From User Profile To "How Might We"


Design Thinking for Business Innovation


Lesson Info

From User Profile To "How Might We"

Earlier today, we talked to Matt. He works here at CreativeLive, but he's also an independent artist and musician. We learned about his different creative practices both in his day job here and what he does for his hobbies, things that he's been engaged in his entire life. Now we want to make sense of that, so we've already done a little bit of synthesis, drawing out some of these big themes, some of these tensions, contradictions. Now that we've had a little bit of time to let that sink in, we're going to bring up some other students here in Seattle. You're going to be our design team for the rest of the day. So Matt is going to be our client. We're designing for a client of one, but we really want to move onto the next phase of definition. So we cast a really wide net understanding Matt's life earlier in the discovery phase. Now we want to define a specific subset of some of issues, some of his challenges that we can then ideate possible solutions for in the next phase. So before I b...

ring up the design team, I just want to talk about what we're going to do now to make sense of what we were doing earlier. So the first thing we want to build is a User Profile and this is just a way of summarizing some of the stuff that we learned about Matt. So here are some questions. It works a little bit like a Mad Lib. This is not a required thing. You don't have to answer every one of these. It's just a starting point and there's other insights or biographical details that will carry along from our notes from earlier. So these examples are we met. So we talk about we met Matt, he works at CreativeLive, he's an artist, he's a musician, more biographical details about him. We can talk about our user's needs. So in this case, Matt has this general need of wanting to scale up his art practice or his musical practice. We went into different definitions of what scaling up looks like and we might narrow it down a little bit later on, but some of these things involve building a community around his work, around his practice. Maybe have more accountability to a client, to a commission. There is also these themes of internationalization as well, bringing his work to a global audience. So these are things that we can address and pose as needs or desires of our user, Matt. We can think about some of his pain points or his constraints, so if a constraint could be time, it could be energy, it could also be motivation, right? Whether or not he completes an artistic challenge is based on maybe the accountability behind that. Is he doing it for something else, for someone else, a paying client? Or is it just for himself? So what are the stakes, what are the accountability? Maybe those are constraints that he's hindered by. And then this question, right? It would be awesome if or it would be game changing if some of this language, it could be a little bit extreme, but we really want to think about what would be a real breakthrough for Matt, right? We're not necessarily here to help him optimize his time. Right? He knows better than any of us as designers in terms of his paintings. We're not going to make him a better painter and we're not art dealers either, so it's not, we're not narrowly trying to monetize his art. We're not talent agents for his music either. But we're really thinking about this in terms of how do we reframe this to take his work to the next level? It could be commercially, it could be in terms of fame, success, however that's defined in terms of scaling up. And so let's think about that as we build out our profile. And then after we've built that profile, we can take this summarized, synthesized information from Matt and come up one specific question, the how might we question, the HMW question, as we say all the time. That's the single question that we're going to narrow down on that will help us with ideation, which is opening up again, right? So we've done a lot of just kind of open-ended exploration. We were the client blowfish from Betty the Blowfish. Now we want to puff up a little bit, get a little bit more prickly. So this will require making some choices, prioritizing some things over the others. And so we really wanted to focus on this community aspect of his work and how we build community. And a lot of the, really, the art and science of this is thinking about how to come up with a how might we question that's not too specific where we're constrained in and we can't really innovate, but we also don't want it to be too wide, too amorphous where it's useless as a question, so this is what we're going to be building now, and so let's bring up the design team that we've identified. And we're going to use Post-its to highlight some of these keywords, themes, and tensions that we just talked about earlier. So we just get them on the board so we can really come up with a profile for Matt's needs. All right, so come up, guys. All right, so the way that this is going to work is we all take a Post-it deck and a marker. Wait, I want a blue one. Okay. Whatever works for your creative process. (woman laughs) I'm going to be purple. That's going to be my lucky color. And so what we're going to do here is just be careful, too. So we're going to use the permanent markers for this and then put on here, and then if later on, we'll use the whiteboard markers to