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Expanding and improving the tools we use – A Design Thinking Analogy

I’m part of the global team run by Meeta Patel focusing on Design Thinking with SAP. I’m passionate about Design Thinking because I think empathy and bringing human meaning to technology are pivotal to valuable growth ideas and innovation in general.

Stories are strung throughout Design Thinking. We spend a lot of time listening to our customer’s explain their points of view and jointly trying to  frame and solve problems and analogies are a major part of that storytelling. Analogies are especially helpful when explaining a complicated topic and making it accessible to a large group of people. Recently my colleague gave me an example that fits perfectly with all I’ve learned thus far in Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is dynamic and flexible; there are a variety of ways to approach each session; there are never two sessions that are the same. In fact, Design Thinking is a lot like playing golf.

What does golf have to do with Design Thinking?

A lot!

A set of golf clubs comes with 15 clubs ready to be used, there are different shapes and sizes, they are used for a variety of different purposes. The club you use for a 600 yard drive will be different than nailing the birdey. There is a variety that allows for different executions; with just one club you would be lost. In this same way, SAP uses a large variety of Design Thinking tools tailoring each experience to our customer and their needs.

Although there are over 15 golf clubs, you start by using only one or two. You build a basic set of skills, and as you learn and become confident you begin to use a wider range of clubs. In this same way, someone learning to use design thinking starts with personas and the customer journey map. This skills empower our design thinking facilitators to explore more tools as their confidence builds with leading Design Thinking workshops. Once they’ve mastered the journey map they try and some of the other powerful tools we have out there – Industry Swap and constraints toggle are two of my favourites but I’ve recently been using SCAMPER more and more as well. I digress. The point is to get the most out of a game of golf you have to get comfortable and use all the clubs you have. In the same way- if you only ever use one Design Thinking tool – you never really get the most out of Design Thinking.

Finally, there are never two games of golf that are the same. Even on the same field, the wind conditions are different, you combine the clubs in a different order, your swing changes, you improve. It is impossible to replicate a golf experience, even for the most advanced players. When you begin a game, you might have an idea – maybe you have played on this course before – the ball might land somewhere unexpected and you will need to adjust your course accordingly. In this way, DT workshops mirror a game of golf closely. Every time we do one – we use a slightly different combination and mix of tools. Depending on where the workshop takes us we might change our plan or revert to an alternate plan because that’s where the ball has landed.

Do you have a story about when you have needed to change directions?

Do you have other analogies you use to explain Design Thinking?

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