My Approach: Creating solutions that incorporate the unique context of the organization

In an earlier post, I wrote about the challenge of staying in the problem space and not jumping to solutions too quickly. One should keep in mind that there are no easy or obvious solutions out there—if there were, they would have already been successfully implemented. Along with this, one should also be cautioned against generic, off-the-shelf solutions, particularly those sold by the innumerable management gurus whose books litter the (few remaining) bookstores. Generic solutions aren’t going to solve your problems—every organization has different processes and a different culture, both of which must be considered when designing solutions.

The most effective solutions will have two characteristics: they will be specific to the exact challenges faced by the organization, and the solutions will be a joint creation of the designer and the organization members. In my recent work, I’ve created an opportunity tree that’s helped me focus on the specific challenges faced in my organization. Armed with that detailed knowledge, I have reviewed ideas with organization members, to generate solutions that are desirable and workable in the context of the organization. Prototype testing of those ideas has allowed me to further refine and rework my solution, and with a little more testing, I hope to be able to offer a sustainable solution that is tailor-made to the context of my target population.

My Approach: Surfacing Assumptions

The third stage of the Design Thinking Process calls for Ideation, that is, identifying new solutions to the problems surfaced in the previous stage in the process. Before proceeding to the next stage of Prototyping, however, the designer needs to examine the assumptions underlying each of the proposed solutions. One solution can be founded on many assumptions, and any one of those assumptions, if proven false, could invalidate a proposed solution, or at the very least, point the way to rethinking a solution. One potential challenge, however, is that there can be many different assumptions built into a proposed solution—so many that it’s impossible to test them all. The key is to identify the assumptions that are most critical to the success of the solution—the assumptions that have the potential to render a proposed solution unworkable.

To take a single example from my own work, I had discovered that, quite reasonably, people wanted more public recognition of their successes. As part of one of my solutions, I included public recognition via Yammer, but recognized that I was merely assuming that recognition via Yammer would be valued. In prototype testing, though, I received mixed results on that proposition, and therefore had to rethink that part of my solution.

I had prototyped that part of my solution as a single item, to determine if it would work—and the great thing about prototyping is that in this case, the feedback opened the door to other ideas that would achieve the desired result.

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