Finding the creative “sweet spot” with design thinking

The Digital Innovators Skills Programme gives students an immersive experience in what it is like to work with real employers on real projects. We don’t just teach skills such as design thinking, creativity and confidence building but give our students plenty of opportunity to put these skills into practice. We do this by asking employers for projects that they would like to carry out if only they had the time, money or resources to do so. After giving students a basic grounding in the skills mentioned (as well as many others) they work on these projects to practice and reinforce this learning.

Because we build project teams with students from a diverse range of backgrounds, having also assessed their strengths and personality types, we also find that the team as a whole is very much greater than the sum of the individuals working together. We find our students really do strike sparks off each other and usually end up building creative and innovative solutions to the problems proposed by employers. We see this as being our unique selling proposition (USP).

We find that the different techniques we teach really get a chance to fuse together when doing project work and often result in the creative “sweet spot” being found. Three techniques which seem to work well together are design thinking, having the creative confidence to explore ideas and the communication skills to explain and “sell” a potential solution.

Design thinking provides our students with a framework to understand the various factors that can result in turning a great idea into an even greater product or service. The diagram below is from the book Creative Confidence by Tom Kelly and David Kelly (founder of IDEO) and shows the relationship between three factors: people, business and technology.

Let’s look at each of these factors:

  • Technology: Coming up with a great idea that makes use of an innovative technology is all well and good but a cool technology alone is not enough. It has to be grounded in the realms of what is technically feasible. Jet backpacks have been mooted for quite some time now and although some companies are just starting to make them work they are probably still some time off being safe enough for a shopping trip to your local Sainsbury’s.
  • Business: Not only must the technology work, it also has to be built and distributed in a way that is economically viable. Taking a vacation in a hotel on the moon, although technically feasible, is unlikely to be a commercially viable proposition for some time to come.
  • People: The third factor of successful innovation is really understanding people beliefs, motivations and needs. Design thinking uses techniques such as empathy mapping and story boarding to understand people and explain ideas to them. Remember that sometimes of course, people don’t actually know what they need. As Henry Ford famously said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Design thinking is all about putting people at the centre of the innovation process. We provide our students with lots of tools and techniques for doing this as well as giving them the creative confidence to come up with ideas and presentation skills to explain their ideas and solutions to others. We’ll take a look at these, as well as other aspects of our skills programme, in future blog posts.

Photo by Hugo Rocha on Unsplash

Published by Peter Cripps

Software architect, digital activist, blogger and photographer.

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