Design Thinking Coaching

Favorite Part: Bringing in real users to test prototypes. There’s nothing like watching someone’s face light up when they are presented with prototype designed specifically for them.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Take away all the chairs. People will fall into phone-comas if you let them sit down.

Best Advice: Give everyone in the group a marker. Everyone must write down their own ideas.

As a Design Thinking coach, I worked with Cornell’s Executive Education team to organize and facilitate workshops for business leaders on-site. Design Thinking aims to streamline and simplify the creative creation process so that any group, however diverse, can generate novel solutions to big picture questions, simply by leading with empathy and setting aside constraints.

As a coach, I worked with executives, engineers, doctors, graduate students, and entrepreneurs in groups as intimate as a meeting of peers to multi-day workshops with companies like Google and AARP.

The Process

My team used the Design Thinking methodology developed at the Stanford during our workshops. First, workshop participants begin by intentionally setting aside their traditional problem solving methods. Engineers like to engineer solutions, executives like to pursue a positive bottom line, but all design thinking begins with empathy. Design thinkers begin by interviewing and gathering stories from an individual, then identifying a core issue that is significant to that specific person.

From that issue they define a central question that begins with “how might we…” which, if answered, would make that individual’s life markedly better. Participants ideate solutions to that question and vote on one to prototype. Prototypes may be a quick and dirty physical mock up or a guided skit that illustrates an experience. Finally, the designers test their idea with a real user, ideally the same person that they interviewed and empathized with at the beginning of the workshop.

What it Means to Me

I love anything that puts people—and their experiences, emotions, and priorities—in the spotlight. I was immediately drawn to Design Thinking in graduate school and was honored to join the Executive Education team as a coach. I have always tried to ground my work in the reality of the human experience and admire that Design Thinking aims to do the same.

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