group things and make sense of things, but don't use the wrong marker for the wrong surface. And we'll just go through a little bit popcorn style, whoever's sort of motivated by something or moved by something, to really revisit some of the points that we talked about, but just having them written here and so, this helps us designers, as design thinkers to really make it concrete, right? So this stereotype about the Post-its. Some people don't like the Post-its. It's a little bit wasteful for the environment, but it is really helpful in terms of organizing our ideas and keeping them in a way that can be organized, and mapped, and grouped in a different way. So let's start with this theme of connection and community and so I'll just write that here. And remember here, we're talking about our themes, also, tensions, contradictions, or even insights from our interview with Matt. So we're just revisiting this and putting it up here. Don't worry too much about where it goes right now. We can group things a little bit later on. So were there other big themes or keywords that you guys heard or observed during this time? Just write it down, say it, and then we'll go from there. Just for the community aspect or in general? Well, whether this connection or community's keywords remind you of other themes. Or if you have a different category, we can go there too. So right now, it's a little bit of a messy, open-ended format, but we're really just trying to get things up there and we'll make sense of it later. I would offer to split the two because they're not the same. Okay, okay. One is connection, one is community. Yeah, okay. Anything else from you, HD? So one of the things that I popped out, for me, was being able to share his work and so he's talking about distribution. So distribution and sharing is a key kind of goal. Or I'm not sure if it's a goal, but vehicle for him. Cool. I don't know. So maybe sharing or distribution? Maybe those are two different things? Sharing, distribution. You know, I know in his case there was the art and the music so maybe we should keep those separate for now as well and we can narrow down on one or the other. Maybe there's things that are related, but it seems like when he was talking about it, he had different use cases for his art and his music. He'd been doing his art for longer than the music and the music seemed like a procrastination thing to fill time, or he really focused on making the time to do his art. I got the production of pieces because you actually need to have pieces to show right off. And related to that, something that surfaced earlier, is maybe this idea of project versus practice, right? So if he's just practicing his technique of painting versus a commission, like when he has to do those series of drawings of the jazz musicians, that was like, a specific thing that he was with a goal, right? I think that's another keyword, a goal, or goalless. Another one for me while you're writing that down is motivation and accountability. It was a key thing for (mumbles) keeping for him. He referenced back on, to have enough time, but it sound like when there was some kind of accountability to others, he was able to deliver. And what's going on here (mumbles)? I just remembered that he had at some point mentioned that every time he woke up and saw his unfinished piece, he felt a little bit of guilt. So I think that's also a theme I'd like to bring up. Yeah, so let's. What other feelings or emotions were surfaced in that, right? I think another one was pride, when he was talking about how he won the state awards here in Washington twice when he was in school. He seems to really light up over that. I think that's really, it's just some sort of external validation, right? And goals as well. Yeah, along the lines of that, the impact that he had when he was able to complete that commission, jazz musician artwork at the office studio and the unintended indicators, which was a feedback for his success and how it was able to create a different environment for his client. And so, impact and the high that he got from it. Yeah, so what was the keyword there? Impact, high. I think another keyword that I heard was like, feedback, of whether the feedback loop of being complimented for his work, or getting an award for that work, whatever that is. I also got that, impact, but mine's a little bit, like, I'd like to split it up maybe because part of the impact is for himself as growth or talent and the other is external impact. In that case, for their customers. Like, every time they walk now into that conference room, they can see that vibe in the atmosphere or in the room. And the other one that he mentioned when you were asking him about what it would look like to have in that ideal world is talking about the art galleries and traveling internationally, so internationalization. Yeah, which I guess is related to connecting or community as well. We're starting to organize a little bit, but again, we can move things around if we need to, draw some lines if we need to as we go along. I heard quite a few times talking about exhibiting and sharing, so don't keep it to yourself (laughs). Yeah, he also mentioned teaching, which I think is maybe another way of sharing and connecting with community. I also have relating and I was particularly touched when you were talking about how you just design just little pencil drawings of people and it deepens the relationship and