My Thoughts on Design Thinking
Recently I tried something new with my team in our design thinking sessions. As anyone who depends on design thinking in their creative process knows, we rely on the statement “How might we…” or something similar. While that statement is very powerful to get creatives thinking I found if we change that statement slightly we get much different results. We have been working on a blue sky concept and I noticed we were not getting far enough out of the box. I decided to change the “How might we…” statement to “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”. I was surprised at how a small adjustment like this would change how the room was thinking.
“How might we…” implies that we are trying to solve for a problem. When we used this statement we ended up with more fixes and enhancement type ideas. When we shifted to the “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” statement the room tended to feed of each other’s ideas more. It spread more like wildfire and moved moved in many directions much quicker.
I did notice that when we used the “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” statement that we glanced over concepts quicker and did not give them the depth of thought they deserve. The main reason for that is because we moved on to many new ideas quickly.
I can see how depending on your design thinking session where either one would be more beneficial. Both statements have earned its place in our creative process. When we need a good solution to a problem we use “How might we…”. When we need to think blue sky we start out with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”. Give it a try, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
My Thoughts on Recruiting
Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to build several teams. I have come up with a way that works well for me when choosing the right candidates. It all comes down to three main areas that I focus on in the interviewing process. Those areas are character, skills and background.
When assessing someone’s character I try to take into account the current team I am working with. We spend more time with these people during the week than we do with our own families. It’s important that everyone gets along and consider each other friends as well as coworkers. If you think about it, working on your passion is just more fun amongst like minded people you can be comfortable with.
During my time at Southwest Airlines, is where I learned about hiring for character. They define their values as an employee to have a warrior spirit, a servants heart, and a fun loving attitude. Those guidelines for hiring have helped them become one of the best workplace cultures around. I’ve carried these values with me to look for team members who are self starters, highly collaborative, and laid back personalities.
Here are some questions I like to ask myself in the interview process:
- How will this person interact with a certain team member?
- How will this person push the team in a creative way?
- Will this person step up when times get tough to help others?
- How will this person take feedback from the team?
- How will this person give feedback to the team?
- How does this person handle conflict?
- How will they perform under pressure?
- What happens when they don’t know the answer?
Assessing someone’s skill set seems like it might be the easiest part of choosing the right candidate. However, I find that getting to the bottom of what parts of their portfolio they actually worked on is the main challenge. As designers we are usually put on projects with other designers and it ends up being a mix of the team that creates the output. When I look at examples I try to ask questions around the decisions they made to see what their depth of knowledge is. I also probe on what they think the mix is and if they mention their coworkers when talking about the work. It’s a key indicator when a candidate gives recognition where it is due. This ties back to the character I typically look for.
For me, a candidate’s background has to do more with how it will compliment the projects my team is working on. Education is good, but industry experience is far more valuable. For example if I’m working on a project that involves creating packaged deals I might look for designers with travel or ecommerce backgrounds. I try to think about what kind of usability testing they may have participated in previously that we could draw from. It’s kind of like getting free testing data. Having the perfect background is usually a bonus. I try to hire based on character and skills first. Training can make up any gaps that might exist.
By taking a look at things a little differently and prioritizing character over skill set or background I have had great success in building strong dependable teams. They tend to create stronger bonds and hold each other up when times get tough. The creativity these teams produce blow me away time and time again because there is no fear of judgment.
My Thoughts on Creative Direction
I like to characterize my creative direction style as inquisitive. When there is a difference in opinion the I try to come with questions rather than discounting the validity of the other opinion. I’ve found this to be quite valuable in my creative direction. When I ask an individual or my team why they made a decision it gives me the opportunity to listen and allow them to be heard. From there it’s easy to guide the conversation to more of a discussion and allow everyone to arrive to the best resolution together.
I believe it’s important as a creative leader to inspire and create an environment where everyone has an equal voice in the room. It promotes collaboration and respect amongst the team. When you have the respect of the team, it’s much easier to make the tough decisions.