see that the companies went to their employees - working diligently to continually reframe their perspectives - to acquire the "meaningful" data. By doing so, these organizations effectively built empathy that lead to deeper understanding of the needs of their workforce. These insights drove the design of potential new structures & environments for testing.

Now we take a turn to empathy building, the next step once the challenge is out there.  This is the step you'll take with me on Saturday and we'll learn how to build empathy together... I'll say that despite the plethora of free tools (and kudos to Dave Gray for creating the standard empathy map), I couldn't find one that met all my needs. The result? I had to create my own as you can see...After due diligence not to re-create the wheel thru endless searching, I think I can safely say this is a relatively fresh mashup template for the taking. And if not, never hurts to add it to your sets! Along with mapping out interview results to build empathy, consider personas. Be cautious when building personas: understand their purpose or you'll waste your time. Make them memorable, unique; don't connect with them though too deeply as you'll loose focus. Develop an adequate number based on the challenge scope. Inevitably all these tools help us derive insights to then make our return to reframing. Notice any trends in these initial steps? 

Empathy Map Template

Bottom line is the employment of human centered design is a fantastic way to shake things up at work, and I can vouch for the value of its utility personally too. If you've not utilized this methodology professionally and would like to learn more (or even talk thru how to use the plethora of free tools out there beyond mind), feel free to geek out with me this Saturday or reach out anytime. 


And about a personal rethink with design thinking techniques, sure! Pulling from the same templates, try gaining some empathy for yourself (you as the customer). Learn what associations you have around labels, or unknown truths that may hold you back today. Whatever it may be for you - politics, gender or another flavor of inappropriate dinner table conversation - take a look through the lens of standard practice design thinking. How? Start with a softball life experience or moment as follows:

1) Consider a recent incident that triggered a surprising response or reaction from you. Maybe you received some tough news and ironically you were not sad, you were happy. Perhaps you've hit a life milestone and the weight of your emotions is an unfamiliar kind of heavy. Or it could be as simple as you didn't agree with the results of a personality test from work, or feedback after that performance review. Name it, then...

2) Take a moment to reflect or journal (1-2 pages). Call that the interview of yourself.

3) Then apply the empathy map to what you read about yourself/your thoughts. Explore what drove your thinking, feeling, saying, doing or other items. Dig deep. Ask questions. Pull at your own strings a little. You could also employ a persona template here. Who doesn't enjoy drawing their selfie? Tip: emoji me.

4) Then process it: take time out. Find quiet. Let your thoughts come, and go as they move with your breath. Let each pass in and out with zero judgement. Lengthen breath to the count of 4 in and out (slight pause at the top) a few minutes longer without seeking anything from it. Let it go.

5) Not into step 4? No problem. Talk out your insights with someone that knows you and then perhaps someone that's more an acquaintance. See what comes up in this vulnerable space. Hold no grip on the results, just let your capacity be built and your growth happen.

...Early on I mentioned being asked when reframing really starts...

It starts with YOU.