Ideas come and go all the time. It is important to catch these innovations, concepts and possibilities. It is tempting to run straight to a business academy or some innovative school to get help. Really though putting ideas into action requires development. This is actually the first step between shower thoughts and business. The most popular place to develop ideas is the growing movement of Design Thinking. Or is it Human Centred Design? Also, what is co-design?
These are all different processes with different ways of getting an idea up and alive. The essential ingredients for all of them are collaboration and curiosity. An idea in isolation will not grow. Working with others gives you support to make things happen but also to make sure important things happen. Each process has a different way to engage people, but it is always people over process. This people forward approach requires open curiosity; an embrace of ‘yes and’ thinking that generates new insights. Each process guides you to explore things in a structured way. This gives you focus and keeps you from assuming answers before questions have been asked. The three approaches essentially design for, with, or by.
Design for is what excellent consultants and product developers do. Ideo and their parent D.School are famous for bringing this approach to the business world and beyond. These designers meet with their clients, explore their challenges and go forward to create a solution. Later on, they come back to validate the proposed solutions. Be careful to not confuse this with getting validation – that is another word for confirmation. This should be a critical conversation that empowers the client to make suggestions. This approach is focused around a caring and considerate expert guiding change. This is great for fast results and getting people involved in their schedule. This is Design Thinking.
A key aspect is to know the difference between selling and sharing. This makes client check-ins more meaningful and colleague support more impactful. Great salespeople limit options which kills creativity. This means less room for negotiations back and forth but also no space for listening. Truly be open to what people say as you share your idea. Have the mindset you are not dealing with them but rather allowing ideas to flow. Entertain lots of options and nurture creativity. Sharing is fertile ground to grow proposals that truly meet needs.
Design is what great community groups do. It looks like grassroots development in the community building sector. This is the standard practice of any quality international aid, a local community group, or a public goods program. You can see this in the Thai Zero Baht community, and DSIL Global projects. This has also been adopted for more consumer outcomes as an incubator for better services and products. This is because the process unlocks people’s deeply held needs. Once the need is established, the community is kept engaged to give feedback and advice on ideas. Experts come in to give advice at key moments as well. This approach can take some time and skill to do really well. It can be hard because the process emerges unexpected insights but that is also a huge benefit. This is called Human Centred Design.
You are not your ideas must be remembered in this process. This about being responsive to a community. With the help of the focus, community be ready to kill ideas grown from assumptions – you might be an amazing entrepreneur but are you an expert at their lives? These challenges are not a prompt to retreat. Get curious and grow. You now have space to develop other ideas you have not imagined! Ideas are possibility not identity.
Design by is addressing common challenges by engaging unique perspectives. In Australia, this is being applied to youth issues like what Foundation for Young Australians are doing on a range of issues from homelessness to disability to financial education and beyond. This process means the person affected is treated as the expert of their own challenges and the holder of excellent solutions. The designer is there to create space and unlock hidden talent. This is hard to pull off but delivers incredible results. You have to manage diverse skillsets, different starting talent, and all sorts of human realities. The results mean you have a community that owns the solutions. They are invested in the opportunity for change. This is co-design.
Fourth level listening makes an incredible designer and person. You cannot understand what challenges are, what someone can offer and what opportunities exist if you do not listen. Excellent designers are in service of the person speaking. This means letting their words into your head, their feelings into your heart, and embracing their truth with both hands. This is hard to achieve. Working towards it means you start to give people a voice and sense of value they otherwise miss.
These are three ways to not just make your ideas go to the next level. All of these processes will keep you collaborating and curious. If you can share more, explore ideas and truly listen you are well on your way to creating something valuable. This is also excellent for interacting better with others, practicing job skills and so much more. So be brave and take that idea out there!
Sam Shlansky is the CEO of Marco Polo Project, a company that is in a mission to create intercultural spaces where globally connected people learn and explore collectively. Sam also has a bachelor degree in Arts from Monash University and is the winner of the Victoria Multicultural Awards for Excellence. You can find him on LinkedIn as Sam Shlansky