What Do Non-Designers Need to Learn?

In addition to specific tools, non-designers need to learn key mind-sets that are typically used by designers.

Training non-designers in the design thinking process takes different forms, running from relative brief lecture-based overviews of the underlying terms and concepts to more strategic and technical hands-on experiential capability building session that ensures they do not return back to prior behaviors post the session, unlike generic trainings. Such sessions are built around either simulated or real-world projects. In general, teams need to learn design thinking tools, as well as key mindsets to improve their performance. The diagram below helps explain three-part categorization of design thinking tools:

Considering the specific tools in each category helps to understand the range of tools that those new to design thinking will be exposed to- one guide lists 101 tools that aspiring users of design thinking might consider (Kumar 2012). For eg: teams being trained in need finding tools may learn how to better interview for empathy, following a step-by-step guide to developing an interview protocol to promote wide-ranging responses. A second tool may be in how to build a “journey map” of user experience, helping to chart emotional highs and lows across a user’s experience with current products that may trigger insight into a new opportunity for innovation. In training on brainstorming tools, teams may learn how to apply “How might we” questions as an input to an ideation session that might start with a few minutes of individual ideation before proceeding to group brainstorming. Another brainstorming tool is to adhere to specific rules that promote variance in ideas. In applying prototyping tools, teams may learn how to develop “low-fidelity” prototypes using cardboard or foam core to quickly test out ideas, or they may learn how to incorporate potential users into a prototyping process. Some tools apply to multiple categories, as represented by the Venn diagram in Figure 10.1, such as a brainstorming approach that involves the use of physical prototype materials.

In addition to specific tools, non-designers need to learn key mindsets that are typically used by designers, such as encouraging a climate of debate, developing a sense of empathy, and promoting respect of different viewpoints. Learning the formal tools of design thinking along with relevant mind-sets gives design teams a set of capabilities for innovation, but the design thinking approach can also lead to challenges for non-designers, which we discuss next.