My Thoughts on Design Thinking
Recently I tried something new with my team in our design strategy sessions. We were running a “How might we…” session and it got me thinking about the phrase. While that statement is very powerful to get creatives thinking, I found if we change that statement slightly we get slightly different results. We had 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. Our energy increased and everyone in the room tried to 1-up the previous ideas with enhancements.
“How might we…” implies that we are trying to solve for a problem. While that is a great tool to start ideation, sometimes we need to step back even more to widen our scope of the problem. When my team 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 off each other’s ideas more. It spread more like wildfire and 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 very quickly.
I believe that this had a great success based on the characters I had on my team. I had some loud voices and some very quiet ones that did not get as much opportunity to be heard. I was truly surprised by how shifting the mood of our design strategy sessions would relax the room to allow everyone to open up. If I had different people on my team this activity may have gone completely different.
I can see how depending on your design strategy session where either one would be more beneficial. Both statements have earned their 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…”.
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 method 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
If you were to ask me what my leadership style was, I’d have to say I am curious. When a difference in opinion arises, I default to questions rather than asserting my point of view. 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. I am human and sometimes I can be wrong. I love the opportunity to learn and view problems from a new lense. From there it’s easy to guide the conversation to more of a discussion and allow everyone to arrive at 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. Sometimes being heard can mean all the difference to an employee’s happiness in the organization. It promotes collaboration and respect among the team. When you have the respect of the team, it’s much easier to make the tough decisions less abrasive to the receiving party.