Implementing Design Thinking 2: Have the Guts to Say it Sucks
I’ve found that one of the big reasons why Design Thinking fails in organizations, is that no one has the guts to stand up and say that an idea/concept/proposition sucks.
This point is an extension of our last article where we encouraged you to focus on the outcome rather than the process. In this article we encourage you to make sure that there is a good filtering system in place and a team of highly engaged people.
There are many reasons why people do not highlight something that sucks. Here are a few that I can think of:
1) There is no culture of creativity or space to make mistakes in an organization. When people who work in hierarchical organizations, they are often afraid of getting reprimanded for stepping out of line or coming across as not a “team player”.
2) Group dynamics can be a big factor. Especially tough when the group is tight and individuals don’t want to hurt the feelings of others. Put it this way, you have to accept that you are not going to be everyone’s best friend.
3) The organization has spent so much time, money and resources on the project that people feel afraid to recommend that the organization walk away from that investment.
4) I have seen on many occasions low quality work getting delivered, as the people working on the job are either not discerning enough, or lack insight on the quality of work they are producing, or fail to understand the requirements of the brief. The people working directly on the project should be the first filter, and hence why companies such as Apple have a culture of asking, “can this be better?”
5) There are many personal (or cognitive) biases that can come into play that design and innovation managers need to watch out for. Some of my favorites include:
Status quo bias — the tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same.
Bandwagon effect — the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.
Experimenter’s or Expectation bias — the tendency for experimenters to believe, certify, and publish data that agrees with their expectations for the outcome of an experiment, and to disbelieve, discard, or downgrade the corresponding weightings for data that appears to conflict with those expectations.
6) Finally, people in the team just lack motivation to raise their hand. Design and innovation often only comes when we push ourselves to the edge and beyond. Unengaged, unmotivated, and disenfranchised people will likely not care enough to take the effort to even try.
Of course when you do stand on your soap box and say this “sucks”, you should make sure what you are saying makes sense, and that you have developed a high level of what I like to call problem solving intuition that is underpinned by a list of evaluation criteria or key design principles.
Trust your gut, when it tells you to stop and think. After that, trust science to help you decide.
If you are interested in a little further reading, check out how Oren Jacob, the former chief technical officer of Pixar, had the guts to stop Toy Story 2 eight months from its launch date, because it was not good. If we consider that Pixar invested 3 years on this project, we can really appreciate how difficult a task it was for Oren.
Implementing Design Thinking is a regular series of posts, where I share my thoughts and experiences in helping companies implement Design as a tool for business success and achieving Design Leadership. Check out the rest of my articles here.
Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.