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Imagination is more important than knowledge, as knowledge is limited, imagination I can draw from.  Albert Einstein

The reason I like this quote is because we tend to downplay imagination, especially in the business environment.  We focus on quarterly results, drive more efficiency, increase or decrease [fill in appropriate measure here].  I am not suggesting we cannot do those things, I am suggesting that sometimes we get lost in doing them to the point where we miss an opportunity to improve, the company and ourselves.

This can show up in asking how we can do this better, or, maybe more important, should we be doing this at all?  I have reviewed hundreds of business cases over my career and a majority of them make sense on paper.  Once you start to validate assumptions in those cases you find out that there is not much of a case at all.  How could this be?  Very intelligent people put it together, meticulously checked all the facts and figures and could show exceptional results.  Except, in all that calculating, they forgot to ask the actual people for whom the product was supposed to serve.  Most people would tell you that it didn’t address their needs, was not usable or did not solve the problem at hand.  There was no one asking the right questions at the beginning.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Henry Ford

Ever since man invented fire, there was someone looking to improve it, make it do something else or use it in some innovative way.  Design Thinking takes this to a new level by bringing together a group of people from different work and life experiences to solve a challenge.  Through a guided methodology, the team tries to understand the problem at hand first before creating solutions.  We interview people who have experience with the challenge to get their perspectives and consolidate the research.  We develop and converge ideas then tear them apart to form new ones, better ones that go right to the point if we missed the mark the first time.  We continue to iterate and validate these ideas with interested parties, take their input, revise and create again until a workable prototype emerges that everyone agrees on.

If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.

Another Einstein quote I like as every idea should be able to be explained easily, in a brief conversation for just about anyone to grasp.  This is the goal of every Design Thinking workshop.  Simple, hopefully elegant, solutions that can be implemented to address the challenge at hand is the goal.  The methodology, pictured below, is simple but challenging.  Straightforward yet can lead you into new insights that might just enhance or completely change what you are doing.  This is a mindset, one that can change the way you, and those around, will look at your work and environment.

DT Methodology.png

We will be running a much abbreviated version of a Design Thinking workshop during the International Utilities Conference in Copenhagen, April 17-19.  See this link for registration: International SAP Conference for Utilities – T.A. Cook  This workshop will be four, very packed, hours where attendees will actively engage with each other and develop new ideas for a challenge facing the utilities industry today, something that has probably never been done before.

Should you attend?  Only if you want to be challenged, draw on your life and work experiences, learn from other attendees, are interested in solving a major issue, want to gain deeper insight or want to engage in creating something that just might be useful to you and your company.

For those who cannot attend, there will be a very brief live theater presentation on Design Thinking on Thursday at 15:45 at the conference. Either way, I encourage you to look into Design Thinking as a way to change the way you approach work today.  SAP has taken many customers through this process already to gain valuable insight to address challenges they are currently facing. Would you like to be the next one?

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