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Become a Design Thinking Facilitator

Lesson 4 of 12

Framework: Connection, Explanation, Action and Reflection

Lee-Sean Huang

Become a Design Thinking Facilitator

Lee-Sean Huang

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Lesson Info

4. Framework: Connection, Explanation, Action and Reflection

Lesson Info

Framework: Connection, Explanation, Action and Reflection

So I'm gonna start to go under the hood a little bit about how you actually facilitate a specific activity. And so this is a framework that we've developed at Foossa that helps us understand specific activities and how we make them work. So first is connect, then explain, then act and then reflect. So that's exactly what I did when I brought up Rikesh here and did the five whys. You want to connect first by building some sort of rapport so that's why we did the high five. It could be a handshake, it could be just getting to know each other with some small talk, but as a facilitator it's a pretty intimate relationship that you build over a short amount of time because we're talking about human empathy, thinking about empathy and needs and understanding people. So you also want to build trust there with that connection. Then there's explain, and so we try to make the explanations as concise as possible. Okay, I'm gonna just ask you this question five times, why are you here today, and th...

en just repeat that. At this point of explain, you're just giving the instructions in a way that's the minimum necessary so that you can do the activity. You don't have to necessarily give all the theory upfront. I'm breaking it down here because you're learning to be facilitators, but you don't want to over explain especially when there's a large group of people, a lot of complex explanations, people are like, oh I don't get it. It's better to just say, give the short explanation how people start and if they don't get it you can give them more information individually. Then there's the action. So when Rikesh came up here, we did the activity together, five whys, he answered five different times, each time covering a slightly different variation of his answer and going deeper into his motivations. And then we reflected. It was a debrief to think about how he felt during the process and now we're reflecting now where I'm breaking down why I did that. So you can use the five whys in a couple different ways. The first is thinking about it as a simple icebreaker. Since we're doing this class live, I only did this with one student when I brought up Rikesh here and we talked about the five whys of why he's here today. If you're facilitating you can also use it as a pair exercise. You can just have people who come into your workshop, pair off and then ask each other the five whys. It helps them practice their interviewing skills, so if you're gonna do a real contextual inquiry, a real user interview, you're probably not gonna ask them the five whys because it's a little aggressive. But you're basically doing the same thing but maybe asking the question in different ways because you want deeper in to people's motivations, the why they do something, why they feel something. So it's a good icebreaker, but it's also good practice for learning how to conduct interviews. Part of this framework of connect-explain-act-reflect is it uses this principle of progressive reveal. Whenever you're designing a class or telling a story, you want to give people some sort of guidelines, some sort of way finding. So you guys were told to be here at CreativeLive Studios at a certain time, you know when the breaks are, you know when the end times are, but we don't tell you the minute by minute breakdown of what you're going to expect because there's some sort of progressive reveal there of suspense. You're wondering why's he doing that, why's he talking about that and then it's revealed later on. So you want to create this curiosity. We're often taught when we're writing essays or giving presentations to do things like, say what you're gonna say and then say it and then say what you've said. And there is some wisdom to that, but you also want to leave something to the imagination or have some surprises up your sleeve as well so that people stay engaged all the time. Think about when you binge watch shows. The reason why you keep watching these shows is because you want to know what happens next and so you want to create that kind of progressive reveal in a facilitation as well. Another important principle is to learn by doing. So, we can talk about the theory and the history of design thinking and there's all sorts of stories and case studies about the return on investment of design thinking and how other companies have done that. I cover that in my other class and it's also available in the bonus materials if you buy the class and there's links to different case studies and articles. But if somebody's coming in to a workshop, you can assign the reading later or have them do the reading beforehand or you can even show some TED Talk videos or other explanations of different case studies. But for the most part if people are already in the workshop, they're bought into it and so you really want to spend the time having them do things hands on. Then the third point around this framework is the magic circle. So this is a term that was coined by Johan Huizinga, who was a Dutch academic, who basically refers