Design as Problem Solving Tool

by Trudy on October 4, 2013

I recently went to hear my learner’s art teacher speak about their approach for the year. I was fascinated to hear her talk about exposing young learners to the concept of design as a problem-solving tool.

I sat up and listened carefully.

When I was in school, we learned skills of artistry. Fun, creative and a great way to get an easy mark. But this was something completely different for my beliefs about art in school, a strategic approach to creativity. A concept I had not discovered until mid way through my career. And here it is being introduced to pre-teens? Awesome.

PROVOKE has utilized a design process to problem solving since its inception fifteen years ago, so it was a real validation for me to read. (Understand, observe, define, ideate, solution, act, adjust). I know that following a thoughtful process is the right way to get to a good answer.

My ongoing frustration is with what seems to be more and more businesses choosing to move from problem to solution without understanding, observing and defining. There is such a rush to solve.

Combine this problem with our observation that many businesses in the world we live in today, particularly entrepreneurial, not for profit, and any organization needing to do a lot with less every day, is moving further away from large scale, protracted time thinking projects.

Which with reflection is……completely reasonable, and should not be unexpected.

Budgets are tight, timelines are shortened, innovation is expected – not many of us have the luxury of a long, laborious process anymore. This is simply the reality of the speed of business today. We need to be producing and creating constantly.

We need to find a way to do an accelerated version of understand, observe, define, ideate, solution, act and adjust. Move quickly through the problem solving phases rather than skip through whole parts believed to be too time consuming.

This brings me to an idea I came across that I found invigorating. A clever self-starter named Pete Smart set a challenge for himself 50 Design Problems in 50 Days. Essentially he traveled the world looking for problems he would solve in a DAY using the design process.

The lesson we can take from Pete, is to get out there, immerse ourselves in the problem and exercise our problem solving muscles. Focused, thoughtful, accelerated effort is a WAY better alternative to blind stabs in the dark.

I encourage you to check out his articles.

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