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Jumpstart Innovation with Adventurous Thinking

Lesson 4 of 37

Adventurous Thinking vs Design Thinking

Sally Dominguez

Jumpstart Innovation with Adventurous Thinking

Sally Dominguez

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Lesson Info

4. Adventurous Thinking vs Design Thinking

Lesson Info

Adventurous Thinking vs Design Thinking

Now I have to address adventurous thinking versus design thinking because it comes up so often. Even though, at heart, they're both design thinking, because design thinking is pretty much anything that's a wholistic, design-based, everything-around-you type of philosophy. But design thinking was in it's original way, as practiced by IDEO D School, was actually sketched 30 years ago by a friend of mine, Arnold, who's now 83, I think, sketched up, and he looked at it when he was working at Xerox and shared it with his interns then, and they said this concept of looking to the customer, this concept of empathy and understanding others, is really important, and could be developed into something super useful. And it has been. It's been developed into something that is used by companies all over the world to gain a greater understanding, to basically try and put themselves in the customers' shoes, understand what they need, and then give them something even better. That's design thinking. Bu...

t, there's a basic difference between design thinking and adventurous thinking, and that is about reality. So, design thinking is founded on observation, classic design thinking. You go out, you observe. And you have people who are professional in their interviewing and their observing. They're going to head out into the field and embed, and then they're going to come back with facts, basically, about those people. So, it's all based on habits and tendencies and what is real now. Then, we have a period in design thinking where we look for creative solutions, and we can try and imagine some stuff. There's no particular structure about how to prompt your brain into that area, but you are basing it on these facts and observations that you have, and that's the fundamental difference between this and adventurous thinking. The adventurous thinking strategy is a mindset, and it's coming from you. So, once you've activated this ability to look at things in five diverse ways, you can then apply it to anything. It doesn't have to be a problem; it can be continuous improvement, it could be total inversion and disruption for the sake of it, because that can also throw us new, interesting systems. But, at it's base, adventurous thinking doesn't need present reality and facts. It's actually very proactive. So, we're not going to react to something that we're observing. We're actually going to jump forward, and try to throw out possibilities and gain greater meaning around whatever it is we're looking at. So, I've got a campfire to try and help illustrate the crucial differences, because this is something I get asked time and time again, is if you've got design thinking here and adventurous thinking here, where do meet and where do they separate? I'm going to show you with a campfire. Yes? I was thinking, I don't understand why there are two distinct fields, or philosophies. I think their one is intrinsically the other, I mean, isn't everyone both? I know I am, I'm sure you are both an adventurous thinker and a design thinker. Well no, I don't think everyone is actively either, necessarily, but you might be, because you are creative. But, we have something that's design thinking that's talked about a lot as a particular philosophy. It's embedded in empathy. So, design thinking as a concept is bigger, but design thinking as something that's practiced by companies is quite specific. In that, it is an empathy-based thing. And adventurous thinking is also creative, and so, yeah, everyone has potential, but it's also a system that has these five distinct lenses. So, you wouldn't just be doing it unless, yeah, it's true that innovators I've known have gone, "Oh my god, you totally know the way I think, but I never thought of it that way." I've spent like 15 years trying to work out how to nail the way they think, and this is it. So, basically, if you have a look at these people with the fire, we're just going to use this as a simple example, if the fire is a problem, something about that fire is a problem, and we're going to use classic design thinking to come up with a solution to this issue, we're going to observe how these people around that fire interact. We're going to watch what they do, we're going to talk to them, but also observe the unspoken. We're going to really try and get a feel for what it is they're doing, so that we can transform that experience into something better. It's why, often, design thinking has a gamification element in a solution, is because it's looking at how people are doing things, and it's trying to make it better for them. And often, making a process better, you know, can be making it more fun. And fun often comes for some people, I'm not a gamer, so gamification doesn't really work for me, but it works for a ton of people, and that is taking something that people are doing and making it, or an education process, or teaching people to nurse patients in a hospital, for instance, gamification can be a classic way of making it better using design thinking and observation. But if we're using adventurous thinking to examine this fire, for a start, the fire doesn't doesn't need to be a problem. Adventurous thinking doesn't need a problem. Parkour lens, in fact, is looking for things that are just fine, and then disrupting. But let's say that the fire is a problem, and let's say that instead of observing these people around the fire, each person is one of the lenses in adventurous thinking. So, we're going to start with person who is negative space. Negative space is going to look to the fire, but they're going to look for what is around the fire. They're going to be looking at the context. What are the people doing? How are they reacting to the fire and why? What were they expecting from the fire that they're not getting? So, negative space is looking for what is not the focus, and what's happening in the bigger picture. Sideways thinking is doing design thinking. So, design thinking is part of sideways. Sideways is about understanding the people around the fire, and understanding what they want from the fire and trying to give that to them, but also looking for the people who are not around the fire, people still, and saying, "Why? Who are we missing? Who is this fire not working for, and how can we perhaps change that fire so that it might work for a wider group of people?" Thinking backwards is going to look at that fire and say, "How long do we want that fire to last, and what are the elements we're using to build this fire and make this fire work, and could that be better? If we want it to last longer, will we change the materials? How can we make it more robust and more sustainable, the fire?" Rethinking would be looking at the core value of the fire. What is it that we're ultimately doing? Is it the grouping together of people? Is it community, is that the core value of the fire, or is it warmth? And depending what the core value of the fire is delivering to these people, it will then look at how we can move that, change it; change the scale, or repurpose it for greater purpose and greater worth. And then parkour, the final lens, which is disruption, is going to look at that fire and go, "Hm. Well, say the function of the fire is keeping people warm. I still want to keep people warm, this is how we're doing it here, with this fire made of this, this, and this, let's completely invert that and then let's look at what we get." So this is the difference, is that the adventurous thinking mindset is going to throw these five very diverse viewpoints at the fire. It's going to come out with a plethora of possibilities and options and some solutions, but mainly it's going to give you much greater meaning and understanding of what it is you were looking at at the beginning. So, it's using this theory of multiple intelligences, this idea that an innovator trying to come up with something is going to walk around that fire, and they're going to poke at it from all these different angles to try and get meaning and understanding. And so, design thinking is getting its meaning and understanding from observing its users and then using your experience as a designer, as a thinker, to try and come up with solutions for them, but adventurous thinking is using these five diverse viewpoints, the concept of multiple intelligences, to cast huge meaning and understanding, and then to offer you solutions using these lenses. Kind of different. But essentially, it's this classic Dr. Seuss thing. We are trying to make our brain look from crazy number of directions, and one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss is actually from "I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew," personal favorite, which is, "I'm looking for trouble in front and back sections, by rolling my eyeballs in different directions." And it's basically what we're trying to do. It's a multifarious viewpoint. We're looking for the viewpoint we don't naturally come from. So, if our expertise is where we normally look, this, adventurous thinking, is throwing us into all those other areas that we wouldn't normally default to. That's the plan, that's what we're going to do.

