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This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on IDEO founder David Kelley. This global design firm, with famous clients including Steve Jobs, pioneered the use of “design thinking” to make products more responsive and intuitive for users. By beginning from a position of empathy for the user, design thinkers better define obstacles and needs, prototype, test, and retest. This process is not linear‒like a traditional design, prototype, and production process‒but iterative.
Design thinking, however, is not simply a methodology for commercial product design. IDEO is currently working to improve access to safe drinking water in India, and build sustainable educational programs in Peru. As Kelley points out in the interview: “The big thing about design thinking is it allows people to build on the ideas of others.” At the IDEO offices, collaborative working styles are not only encouraged, but are a matter of course. The firm is even creative in its hiring practices, having anthropologists and musicians working alongside computer programmers and engineers. This mixture of backgrounds and perspectives is key to the design thinking model. This diversity is also reflected in the cohort of Kelley’s Hasso Plattner Institute for Design at Stanford University (the d.school), where 500 masters students from all disciplines learn about “design thinking as a tool for innovation”.
While watching this segment, it became clear that Kelley’s focus on empathy as the starting point to approaching any design problem resonates for those of us in the non profit sector. IDEO itself is branching off into humanitarian efforts, suggesting that the connection between design thinking and the sector is a logical progression. In my capacity as Action Research Coordinator, I am always interested in making the ways we work here at Framework, and in the sector more generally, more collaborative, transparent, and efficient. But how do we make innovation and re-evaluation a priority in a sector that often has limited resources? Can the empathy that inspires innovative thinkers like Kelley also be the starting point when testing and recommending new tools and processes to the non profit community? If empathy is a catalyst for innovation, than the non profit sector has a unique capacity.
We are big fans of IdeaPaint. We painted a large 2 x 4 meter portion of our wall with it, right next to a TV screen connected to a computer.
It is a nice combination of high-touch and high-tech approaches to brainstorming and innovation.
For instance, we recently spent an entire Saturday white boarding our new bottom-up budget technique, then quickly mocking the templates online (read blog post here
). The rapid prototyping has helped us speed up our innovation cycle considerably.
We are always keen to hear about other people and organizations that invest heavily into similar processes that harness creativity, innovation and rapid-prototyping. Idea Paint recently circulated a White Paper (click here
) where 20+ practitioners shared their insight into Managing Creativity.
Without sounding too much like a one-trick pony, our team is particularly interested in the comments from some contributors on supporting a culture of sharing.
One such nugget: "Delineate clear lines of communication to invite employees from all levels of the organization to share ideas" (see image to right).
Michael Schaffer added "What's really important to me is to create an environment where people are willing to share."
In May and June, we will be considering how to better apply these sharing principles to sector-wide collaboration, creativity and innovation.
We know there is so much potential and opportunity to unlock millions of volunteer hours and donations.
What do you think of the article? Have you used Idea Paint? How does your team conduct brain storming sessions?