A Crash Course in Design Thinking for Nonprofits (2 of 3)

Part 2: You have defined your “How might we….?” challenge, now what?                                                                                                    

Ideators love post it notes!

Ideators love post it notes!

Ideation

The next phase is to Ideate, probably the most well know phase of the design thinking process. This is a pivotal center part of the process where we get to look at solutions from all sides. The hero component of this is bringing the right team together – or, as you’ll want to think about it as a nonprofit, alignment. You want to have the right people at the table to tackle the challenge defined in the last step. Who knows the ins and outs of the program? Who can give us a new perspective on solving this challenge? Who is pivotal to make this effort a success, such as partners or donors? Don’t be afraid to bring in people with different mindsets (as long as they keep an open mind) as those that preach to the choir will only get you back where you started. With the right challenge clearly explained and defined, diverse teams can align and focus.

A Journey Map for those taking a Smart Cycling program

A Journey Map for those taking a Smart Cycling program

Recap and Inspire

A design thinking ideation should be more than just straight forward brainstorming. Once you have the right team put together, you also need to capture the information necessary to get everyone on the same page – especially people who may not understand the challenge in the way that you do. Personas, Journey Maps (such as the above one from The League of American Bicyclists), and simple summaries can help frame your challenge in visual and memorable ways which is important to keep the user’s perspective on your ideator’s minds throughout the day. Next you need to inspire the team to think broadly about what could be. I like to tell a few short stories about new or creative ways others are solving similar challenges in a variety of sectors. This can also be done during the brainstorm process through exercises that ask people to think about the challenge in new ways. How might Beyonce tackle this challenge? Seriously, what might she do that you haven’t thought of before?

The path to great solutions widens and narrows strategically

The path to great solutions widens and narrows strategically

Diverge and Converge

In combination with thinking about the problem from various angles, or diverging, we also want to filter through the ideas, or converge them, periodically. Here we get people to take off their over-thinking caps for a bit and look at the ideas that are so crazy they just might make a difference. With a diverse range of people in the room, we have the opportunity to quickly analyze those ‘crazy’ ideas and refine them. This allows new ideas to flourish where they may have previously flopped.

A Design Jam in San Francisco with SF Made

A Design Jam in San Francisco with SF Made

An Example

An example of this is the work I did with DesignHouse, a nonprofit whose mission is to revitalize local manufacturing through design. Our challenge was to bridge the gap between designers, who are often thinking big picture, and manufacturers, who need to focus on the bottom line. Through our workshops, we would gather designers and manufacturers together to solve a real-world manufacturing challenge by ideating potential new products. This process not only gave them a chance to have all the right tools at the table to build great ideas, but it also gave them a chance to work together and better understand and appreciate the skills that each brings to the table. This made it easier to take the ideas forward and also made the designers and manufacturers who attended more open to working together. While solutions are the goal, the benefits to a nonprofit in building alignment and collaboration at these ideation sessions are key to your solutions making a larger impact.

Coming Up

In my next and final post on Design Thinking 101, I will talk about how we take the crazy but inspiring ideas from the Ideate step and bring them to life while being user-centered.

Questions? Contact me at emily@teenybig.com.