Nine Lessons Learned From Solving Real World Problems

2013-08-12 16.33.34

A few weeks back we spent a full weekend with a client and their internal team, and nearly a dozen Design Gym community members, who’ve gone through our workshops many times. After the client had gone, we asked our community members, “What worked and what didn’t? What had they caught each other doing well?” These post-its are a capture from that session.

1. Draw out the tensions

Asking stupid questions, clustering on needs and making the tensions visual and clear is a powerful method of working. Using active listening is a great way to do this:

“I see that these two needs are contradictory. How can we resolve the tension here?” You don’t have to pose a solution…you just have to get people to notice the problem.

2. Revisions

Use empathy, research and interviews to draw out hidden needs and tensions…but then take the time to “turn the crank” and dig deeper on one or more of the needs. Don’t stop at your first findings!

3. Make a big visual agenda

It’s handy. It keeps the whole team honest and helps get everyone on the same page–literally. Buy a big roll of kraft paper and place the agenda someplace people will have to see it.

4. Take the temperature of the room

Are people hungry? Talkative? Did the room just go quiet? Get better a noticing what’s happening in a room and try to change the energy if you need to. How?

5. Ask, “Is everyone participating?”

if you’re the facilitator or not, you can poll the team. You can call people out “Tom, I noticed you didn’t throw an idea up…” or just as the question “Do we have everyone’s ideas here?” and make the group responsible.

6. Don’t Argue

Active listening, repeating someone’s position back to them, diagramming it visually and working with them to define it can make their horrible plan more obviously horrible…or reveal the hidden genius of it. People aren’t crazy. Dig in and find out why someone thinks what they do.

7. Pre-Info helps smooth things out

Giving people input into the agenda before a meeting, or distributing the right stimulus beforehand is really, really essential

8. Timeboxing

Make an agenda and stick to it. More time won’t help. Pull the ripcord and move on. assure your team that they can always go back…but that going forward is really important with the time you have together. To wit…

9. Make a prototype

Ask yourself and your team:

“how can we make this real?”

‘What’s the minimum viable product?”

“If we had to make this tomorrow on 1/2 the budget, what could we make?”

Remember, perfect is the enemy of the done…and trying several things out and finding out how they fail is a lot more informative than trying to make one idea perfect.



Daniel Stillman
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