Tag: Upstream Skills

27
Jul

Design Thinking Futures [Part 1]

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PART 1 of 2:

GK VanPatter in conversation with Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy: In one of your articles, MAKING SENSE OF: “Why Design Thinking Will Fail,” you classified design thinking into upstream and downstream design thinking. Can you clarify this taxonomy for our readers?

GK VanPatter: Yes certainly. We see a lot of articles online like the now infamous “Why Design Thinking Will Fail” post that you referred to. Our response, posted to LinkedIn contains a reference to the situation that I just referred to above. The impact of the methodology mess that now exists becomes clear in that article. (See link below.)

Regarding upstream and downstream, we created this distinction as one part of a larger taxonomy while researching and writing our recently published book Innovation Methods Mapping to convey important differences in methodologies. In the book, readers can see and make use of the entire taxonomy as a reusable analysis framework. Our goal in creating the analysis lens is not jargon-making but rather to introduce considerations and meaning not previously present.

The terms upstream and downstream relate to the assumed starting points of the methodology. Upstream means upstream from the “brief”, which is a framed or semi-framed challenge. In upstream contexts, one cannot and does not assume to know what the challenges actually might be. Part of the work is to create the interconnected constellation of challenges, often seen for the first time. The everyday context for upstream is complex organizations and societies where many types of challenges tend to exist. Why would anyone assume all challenges on the planet are product or service related? From our open innovation perspective that makes no sense at all.

Downstream is the brief business where much of the traditional design industries (and graduate design schools) have been focused for decades. Most often in downstream methods, the assumption is that the challenge to be addressed is pre-assumed to be related to product, service or experience design regardless of what the challenges actually might be.

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Both upstream and downstream methods are useful. The problems arise when downstream methods are force-fitted into upstream contexts. Today in a competitive marketplace, whether we all like it or not, many graduate design schools are, due to their slow adaptation over a decade, out pitching the quick-fix notion that down is up, that downstream methods are universal, that downstream methods are meta design. That is more about marketing than methodologies. This spin pitching has contributed, not to the making sense of the subject, but rather to the mountain of confusion that now exists and continues to grow. Ultimately that spin will likely undermine the credibility of those advocates, but hopefully not the subject and the interest in adaptive skills.

What we find is that the methodology related sensemaking that we do is welcomed by many and not appreciated by some who would prefer that these differences not be pointed out. Not everyone is going to be a fan of more clarity around the subject of design/design thinking. So be it.

See the entire Part 1 of the interview here:

22
Nov

Making Sense of Service Design

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Service Design Thinking: Confusion or Clarity?

Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter has published another post in his popular ongoing “Making Sense Series.”

“Clarity or lack there-of is something that is often difficult to talk about in the design / design thinking community. Not everyone in the community of design communities is up for clarity. Lack of clarity often leads to a confused public. At the moment, mountains of confusion around the subject of design and design thinking exist publicly.”

“Contributing to the confusion we recently noted the UK Government’s launch of its “Design Principles”.

It is really none of our business but from a methods perspective, there seems to be some confused logic there.

Some enlightened person in the UK might ask:

Are these meant to be Digital Service Design Principles, Service Design Principles or Design Principles?

How did you get from “Design Principles” to “Don’t make assumptions” and “make things open” to “Service design starts with identifying user needs.”

Who said anything about presuming, predetermining that the challenges are service related?

This is an assumption often seen in service design logic.”

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Read the full post on LinkedIn here:

 

Related:

Making Sense of Design Thinking & Agile Method

Making Sense of “Why Design Thinking Will Fail.”

Building Strategic Innovation Lab Capabilities

Enabling Organizational Ambidexterity

03
Aug

Making Sense of Design Thinking

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Making Sense of Design Thinking & “Agile” Method

Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter just published another post in his popular ongoing “Making Sense Series.”