to this magic circle in terms of play and game design. And thinking about the magic circle in terms of what is this space where you can suspend disbelief, where you can get people to do things that they might not typically do in their everyday life and work. This requires them to take creative risks and often social risks. So when we've done this facilitation work before, for example, we often go into pretty buttoned-up corporate environments and then we ask people to do things like answer the five whys and these are people who are not often used to having to justify their presence or what they do. Or we ask them to play with prototyping supplies, play with Play-Doh, play with masking tape, all sorts of materials like that and sometimes there's resistance like, this is weird, this is not on brand. And so you want to create that magic circle by showing as well as explaining. So when we do these facilitations in person, we have a pretty high teacher to student ratio. So you may have one head instructor that does the explanations, but once you're doing things hands on we like to embed a coach. In every group of four to six people, there should be a coach that's an honorary team member that gets hands on when they need to so that if people are hesitant to prototype or to draw and to doodle, to write things on Post-it notes, the coach can demonstrate that behavior and be embedded in that team. I have another story about the magic circle and how you create that and it often takes time to build that trust and so you really want to build that trust as soon as possible. We were working in this fairly corporate environment, doing a facilitation, doing a workshop on design thinking. We have a tight group of coaches and we often, we just like to play with things. So when we have our materials out, we'll just make things like funny hats and glasses out of pipe cleaners, things like that, and it's just good fun and it builds that culture and that mindset of this magic circle. And we overheard this executive, middle-aged guy, serious, like I don't get that, they're so weird, why do we have to be here? Fast forward a couple hours, we got him and his team doing a role play and this guy who was skeptical before, the next day ended up dressing in drag out of these rags that we had in our prototyping kit to bring his story, bring his prototype to life with his team. And so that just really is about thinking about these norms that are often in organizations of hey we don't sit on the ground, hey we don't play with craft materials at work, hey we don't draw things because we're not designers. But if you can show them that it doesn't matter and there's a place where they can safely fail and take risks and everybody else is doing it, you can shift the culture and that's really important because the method of design thinking, anybody can learn. You can watch my online course, you can read about it on all sorts of resources online, but that mindset is the thing that you really want to instill as a facilitator. I like to talk about it through the lens of cooking. So, you could be a celebrity chef, a star chef, and you can publish a recipe book, a cookbook. You can give away all of your best recipes, your secret sauce, but if you buy that cookbook it doesn't mean you can make it at home. You may not have access to the same ingredients, the same quality of ingredients as the chef. You may not have access to the same techniques. You don't have access to the same tools and it's the same thing with design thinking. Everybody has the same recipe, there's no secret sauce, secret recipe, the difference is the mindset and then the experiences and so that's the importance of being a facilitator and doing that practice as a facilitator.

Class Description

So you’ve done your homework and you now understand what design thinking is and the power it has to revolutionize the way you do business. But the only way it can really have an impact is if key players throughout your organization embrace design thinking principles and are willing to put them into practice.

Basically, you need to become a design thinking evangelist, coach and trainer. This course will instruct you on how to explain the method and mindset for creative problem framing and solving and show others how to implement this innovative process.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Make the case for learning design thinking.
  • Introduce and teach design thinking to others.
  • Facilitate engaging learning experiences.
  • Teach "mindset," not just "method."
  • Sustain interest and engagement throughout the training process.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Design Thinking Resources

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Getting Started with Adobe Stock

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Darwin Antipolo

The course fits my need in supplementing my DT facilitation activities. It was well designed, paced properly and full of useful tips. Thank you!

Carlos Encalada

This follow-up to Lee-Sean's Design Thinking for Business Innovation helped me to strategize and envision how I would bring these principles into my agency context. I look forward to using his guidance during this workshop in a way that is appropriate to a community healthcare setting.


There is a lot of common facilitator knowledge and skills shared in this course. The course was useful for me and helped me connecting the dots.