creates a level of intimacy. Yeah, relating intimacy. I'll right that down too. And there was at some point, probably, bringing up some societal benefit like teaching kids or adults that could also be some sort of like, impact. Not just for the client but for a broader level of society and it also aligns with a bunch of different things that we're looking at here. Great. Were there any other themes, tensions, contradictions? I think there's one thing about the goal and goalless thing that we mentioned too earlier, which was maybe where he said, "Oh, I do want to be "more international in terms of the reach of my work "or the expanse of my community," but then he said he also felt goalless, but then he did have a goal, right? So maybe that's just a tension there. Were there any other sort of? Were there things that were surprising to us? Or things that were maybe unexpected? Thing that didn't seem to make sense? He first started off talking about how time was a luxury that he struggled to. He had to schedule it in and so I think that was kind of a tension, trying to prioritize his art or the practice of art. Yeah, definitely. So it looks like we've got time there already. Does that connect to anything, or maybe it's just there? Yeah, it guess it's just there Okay. For now. Sounds good. And then, so let's go back to this framework we established earlier of the needs and the norms of a novelty. So the novelty we'll get to late with the ideation of different ways to address his issues, but based on these insights, themes, keywords, what are some needs, right? So just in terms of Matt is a person, he's an artist, he's a musician, a designer who needs something. If we were to fill in the blank, could we articulate some of this stuff into needs? And some of these are needs already, perhaps. And I'll take. I suppose the first need is to create. Yeah, so. Maybe start grouping things around here. I'll make a Post-it for that. You know, thinking about stories too and quotes, and anecdotes. When he gave us this metaphor of treading water, I think maybe that is just a need, right? It's like, he just has to keep doing stuff. He has to keep making art because it's just sort of like how sharks just have to keep swimming. Right, so that's sort of a fundamental need. Are there other needs? Connect? I mean, this is a need too, right? The connection and the community. Maybe some of this stuff is related, right? I think maybe teaching and internationalization are like specific manifestations, but they're not needs, per se. I think for creation, it sounded like it was essential for him to create using art, and so. So he has to do these things, right? Mm-hmm. Okay. I think potentially, also the production to actually create all those pieces. I didn't hear the word balance, but it keeps on coming up for me, so. I think a related word to balance is integration, right? Like, how does he integrate these things in his life because he had that clear mental model that he shared with us when he was saying that like, art serves one purpose, music another, and that his day job, he also called his passion project, which I thought was super interesting. I don't know, not a lot of people talk about their day jobs as their passion project. Usually it's just their hobbies. And I wonder if feedback is a need too because it's related to validation, things like that? So then, let's talk through norms that might be keeping him stuck in some of these needs. Before you do that, I'm wondering if another need is expression. Yeah. Get that down there. And you see a lot of these needs here, you might find on Maslow's hierarchy, the pyramid, right? So if you're not familiar with Maslow's hierarchy, it's basically this hierarchy of needs starting from the basics of feeling safe and secure, having shelter, all the way to the top, which is being self-fulfilled and being part of a community and feeling what these higher level needs are. So this touches upon a lot of that, but through the specific lens, the specific story of Matt and his life. So we can think about norms in different ways and norms are pretty broad. It's not just a narrow, kind of sociological definition of that, right? So often there's, for example, a lot of people who are working as artists. I know that they teach both to just give back or sometimes to make money that's related to their craft, but that's like, an obvious thing, right? It's a norm. And then also I think if we think about distribution and things like that, there's certain norms and tropes that we expect in the art world in terms of sharing your work at a gallery or selling it to a collector, and same with music, right? Whether it's having your SoundCloud thing or playing a gig. The thing, like, these norms of distribution and what sharing look like are well established, so it's good to just acknowledge what they are because later on when we introduce novelty in our ideation, we can think about ways of subverting those norms or extending those norms to context or media that are not currently in existence or not currently mainstream. Are there other norms here that are interesting to explore? Or any other things that we may not have remembered to categorize? I think exhibiting, sharing. And now let's put it here. Exhibit, share. I think this balance is a kind of need as well or is a norm, too. Like, it kind of spans these. There's a need to have balance in one's life, but there's also, I think, this