Design Thinking Mindset – The Key to Decoding Your Wicked Problems
Stop wasting time on irrelevant things. Frame your complex business problems clearly to identify the most important pieces to focus on.
I have always been fascinated with this expression: “Problems are wake-up calls for creativity”.
The problems we face today at work is ambiguous, complex, contradictory, indeterminate, and constantly changing requirements:
- What is the best way to begin the digital transformation program?
- How do we know which customers journeys matter most in which geography?
- How can we roll out new digital service to potential existing customers?
- Are our teams effectively collaborating across functions?
- Are our budgets tied to progress and future growth?
- How do we assess and prioritize our portfolio of innovation initiatives?
- How do we measure the value we intend to create and how can we communicate the same to our stakeholders?
While most businesses are asking similar questions, but the ground reality is different to every organization making the problem unique, and often it can be a considered as a symptom to another problem. Moreover, it’s hard to know how or where or when to get started. Hence we call our problems as wicked problems (coined by Horst Rittel).
Also, with the speed of customer, economic and technology changes in the experience economy navigating a business is tricky. With this wake-up call, you may find ourselves running out of time, are bereft of ideas and finding ways to turn around your problems and take a greater degree of control over the business progress and apply creativity to drive change in your business.
Like Einstien rightly said – “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
You also realize, that the traditional approaches you have used to solve problems are no longer valid. This is where design thinking makes an entry, with its whole-brain thinking and a non-linear human-centered approach. Besides, it’s also a mindset that can be applied to creatively develop a competitive advantage, by matching people’s needs with what can be delivered by current and future capabilities while solving complex problems.
“Whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to solve it.”- Dan Roam
By dimensioning and diagramming your problem, you can decode and start providing structure to the fuzzy problem in hand. As these are multifaceted and tricky problems, by clarifying the issues that arise, you get a thorough understanding of the problem that can help break through the inevitable barriers. The next step is to take action with a strong hypothesis and focus.
Discover the prevailing structure (dimensions) of your problem
The term “dimensioning” is this context, is the process of visualizing, articulating and structuring the critical facets of any wicked problem.
- WHO/WHAT: Portrait
- HOW MUCH: Chart
- WHERE: Journey Map
- WHEN: Timeline
- HOW: Flowchart
- WHY: Equation
And the best part is, you know how to do it. Whenever you have to make a big decision, you probably identify and assess different dimensions.
Which job should I take? Which university should I go to? Do I buy a ready to move in apartment or construct a house?
Let’s take a look at how you will approach this apartment/house problem? However, most of us begin to look at different dimensions of the problem.
- WHO/WHAT: location of the property, desired amenities, size of the place, needs of people who will live in this property
- HOW MUCH: down payment, EMI payment schedule, mortgage value, future rental value
- WHERE: type of neighborhood, distance to public transportation (train, metro, airport, bus stop), plot the distance to work, school, recreation, stores and so on
- WHEN: timeline to shift or construct
- HOW: to arrange funds
- WHY: equation as see you see problems clearly and gets your brain thinking
You will then research, assess, organize and compare these different dimensions and you can see your problem holistically. In the process, you give your complex problem clarity and structure. Finally, you make a well-informed decision.
You may not be able to categorize all the attributes, prioritize the aspects of researching and analyzing in the first attempt. So iterate and get it right!
Use diagrams to unravel deeper insights and provide the “ah-ah” sparks
Oh! Oh! You are wondering I am not an artist or a designer and am all stuck up.
Well, you don’t need to be either. Diagramming makes information visual.
There is tremendous value hidden in those massive data set. But, often it’s difficult to appreciate and make sense of the data that you have collected in the form of words and numbers. The insights delivered by adding a visual component provides new perspectives that lead to the “ah-ha” light bulb that sparks new initiatives.
You can start with Venn diagrams, 2×2 matrices, and spectrum’s to get powerful results.
For example, predictive app marketing provides instant insight into the mobile app usage by showing which users are likely to churn or become loyal in the future based on the app’s very own data. Based on this marketers can personalize their campaigns to drive conversions and proactively prevent churn.
Solve your complex problems with these techniques
The first step is to gather enough data and information, which is the key to decoding wicked problems. Your target is not a visual diagram but to see and analyze your problem from multiple perspectives. By sharing your thoughts and including relevant stakeholders from different disciplines and background in the process, you get multiple think- tanks to build on the ideas.
As a result, you start recognizing – a pattern, overlap or gaps, segments or clusters. By iterating till the time you have all the dimensions to a given problem, you refine your diagrams and break through the inevitable barriers. This enables you to see the relationship with the data, which you would have otherwise missed out. Doing so, you increase the odds of achieving a successful transformation.