“Many organizational leaders have become a tad confused as various parties pitch methods in a competitive marketplace that now includes the graduate business schools and graduate design schools seeking to reposition themselves as innovation advisory consultancies..:-)”

“In this brief post, with an objective towards advocating clarity, we share how, from a practice based methods perspective, Humantific differentiates between Design Thinking methods, Product/Service/Experience Design Thinking methods and Agile methods. While they all add value, they each add different forms of value applicable to different contexts.

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Read the post on LinkedIn here:

Related:

Making Sense of “Why Design Thinking Will Fail.”

Building Strategic Innovation Lab Capabilities

Enabling Organizational Ambidexterity

19
Dec

Beyond Brainstorming

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What Humantific Clients Already Know…

Andy Warhol was once asked in an interview what he thought about Jasper Johns. Andy replied that he thought Jasper was great. The interviewer then asked why he thought so. Andy replied, “Because he makes great lunches.”

Well that’s kind of a good way to think about brainstorming too. Practitioners of team facilitation with years of experience can see value in brainstorming and like Andy’s perspective shift on Jasper, probably not from the direction that you might expect and certainly not for the reasons being endlessly debated in the mainstream media these days.

Here at Humantific we often ask ourselves; what’s the big deal about brainstorming? Other than driving attention to websites what’s the hullabaloo in the media all about? The topic seems to translate into a lot of dogs chasing tails when with a little more context, a little more insight, that energy could be better invested elsewhere.

As we have pointed out to our readers on this blog several times: In this innovation enabling industry; “It is widely recognized that brainstorming has not been considered a stand-alone creative methodology or technique since the late 1950s. No leading innovation consultancy that we know of [including Humantific] uses any version of brainstorming as a standalone method.”

In most practice-based innovation skill-building programs, including Humantific Academy, brainstorming in its various reinvented forms is considered introductory skill, boot camp level knowledge. Once organizational leaders are engaged in their innovation journey they rapidly see that serious innovation capacity building is like building a house. Saying brainstorming is ineffective is akin to saying a hammer doesn’t work to build a house. Clearly you are going to need more than a hammer! Yes indeed you will need to conceive of the house design before you start building and once under way you will need an arsenal of tools in your innovation toolbox not just a hammer. In addition to a great design and multiple tools, you need the deep knowledge of the house building process. No organizational leader that we work with today operates under the assumption that mastering brainstorming is going to get the innovation job done.

To build that innovation house will not only require a variety of tools, you will also need to know how to use them effectively. As a skilled cocreation facilitator, you should have many tools and know how and when to use them. Walking around as a hammer is not very effective. As an innovation leader what you want to have in your back pocket is more like a Swiss-army-knife.

For seasoned facilitation practitioners the key to extracting the value of brainstorming is to understand its ingredients, its DNA, the ‘what’s inside’ part and then know what is needed to reconfigure those elements in ways that bring to bear their full power. Experienced practitioners know how to get at the key ingredients and how to reformulate their value in the context of everyday work. This is “the great lunch” of brainstorming.

Years after brainstorming was created, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes had already embarked on that reformulation road when they shifted towards a more powerful mash-up that included what we now refer to as root behaviors that operate inside an adaptable framework that is focused, not on ideation but rather moves from fuzzy front end through to implementation and today measurement. Osborn and Parnes recognized early on that much more than brainstorming was going to be required. Don’t miss that turn in the road.

Shift and build, shift and build more or less describes the continuous cycle of knowledge construction that has been occurring ever since. Many experts and non-experts have made contributions to that ever-evolving knowledge field at the center of this hybrid community of practice. If you miss all the shifting and building that has occurred it is unlikely that you will understand what’s needed and what’s possible today.

At this point, many additional tools, instruments, techniques, refinements and ways of working have been added or subtracted to that knowledge soup. Of course the hammer itself has also been redesigned many, many times and is today a shadow of its original self. For this reason, we don’t expend energy re-debating the effectiveness of the 1953 perspective as it has long ago been superseded.

From the early pioneering days of addressing relatively simple challenges to the current era of tackling highly complex fuzzy situations, integrating upstream framing and data/information visualization, there are two things that have remained constant. However you choose to slice and dice all of those many knowledge additions the principles of skills and behaviors remain key elements today.

