Archives For design thinking

openideo_employment_linkedin

Few people have helped as many people find the right job as Dick Bolles. The best-selling author of What Color is Your Parachute? and co-founder of eParachute.com has been advising job seekers for over 40 years. I had a chance to speak with Bolles recently as part of the OpenIDEO Youth Employment Challenge. The online challenge, done in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, hopes to engage a global community in tackling the issue of youth employment. Below are notes from our conversation, which I hope will help stimulate creativity for the challenge’s Ideas Phase.

Know Yourself

“Education, if it’s doing its job, needs to teach young people three things: they need to learn who they are, how to find the right work, and how to find an appropriate life partner. If colleges were ever to think about how they could help students learn about those three problems, education would be turned on its head.”

Bolles makes a compelling case for the value of self-knowledge. During our short conversation, he shared two stories of readers who told him how much easier their job searches became after they invested in self-exploration. Knowing your own gifts and interests well not only enables you to narrow your focus, it also helps you to understand how your skills might transfer to roles you might not have previously imagined.

Job Hunt in Groups

“I was talking to someone looking for a job and asked, ‘WHY are you doing your job hunt alone?’ I never understand why people don’t work together and help each other… Only by youth talking to other youth can we make a dent in this problem.”

For me, this insight was a real eye opener, but it makes perfect sense. At IDEO, we strongly believe that collaboration leads to great things, so why not apply this same logic to looking for a new job? Making job hunts more social makes them more enjoyable and educational. Job seekers are able to share leads, networks, and advice. They’re able to practice for interviews together and keep each other’s spirits up after setbacks. And once they start landing jobs, the value of their combined networks becomes all the more important. Animals hunt in packs, why shouldn’t we?

Stay Optimistic

“Every job hunt in the world depends on one factor above all else: hope. Instead of always hearing about how intractable the problem [of youth unemployment] is, what if there was a project that collected success stories of people that took charge of their own job hunt and their own life?”

By nature, designers are optimistic. We believe there are solutions to tough problems and that, with the right methodology and collaboration, we can find them. It’s easy to lose your optimism, though, when the odds feel stacked against you. That’s why Bolles’ point is so critical: maintaining hope is an essential ingredient to a successful job search. How might we protect young people’s most important asset—their hope?

I invite you to join the conversation by sharing your ideas and solutions on OpenIDEO’s Youth Employment Challenge. I, personally, will be offering a design critique to a selected idea during the challenge’s Refinement Phase and one lucky participant will be selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s 10th Annual Meeting in September 2014.

What advice have you given to first-time job seekers?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

5_new_designers

Fancy a career in design? When I made that choice 30 years ago, the options were limited. You either got an engineering degree and then went to design school, or you went to art school and studied graphic design, architecture, or industrial design, like I did.

Today, things are very different. Thanks to the still-booming Silicon Valley, interaction and user-experience designers have been added to the mix, but those aren’t the only opportunities for design thinkers. Even graduates of non-traditional programs can embark on exciting design careers. To wit, here are five disciplines that didn’t even exist at IDEO a few years ago.

The Designer Coder

Prototyping has always been a critical part of design, but in today’s online, app-based economy, the preferred prototyping medium is increasingly code. Designers who can also code possess a powerful set of tools. There are thousands of positions open to those who have the skills to conceive new ideas and the ability to launch them quickly into market.

The Design Entrepreneur

Combining entrepreneurialism and design is the hot thing in Silicon Valley these days. Every start-up worth its salt has a designer on its founding team. Venture capital firms are including designers in their inner circles, too. More importantly, many of the fastest-growing companies are succeeding because they’ve designed a highly appealing product or service. Just look at Uber or Airbnb. If you have the design skills to craft the right product—and the entrepreneurial grit to see things through—there’s never been a better time to be a design entrepreneur.

The Hybrid Design Researcher

Once upon a time, design researchers came from backgrounds in anthropology, ethnography, or psychology. Deep qualitative research was the secret to discovering unmet needs. While it’s still a successful design-research strategy, these more traditional methods are now being combined with real-time data to reveal user behavior. Knowing how to tap into technology to uncover how individuals and groups really think and act is an essential part of innovation. If you love people and love crunching data, this might be the design career for you.

The Business Designer

Business design may seem like a contradiction if you think about business purely from an operational lens. If you’re a business designer, however, you’re not just looking for innovation from an end product or service. You’re looking at the business model, channel strategy, marketing, supply chain, and a million other things. In truly disruptive innovations, all aspects of the business are up for grabs. Think about the early days of Google. Search innovation was what we experienced as users, but it was by attaching search results to advertising—a business model innovation—that made the company billions. If you have a passion for operations and a desire to flex your creative muscles to create new business systems, then becoming a business designer is the way to go.

The Social Innovator

Creating maximum positive impact on the planet has been my main motivation as a designer. Today, many of those problems—poverty alleviation, access to clean water, financial inclusion, health services for the poor, livable cities, and many more—are in the social sector. Until recently, the only way designers could contribute to these issues was to do small, pro-bono projects or to do research stints within academia. But now, large organization such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and others, have enthusiastically embraced design thinking. At the same time, non-profit design companies like D-RevDesign that Matters, our own IDEO.org, and others are collaborating with social entrepreneurs and NGOs to bring exciting new innovations to those most in need. For perhaps the first time in the history of design, it’s possible to make a career designing for the social sector.

These are just a handful of exciting new design careers I’ve witnessed as of late. Given the urgent, complex challenges our world faces, expect more. Better yet, if you’re a young graduate or looking to change careers, ask yourself:

How might I apply my unique talents to design challenges?

Who knows, maybe next year, I might be writing about you.

