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How to keep ideas flowing in a busy organisation

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Here at DLG Digital, we’ve created a framework to help accelerate problem solving, experimentation, rapid prototyping and innovation. It’s our adaptation of the Design Thinking philosophy which helps us to think about problems from different angles in order to get the best results.

We believe that you learn best by doing. You can refine your work as you go, but you should be continuously moving forward, constantly evolving and always learning.

By bringing ideas to life quickly, you can build prototypes and test concepts cheaply and safely before involving heavy lifting tech solutions. That way, if you change your mind, you haven’t wasted hours or weeks of development time and can scrap an idea with a clear conscience.

1. Start with the problem, not the solution

First off, don’t get hung up on the word ‘problem’. The thing you’re trying to address might not be broken – it might be that you need to find ways to improve something you’ve already created, streamline a process or launch a new product.

2. Don’t assume

To truly understand and articulate a problem, you need to listen to your customers. Immerse yourself in the customer experience and look at what people actually do (not just what they tell you they do).

Use old technology, if that’s what your customer is using. Don’t assume they have the latest gadgets and a 27” monitor.

Channel your inner five year old and keep asking ‘why?’ until you dig down deep enough to get the answers you’re really looking for.

3. Time for ideas

So now you’ve got to the root of your problem from a customer perspective, you need to generate ideas.

Frame your problem in a way that your team can understand. It encourages creative thinking, which, with any luck, will give an abundance of ideas.

Remember, a good idea can come from absolutely anywhere, so keep everyone motivated and the conversation flowing. Leave your judgement at the door.

Act quickly on your ideas before they go cold.

It’s a good idea to hold a brainstorming session away from your usual workplace – go somewhere stimulating and comfortable with plenty of refreshments. The idea is to make people feel at ease.

Once you have a pile of diverse ideas, it’s time to refine them into something you can build on. Select the best concepts and decide which ideas are worth prototyping. Act quickly on your ideas before they go cold.

4. Prototyping

From a sketch on a napkin to an app on a screen, anything can be a prototype. The aim is to bring your idea to life at minimal cost, so you can test whether it’s got legs. It doesn’t have to be too polished, just practical.

With a prototype, you don’t have to second-guess how people ‘might’ react or use your product – give it to them and see for yourself what they think. It’s the best feedback you can ask for.

You can find and fix mistakes and solve problems as you go, so by the time you go into production, you’re already pretty confident that your design is robust.

Make sure you go back to the customers who initially identified the problem for you – if you’ve managed to address their concerns, you’re on your way to success.

Once you’ve arrived at an outcome, you’ll likely have three choices: consider a different approach, make small tweaks and test again, or plough on and take your idea to the next stage.

If the new concept isn’t well received – you’ve saved a lot of money by finding out early, so you can move on and try something else.

The entire process should be fairly fluid, moving quickly from stage to stage. The key is to keep everyone feeling fresh and enthusiastic about the project and not letting it drag.

5. Spread the love

It’s important to remember that Design Thinking isn’t just about designing websites and apps. It can be applied to wider company strategies too.

If you can adopt a similar framework in other areas of the business, you could see a real positive shift in the output and quality of ideas.

Creating an environment where teams from around the business can get together to think creatively around an issue, devise quick, usable solutions, test them and move on will help to foster a real culture of collaboration and problem solving.