It is mastery of root innovation behavior orchestration in the context of multiple disciplines that holds the possibility for organizations to create sustainable adaptive cultures today. Unless you are up for the long, painful route to house building, don’t miss that key ingredient.  Even if you seek to put your house on wheels or attach wings, a strong foundational platform is crucial to its success. In sustainable innovation culture construction everything builds from foundational root behaviors. It sounds easy. It’s the getting there that takes the real work.

If your organizations’ goal is to build capacity for proactive innovation, changemaking, adaptability, flexibility, fluxability, resilience, whatever you choose to call that, you will want to set your sights far beyond the capacity to simply generate ideas. Forward thinking leaders in every industry are busy on-boarding advanced innovation skills to the point where having them has already become an essential component in many next generation leadership programs. The truth is root behavior mastery is foundational to many advanced innovation skills. Mastering those behaviors individually and collectively represents an important step along the skills progression ladder, not the current end state of innovation capacity-building today.

Thanks again for the perspective shifts Mr. Warhol. Lets all have a great lunch on Andy today!

GK VanPatter & Janet Getto

Humantific’s 3 Universal Beyond Brainstorming Principles:

1. BrainFraming Preceeds BrainStorming

Unless you have undertaken some form of upstream framing with multiple participants there is a 75% chance that your brainstorm is being focused in the wrong direction, at the wrong altitude on the wrong problem. Before you begin, back-up and make sure you are pointing your brainstorm in the right direction. Conscious real-time participatory reframing is now possible. Understanding context of the challenge precedes getting to a strategic and meaningful launch point for ideation.

2. Everyday Innovation Trumps Brainstorming

Don’t wait for special occasion “brainstorming sessions” to skill your team from a behavioral perspective. Embed mastery of generative thinking as separate to evaluative thinking as one root behavior in your everyday innovation learning program. Do the work to understand that the behaviors appear in every meeting, in every organization, in every industry, in every country, everyday. Make an investment in understanding the dynamics of everyday innovation.

3. Practical Realizations Trump Media Slogans

Forget the endless sloganeering being generated in the media to attract readers. Stay grounded in real needs and practical realizations. Connect root behaviors directly into your already existing corporate values. If you have identified diversity and innovation as among your values you are half-way home. Now do the work to figure out how root behaviors are connected to these values. Doing such work represents a much smarter investment than reading yet another armchair experts blog post on “Let’s Kill Brainstorming”. Lets understand what trumps what and keep moving forward beyond individual techniques and towards inclusive innovation culture building.

Related:

Making Sense of Alex Osborn

Lost Stories Applied Creativity History

Teaching Complexity Navigation

27
Jun

Humantific at the BBC

Bringing Complexity Navigation Skills to the BBC in London

Humantific is working with the BBC bringing Complexity Navigation Skills to their User Experience & Design senior leadership team this summer and fall seasons.

Humantific’s Janet Getto and Elizabeth Pastor spent a week in London this past June with BBC’s User Experience & Design senior leadership team. The Strategic CoCreation program was focused on learning cross-disciplinary innovation process skills. The team was very engaged and enthusiastic and gave the whole experience a 9.1 average rating (over 10). Adam Powers, Head of User Experience & Design for Branded Experiences, had great things to say after the experience:

“Humantific were hired by BBC UX&D to deliver a four-day workshop. I am not overstating things when I say that Janet and Elizabeth’s work was transformational for the fourteen people that attended. Seismic organisational changes in BBC UX&D meant that all attendees were particularly open to new ways of thinking, problem solving and collaborating, but Humantific gave us shape and extraordinary focus. We left with practical tools and felt empowered to use them, along with a sense of shared purpose that unified a previously disconnected bunch of creatives. Many organisations can provide training in this Design thinking /Innovation space, but Janet and Elizabeth bring unique insights and approaches – and what’s more, they bring themselves. Inspirational.”

Humantific’s Elizabeth Pastor and Michael Babwahsingh will be back this fall for the second part of the program focused on Visual SenseMaking. Stay tuned!