Design Thinking for Business Innovation


Lesson Info

Learning To Listen

Let's start with learning to listen, and this is about listening but also observing, feeling, as well as inferring. So this is in our discovery phase, where we just wanna be pliant, we wanna take it all in, understand people, our users, our customers, our fellow citizens and their needs. So this is another cocktail napkin drawing for me. It's kind of this scary snowman, but it's really meant to be just a transparent abstraction of a person, and looking inside to what's in their brain. What are they thinking? Their heart to represent, what they're feeling, their emotions, we don't always know, but we could maybe look at their facial features, their body language, and their hands, things that they're doing. A lot of design research, ethnographic research, sometimes known as contextual inquiry as the fancy technical term, is about observing people and interviewing people, and people aren't always gonna tell you exactly what they want or what they need, but you'll be able to explore their ...

behaviors to see what they actually do. So, I'm going to give you a few more animal mascots since that's what we're all about at Foossa to help us remember what to do when we're learning to listen and conducting these user interviews. So the first one is silent sponge, second one is paraphrasing parrot, and the third one is the probing puppy. So first when we start out with the silent sponge, that's really just a reminder to shut up, you know, sometimes we're really excited to connect with people when we're conducting a design interview, we just wanna let people talk sometimes. You wanna make them feel comfortable, but you just wanna take it all in, it's not necessarily the time to argue or judge, you're not in sales mode right now, right? You just wanna take it all in, take everything done at face value, in a real world context that's helpful to ask permission to record, whether audio or video, although I find most people are more at ease when you're just recording audio of them. And when we do this at Foossa we often bring in a note taker. It's very hard in a real world context to have somebody conduct an interview, be engaged with someone and take super detailed notes at the same time, so bring in another note taker and if you are the interviewer you can just shut up while your user interviewee is talking, but then you also wanna report things back, and paraphrase like a parrot, so you can phrases like, to paraphrase, or what I'm hearing is, if I understand correctly, et cetera, but this is just to make sure that you're getting it right, even if you have the recording or the note taker, but this also just gives a time for you to pause and also the person you're interviewing to pause. So you're not necessarily pausing to ask another question, you're just taking some time to review material that's already been covered. And then finally, there's probing puppy, like this puppy chewing a twig here, you wanna probe and go deeper. People aren't necessarily trying to be evasive, but stories are often best told through this discussion, this call and response and people don't always know what is a relevant detail. Something that's a relevant detail to you as a design researcher might be seemingly uninteresting or totally obvious to the person you're interviewing, so you can ask, what do you mean by, can you give me a specific example, tell me more about. So using little phrases like that, we can probe and go deeper, but the point is, we're looking for emotion. We're looking at how people are feeling, what they're thinking, what they're doing, using these three animals, so it's the silent sponge, paraphrasing parrot and now the probing puppy. So, it's on the one spectrum, you have people who are interested in kind of like a great number of users, doing this kind of conducting interviews for a lot of people to get to some sort of average or consensus, but then on the other end of the spectrum you have this one person is a great example, so it's like an example size versus a sample size, but in terms of just a design thinking framework, where does it fall out in terms of how much agreement do you need between users, how much research are you doing and how many interviews are you conducting? I think in a lot of real life context, it's really about being complementary with things like market research, which we're not gonna cover today, but thinking about some of the more quantitative stuff like sending out surveys or even buying third party research that's already been done, I think that helps in terms of the looking at the context, right? But the point of this kind of contextual inquiry, this kind of user research is sometimes we're only interviewing ten, twenty people, we're not thinking about stuff that's statistically significant from a research basis, you know this is certainly... An anthropologist in academia or a sociologist, is not gonna view this as publishable research that's peer-reviewed in any way, it's just enough to get us to defining a problem and we also wanna think about extreme users. Sometimes with market research, we're trying to think about the typical costumer where it's like the typical tech bro for your new app or the typical housewife for whatever, and you're creating these personas. Here we wanna stick with real people and these real people might be extreme people, it could be a super user, the person who's a super user on your app, or collects all of the Pokémon, or collects all the baseball cards, and thinking about what about their extreme behavior, or their extreme need, right? It could be somebody with mobility issues and thinking about design that's more inclusive, but things like curb cuts that help people with wheelchairs also helps people maybe with a shopping cart, or is just temporarily injured, right? So thinking about things that help a specific subset of the population may actually help a broader set as well, but looking at the extremes right now is what we're really thinking about.

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.



  • 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.