What other unlikely skill sets do you think could advance design innovation?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

creative_listening_linkedin

Typically, the soundtrack of Fourth of July is the deafening boom of fireworks. You can barely hear yourself think, let alone have meaningful conversations with family and friends. This year, why not try something different and hone your creative listening skills in the time it takes to fire up a grill?

IDEO’s New York studio recently put together a short “Creative Listening” course in the form of a podcast for the Aspen Ideas Festival. Designed to help conference goers maximize their experience, the four bite-sized segments can help anyone develop better creative listening habits in 30 minutes. Here are a few things you’ll learn:

How to utilize your intuition: Sometimes too much information is just that. It can be overwhelming and logic can only get you so far. That’s when you need to trust your gut and ask, “What’s really important here?” “What’s going on behind the surface, the unsaid versus the said?”

How to hone your interpretation skills: Industry jargon and wordy explanations often mask the true value of something. Learning how to distill a message down to its essence, into simple, understandable language isn’t “dumbing it down,” it’s giving it wings.

How to find inspiration in unexpected places: Looking outside your normal, go-to sources can be a great creativity boost. For instance, one of our teams was working on new membership program for a credit card company. Instead of looking at the competition, they spent time with a rabbi who encouraged people thinking about changing religions to experience different types of synagogues to find the right “fit.” That extreme, analogous experience helped the team turn the corner.

And finally, learn how to amp up your curiosity: Curiosity pushes us beyond what we know and challenges us to look at long-held beliefs in a new light. Staying curious—always asking “Why?” like an earnest preschooler—is a critical muscle that needs to be continuously flexed if you want to have new, game-changing ideas.

Best of all, the course is free to download on iTunes.

Creative listening is a great tool to help you solve tough problems at work. But this holiday weekend, you might want to apply what you learn to tackle a more pressing challenge: keeping everyone happy on vacation.

Happy Fourth!

 

What’s the most surprising thing you learned when you listened creatively?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

design_thinking_PA_treehouse

Are you “vacation deprived”? According to a 2013 study by Expedia.com, Americans only used 10 of their 14 annual vacation days. That’s twice as many unused days off as in 2012. While the restorative powers of a good, long vacation shouldn’t be ignored, there’s also something to be said about creating mini-getaways within the workplace to help people quickly reset and recharge.

Intuitively, we all know how much our environments affect our moods and behaviors. Our offices can either be numbing or energizing; encourage rigid manners or enhance creativity.At IDEO, we continually experiment with mood-altering environments.

In a few of our locations, you’ll find picnic tables, which spark memories of summer vacations and encourage friendly, casual conversations between colleagues. In our Chicago studio, there’s a cozy, under-the-stairwell fort some of our interns constructed. You need to crawl into it on your hands and knees, like a child. And at our Palo Alto location, an old-fashioned tree house was built one summer weekend, again, by some creative interns. As you climb up the ladder and perch amid the sturdy branches and rustling leaves, you soon find yourself next to some unexpected office mates, namely, bugs and birds.

The nice thing is that all these in-office escapes were easy to do and relatively inexpensive, much like a spontaneous weekend road trip. To be fair, none of them truly solve “vacation deprivation.” To my knowledge, only an actual vacation can cure that. But they do provide quick, midday pick-me-ups and that rare workplace commodity: free headspace.

Where do you go to temporarily disconnect during the workday?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Vermeer

I just had one of those serendipitous moments on a trip back from London to San Francisco (see my recent post). Instead of working, I took the chance to catch up on some recent movies. Unexpectedly two of them ended up offering some powerful lessons about creativity.

 

The first was the The LEGO Movie. As several of my fellow IDEO’ers had already mentioned to me, it does a wonderful job of underscoring the importance of improvisation and play. Playing by the rules and following instructions achieves predictable results. They might be high quality (as is the case with many of the LEGO kits) but there is little creativity. Ignore the instructions and build your own stuff is the main message.  I love the way LEGO as a company challenges its own previous orthodoxy with this story. Perhaps that willingness to challenge and reinvent is what makes LEGO a trully great company.

 

There is also another lesson for the aspiring creative leader; the danger of group conformity. Teams can be powerful things but when everyone agrees and no one stands out then, again, creativity suffers. The Lego Movie shows quite beautifully how bringing the right team of creative individuals together with the permission to challenge the status quo can achieve more interesting results. This is a movie that creative leaders should check out.

 

Tim’s Vermeer is an astounding documentary that challenges our assumptions about the relationship between art and technology. Made by Teller, of Penn and Teller fame, it tells the story of inventor and entrepreneur Tim Jenison’s quest to paint a perfect Vermeer picture. 17th Century painter Johannes Vermeer is famous for creating visually stunning, intricately detailed paintings that look real enough to be still frames from a movie. Inspired by David Hockney’s book on how historical artists used optical devices, Jenison set out to discover how Vermeer made his paintings and then recreate one himself. I won’t describe the story here but instead encourage you to watch the film. What the story challenges however, is our received wisdom about the role science and technology plays in artistic breakthroughs. Our culture has determined that somehow art is a wholly human act and that is transcends technology or science. We are educated to see them as two distinct worlds. Yet Jenison’s story shows how art can be the result of technology and that artistic innovation can rely on technological innovation. Just as Steve Jobs stated that he was interested in combining technology and liberal arts to create great products, so Vermeer may have used technology to create some of our most treasured paintings. What this implies is that we need to put more effort in bringing the worlds of art and science together in order to achieve our true human potential. We need to ensure that we educate our kids in the sciences and the arts, rather than encourage them to select one or the other.

 

What movies have you seen that provide lessons in creative leadership?