Creative Thinking Tools Design Thinking Teams

Team dynamics: Swapping individuals

Through­out the process learn­ing facil­i­ta­tors should be try­ing to cre­ate even teams. By even we mean func­tion­al­ly rather than struc­tural­ly, acknowl­edg­ing that indi­vid­u­als per­form dif­fer­ent­ly in dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions. Good com­bi­na­tions are vibrant and pro­duc­tive. Spot­ting poor com­bi­na­tions is rel­a­tive­ly easy, as the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the team will be great­ly reduced. Par­tic­i­pants should be moved, as need­ed rather then wait­ing for a break in the process.

Dominant Leader

Teams should be flat in struc­ture, with all mem­bers being equal. Some par­tic­i­pants will see it as their duty to take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and lead the con­ver­sa­tion and the direc­tion of the con­cepts. While this behav­ior might be reward­ed in oth­er set­tings, it does lit­tle to devel­op the brief or the oth­er indi­vid­u­als in the team. In most cas­es, draw­ing atten­tion to this behav­ior and offer­ing guid­ance as to the desired struc­ture is enough to redi­rect the per­for­mance of the team.

Doubting/Questioning Member

For most peo­ple being asked to trust the process and defer judg­ment is enough, but for oth­ers the urge to ques­tion is too great. Noth­ing is more cor­ro­sive to the cre­ative process than ques­tions that nar­row the thought process. Con­ver­sa­tions should encour­age diver­gent think­ing, wild ideas and should be opti­mistic. There is plen­ty of time lat­er for the tough ques­tions.
Teams exhibit­ing this behav­ior will require clos­er facil­i­ta­tion for a short peri­od, until the team begins to defer judg­ment.

What mar­ket is there for this idea?” in iso­la­tion this seems like a per­fect­ly rea­son­able ques­tion to ask of an idea/product/service. Where these type of ques­tions become the wrong ques­tions becomes clear when we are try­ing to gen­er­ate a vol­ume of ideas. In the inspire phase it is impor­tant to estab­lish the pos­si­ble mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ties for the out­come of the brief, with oppor­tu­ni­ties being the key phrase. “Oppor­tu­ni­ties” as an adjunct to a ques­tion is like adding a fire­work rather then a bomb to the cre­ative process.

In the con­cep­tu­al­ize phase the type of ques­tions we ask become far more impor­tant. Ques­tions should only offer oppor­tu­ni­ties, ener­gies to the con­cepts that are being formed. We can trust that the process will give ample oppor­tu­ni­ty for tough ques­tions lat­er. The aim of the con­cep­tu­al­ize phase is to gen­er­ate a large vol­ume of ideas/concepts. A team of four should be aim­ing for in the region of 100–200 con­cepts. There are sev­er­al rea­sons for this lev­el of out­put:

  • Ini­tial ideas will be tied very close­ly to already estab­lished notions (clichéd)
  • Only by exhaust­ing the known to we cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ty for the unknown to emerge
  • By encour­ag­ing the ridicu­lous and bend­ing the para­me­ters of the brief we can dis­cov­er new oppor­tu­ni­ties
  • Through the devel­op­ment of nar­ra­tive we start see­ing the link­ages between con­cepts and start sow­ing the seeds of inno­va­tion
  • As con­cepts come togeth­er through their nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion, mar­kets and new oppor­tu­ni­ties will emerge

As we refine the lead­ing con­cepts the type of ques­tions become more focused but still leave the door wide open for change and oppor­tu­ni­ty. The ques­tion­er should always see them­selves as an explor­er, rather then a doubter. As the team becomes more skilled, it gains the abil­i­ty to inform the doubter as to their impact on the process and sug­gest a redi­rec­tion.

It is only in the eval­u­a­tion phase that our con­cepts are final­ly strong enough to stand up on their own two feet and face the brunt of tough ques­tion­ing. Even still, while we are open to all ques­tions it is also the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the ques­tion­er to sug­gest pos­si­ble solu­tions. Not fire and for­get or shrug shoul­ders and say they don’t know. Eval­u­a­tion is steps of stairs, with a para­chute. Eval­u­a­tion is also the pol­ish­ing phase of the nar­ra­tive that accom­pa­nies the con­cepts. As the con­cept climbs the steps pro­vid­ed by ques­tion­ing the sto­ry evolves, where the ques­tion knocks the con­cept back to earth the nar­ra­tive can alter in order to fit the new need.
The Pon­der­er

Qui­et, deep thinkers are great in a class­room and in a team, but too many togeth­er cre­ates a qui­et and unpro­duc­tive unit. Redis­trib­ut­ing the deep thinkers across mul­ti­ple teams will improve the sit­u­a­tion.

Find­ing the right com­bi­na­tion of team­mates can be effort­less or quite dif­fi­cult depend­ing on the group. Issues should be addressed with­in the group rather than pulling one per­son aside, quite often the group will have an alter­nate per­spec­tive on the sit­u­a­tion and inform the solu­tion. Over time each team will learn to self man­age.