King: Four Design Thinking Tools for Engaging Your Team


This week our featured book is Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett.

Today, we feature a Aug 2013 article by Andrew King, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works.” (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

King begins by setting the foundation of design thinking and its importance in solving problems. He states that bigger, complex problems usually start out as simpler and smaller issues and solving them requires creativity through design and implementation. Such creativity emerges from thinking uniquely about the data related to the issues.

Design thinking is a method for understanding complex problems – to really get at their genesis – and developing ways to eliminate or, better yet, leverage those problems into novel solutions. While this still sounds cryptic and too-good-to-be-true, these tools can sharpen your creativity to help you uncover obscured facts and use your knowledge in new ways.

In order to harness this creativity at a managerial level, King outlines four design thinking tools that will help to improve business operations and drive innovation.

Journey mapping is the art of observing what is really going on. Journey mapping requires careful investigation of the process.

Mind mapping is a method for finding useful patterns hiding in lots of noisy data. You have to help your team articulate those ideas and capture them. After many rounds of sharing ideas and letting everyone build on ideas, you’ll be able to see a rich set of patterns. Use the patterns to isolate problems.

Hypothesis generation is about figuring out what creates the problems and how to solve them. Figuring out if a hypothesis holds water is easier and more productive than starting at this point to create The Solution based only on the data that you have so far.

Prototyping helps you prove or disprove the hypotheses. You can prototype anything including processes. Prototypes generate hard data, not ephemeral comments about ‘good ideas.’ Prototypes are ideas that you and your team touch and are often underestimated beyond the world of product design.

King exemplifies the application of these design thinking tools with case studies from his upcoming book. He states that “our research with high performing teams at large multinational companies like Toyota and IBM all the way to non-profit organizations that have used design thinking, has uncovered many team enhancements.”

In addition, King highlights the fact that the success of these tools requires the participation of the entire team as the collaboration and feedback between the team members promotes new ideas and solutions.

King concludes by stating that a company’s focus is solely on the solution and truly innovative solutions emerge from conscious problem solving and paying attention to cure the problem rather than trying to find a quick fix solution: “It takes a creative managers to engage their teams deeply, and that deep engagement engenders trust and sense of purpose.”

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