norm that we see or pattern that we see in people with some sort of creative passion and creative career where there's always some sort of side project where things crosspollinate in a way, or they're segregated. I think maybe practice. Practice, yeah. Would be another one. And we have project versus practice up there. It would normally be like. Is like, kind of one of these tensions between the two, or? Yeah, a norm for, just keep treading the water, if you will, as he said. Exercising his artistic brain. Exercising his artistic brain, yeah. So that's part of this whole like, practice versus project based stuff? Yeah. All right, so you put some things on the board that are based on our interview and making sense of our interview with Matt, and this is a really great start, right? So in real world context, we've done this with the entire team. Sometimes we just put ourselves in a room for half a day and take over surfaces. This is very much a compressed version of that and oftentimes, well also bring in our data points from more than one person that we've interviewed and observed. If we had seen Matt in his native context, not in a TV studio like this, we might also add some pictures from our research onto this board, thinking about a mood board as well and hey, this is him at the piano or this is him painting in his studio, and things like that to just bring to life this portrait of Matt, which we're not going to do here because he's literally in the room with us. But in that sort of real life scenario, you might have a picture of Matt as well and also add information about him there. All right, so let's, now, in the time we have left for this segment to come up with some possible how might we questions. And so oftentimes in a group context when I'm facilitating this, I'll have people just write different ones and then put them up on the board, but that's not necessarily super interesting to everybody to watch us write by ourselves. So let's just kind of popcorn this a little bit and then I'll act as the scribe for this so we can come up with making sense of this, turning it into a question or several questions, and then we can do the wordsmithing a little bit later. So where do we start with the how might we's? So how might we design something for Matt that, let's see, helps him have more project based connection, for example. Right, I don't know. Is that something that you can riff upon? What are some of these things that are compelling to you guys? So you're looking for potential solutions? So we're not going to solutions yet. We're just looking for the right question, right? So forget about solving anything. It doesn't have to be like, we need to design Matt a new portfolio. We don't have to redesign his habits yet. We're just looking for questions that don't assume a solution. Got it. So what's sort of compelling? And we can highlight anything or circle anything that's compelling or maybe more of a priority than something else. I think feedback was one that felt really compelling during that interview. Okay. Also, something to do with the creation. Like, how might we enable, facilitate? It's kind of like, address that space, the overall creation part as well. Yeah, okay. So this creation. I think it's related to that connection, right? Yeah. Because I think feedback is dependent on having other people, right? I mean, giving yourself feedback is not really feedback. So there is something social that's inherent to his already. So I guess that also, with the feedback, impactful feedback, perhaps and feeling that even the highs, or maybe an impact on high, maybe can tie to that feedback need. Yeah, so high. What do you mean by impact here? Just as far as the feedback, he wants to know that. I felt like he got this rush inside form knowing that it had people, it really touched people or really had created some awesome unintended results. Yeah, okay, sounds good. And maybe if I were to insert myself, I would focus on this kind of project-based thing because one thing that we were able to see at our break is we got, Matt actually showed us, or he showed some of us his Instagram account. So it looks like he's already doing the stuff for practice where he's sharing in an existing channel, but posting to Instagram isn't necessarily a project. It's just like, something that you're doing over time. So things that are time bounded that have some sort of end point or goal, I think, maybe. Yeah, there might be some sweet spot between projects and goals as well. Yeah. So I'm just using another color marker to mark this up, but in a real life situation, sometimes we also have like, little voting dots. You can buy those colored dots and you can use that to vote or to highlight things and these colors might have some sort of meaning. But for now, since we're doing a simplified synthesis of this, I think this is just a way to add a little bit more emphasis on everything. Right, so we're just going to put everything on the board as a scatter and now we have some of these patterns that emerge. So let's try this how might we statement again, and this is, obviously it's hard to do this wordsmithing live when there's cameras on us, but let's just try it. So how might we give design ways for creators to get feedback on their projects with specific goals or something like that? Does it make sense to narrow down from like, creator to like, art or music and just choose one? Because I think because they're