Recently a colleague asked me if design thinking could be done in 5 minutes — an excellent question itself!
The answer is an absolute YES, and it got me thinking about which practices might fit this category. Quickly I realized: curious questions.
Design thinking has multiple methods for creating smart problem statements and design challenges, the ubiquitous “How Might We….” prompts you may see in the literature or on whiteboards. I value these deeply, but in this piece, I’m exploring the questions we try on before we get to the more polished ones: the messy, lighthearted, futuring, speculative or quick n dirty questions that spark the mind.
Below are a few examples of these design questions, ones I’ve used recently in the field with teams and individuals, which have to lead to some valuable insights.
But first, why do we leverage questions?
Sharp questions help people to adjust the focus on their problems, gain new frameworks for understanding them, and clarify their ideas on how they might address them. Questions can create a possibility space for innovation and needed change. They can bring people in, invite people to know themselves better, and set the stage for collaboration and deep empathy.
Questions are our friends when we work to innovate, change, or transform
— whether you work in team efforts like product development, service design, or program management, or individual pursuits like technical problem-solving in the stack or personal development.
Questions don’t DO the work, but they are critical to ensuring we’re doing better and more impactful things along the way: doing the right work.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The work of creative process itself does need time: ideation is the result of input which must be gathered, synthesis needs to be fit into context to develop meaning, teams or individuals need time to make and execute on decisions … in short, the work of applied creativity does need time to be, well, applied.
Insight is something that can happen quite quickly even as deep synthesis or implementation takes longer. This is why we enjoy memes, data visualizations, and other quick forms of information gathering. First thought, best thought? Sometimes.
This is where five-minute thinking prompts come into play.
Our “aha’s” come from new information as well as new ways of understanding old information. A reframing or a new facet to a problem space is hugely valuable — and can appear in moments. Especially in the case of giant, sticky, or complex problems we can design questions that free our regular thinking constraints and create massive possibility.
Here a few questions you can try to spark insight into your problems or innovation projects:
What would I try if it was okay to fail at fixing this [problem]?
How can I rephrase this [complaint or problem] as a goal?
Where does my thinking differ from others on the [topic or problem or project], and why?
If there was nothing in my way to [do/fix/address] this thing, what would I do next?
If I had only today to change this [issue], what would I do?
How would my enemy/competitor deal with this? Why would or would not I do that?
Say I’m explaining this to an old friend, what do I say?
Imagine it’s five years from now, what happened [go for positive outcomes]?
I truly believe that innovation is available to everyone, and it requires only the curiosity to wonder how might things be different and the courage to fail forward in finding out the answer.
This is why I love working with teams and individuals on innovation and transformation projects whether they be technology services, governance, or personal ecosystems.
I’ll leave you with this question: How does curiosity fit into your creative applications of design thinking?