Class Description

The rise of design thinking has revolutionized the way we solve problems—helping us open our minds, embrace our imaginations and be more innovative. But what if we could take the design thinking process to an even higher level? What if we could be less reactive and more proactive in our thinking?

Award-winning inventor, journalist, educator and speaker Sally Dominguez created the adventurous thinking methodology to promote an agile mindset, which is necessary for consistently innovative practices. Even the best of us can get stuck in our default “expert” neural pathways. Adventurous thinking helps us get out of those ruts, reignite our curiosity and tap into the underutilized parts of our brains.

This two-day course introduces the Five Lenses—negative space, parkour, thinking sideways, thinking backwards and rethinking—which Sally has used to help some of the biggest corporations, organizations and government agencies throughout the world integrate innovation into their work. By the end, you’ll have the tools you need to transform your thought processes and explore true innovation.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Harness your curiosity to think outside the probable and explore the possible.
  • Use multiple perspectives to achieve a deeper understanding.
  • Experience “bearable discomfort” to force your neural pathways to open up.
  • Disregard small daily failures at home and at work.
  • Get your radical ideas accepted by others.
  • Know what you don’t want and why that’s important.


Ivana Vucinic

This class is truly AMAZING! It is really unique and it got me thinking in new and innovative ways. Very much out of the box thinking! Makes you become courageous, Well done, Sally!!!

Sukey Dominguez

Jumpstart Innovation with Adventurous Thinking exceeded my expectations! Sally brought practical tools that, "lenses" to flip every situation inside out and find the possibilities in every situation. As one who works to lead teams, healthcare providers facing incredible demands to achieve results in population health / ultimately global health and the wellness of business operations, I'm thrilled to have found this course. Design is one thing, taking risk is another. I'm inspired by Sally because she drives energy to see what CAN be in the future. This is a unique class and I look forward to her next offering.