different media, like, it could be very different, right? Yeah. So for our design, we might want to focus a little bit more The implementation At this phase. Is specific right? Yeah. The creation of art. All right. I feel like he talked most about art of (mumbles), so I asked him more about his art than his music, but I think also, he's been doing his art for a longer time and it's like, he said he made time for the art versus the music that's, he's serious about, but it's often like a pastime. Okay, so let's focus on, so how might we create something for visual artists to get feedback from communities, but in a projects based way? And we could leave that deliberately vague, but I think as a shorthand between all of us, we understand that's, like, different from what exists now in terms of like, getting feedback on your Behance or on your Instagram, or things that are like, feed based, right? Or practice based. Does that make sense to you guys? Is that compelling to you guys? Yeah. Mm-hmm. Okay, so let me try to write that. So how might we design a way for visual artists Visual artists. To get feedback and like, everything is implied in feedback. It has to be social, it has to be communal, right? Because you're not going to get feedback for yourself on projects. All right, so this is just a shorthand. If we had more time, we would wordsmith this in a way that's immediately obvious in terms of what this means for somebody who wasn't here and followed all of this along. So just so we understand the shorthand for our design team and that's really all we need, right? It's just everybody who's on the design team has to know what this means so we can move to the next round. Does this make sense to you guys? Or are there anything that you want to change or sort of annotate before we move on? How might we design a way for visual artists like Matt to get feedback on projects? Like, something that has specific time bound things or challenges, or accountability? Are there anything you want to add here? Something I want to kind of. Or change, even? Potentially changes like the project aspect, to get feedback on a project, that I would imply that they have a project in mind, perhaps. That's true. They may be creating a platform for projects or ideas for projects. Yeah, so when we say, or how might we design a platform for projects, we're already kind of assuming the answer a little bit. I wonder if we can shift that around to mean like, to get feedback or to kind of, to create accountability too. Maybe that's a little broad, but I think maybe it tries to capture some of this whereas it's not just the feedback or just the project, but it's like having some sort of accountability that he had and felt when he had the commission for the jazz musician paintings or drawings. Right, yeah. Like, would that make sense where some sort of, like? Yeah. Accountability. So we can just, okay. To have maybe feedback and accountability. On just the surface, this is really hard. It's really hard to do in real life. It's hard to do with the cameras on doing it live. And often in real life we sleep on this, right? Whether it's literally overnight or sometimes this takes a few weeks to get right. We go through a lot of versions of this where there's multiple how might we statements and then we start voting or sorting this out. So we're accelerating this process for the sake of demonstrating this, but do we have enough of a working how might we question for just the four of us as this design team? Are there other things we want to tweak or just annotate so we understand what we're talking about? So how about we design a way for visual artists to have feedback and accountability for their work? So it could incorporate creation, motivation, project based stuff, teaching. All of these are encompassed by this, but we're just trying to narrow down our language.

Class Description

You know that one of the top trends in business innovation these days is design thinking. Only problem is, you’re not quite sure what it is. You’ve heard it described in a bunch of different ways, and you’re starting to wonder if no one else understands it either.

But the truth is, design thinking is one of the most effective new methods and mindsets for framing and solving problems. Top businesses, organizations, consultancies, schools and governments are adopting it as a way to innovate their processes and service offerings, using human empathy, design principles, action-oriented solutions, imagination, intuition and systematic reasoning.

Taught by Lee-Sean Huang, cofounder and creative director of Foossa, a community-centered design consultancy, this course will help you understand what design thinking is and how to apply it to your own work and life.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify the key design thinking techniques.
  • Utilize design thinking in your professional life.
  • Get hands-on experience with design thinking principles.
  • Become an advocate for design thinking within your organization.
  • Separate the truth of design thinking from the media hype.
  • Use design thinking to innovate and create new business opportunities.


Carlos Encalada

This course was exactly what I was looking for! As a psychotherapist looking to enter the world of design and facilitation, this primer for design thinking set up the facilitation workshop perfectly. Dynamic workshop. Grateful to Lee-Sean for sharing his process.