Join Turi McKinley for an in-depth discussion in this video Concepting activity, part of Learning Design Thinking: Lead Change in Your Organization.
- A concept is an idea expressed with enough detail for another person to understand it. In design thinking, we want to provide opportunities for the creation of unexpected concepts, those which draw on both our formal and logical knowledge, and on our human instincts for "what if" possibilities. Lateral thinking exercises drive the creation of these unexpected concepts. During early concept development, we want to produce as many new ideas as possible.
This focus on breadth allows us to develop seeds of ideas without worrying about the details or feasibility, though that does come in later, as we do want to get things made real. The Random Entry Activity is based on Edward de Bono's concept of lateral thinking. It introduces unrelated random objects as stimuli for generating ideas on a specific focus area. The randomness of the object pushes teams out of their typical patterns of thinking around the topic.
Random Entry is meant to generate a lot of ideas, many of which are pretty weird and far out, but amongst them are interesting seeds of new possibilities that may not have been thought of otherwise. I often use this activity to kickstart concept generation early on in the design phase. It's also good for getting your team out of a rut in thinking. It really pushes you to look at things from a sometimes wildly different perspective and you'll often surprise yourself at what comes out.
It is a structured exercise with specific steps and a worksheet. That's available in the exercise files. It's best done in small teams of 3-5 people, which encourages everyone to participate. You usually have one person who's mostly writing, and I would encourage you to have them use a Sharpie to avoid writing too much about any single idea. Random Entry does need a bit of planning to run well. First off, you need to have some clear focus areas.
Usually these come from your research findings in opportunity areas. Finding the right ones is really important and may take you a few tries. Focus areas that are too broad will leave the teams wandering around, but if it's too narrow they'll be over-constrained. You need to pick some random objects. They should be objects that can be held and interacted with. Their goal is just to create associations and they shouldn't be directly related to your topic area at all.
For example, this is a pretty good example of a random object. From this object, I can draw a lot of associations really quickly. I can draw travel, the gnome. I can draw fantasy. He's got this trench coat on, I could start imagining intrigue. He's got a Santa beard, I can have Santa, presents, and things like that. When I'm looking for a random object, if I can't immediately list off five associations with it, I keep looking for another object.
You start the activity by defining the focus areas. I often use this activity in a workshop where we've already shared out our research findings. The important thing is that everyone understands what we are doing and why, and that they understand the focus areas we're using in the activity. Then we divide into those small groups, each of which gets a random object and a worksheet. At this point, you may get some strange looks from the room unless you help folks understand that the first step is just to quickly list off any associations they have with the object in that first part of the worksheet.
Remind them that the associations shouldn't have anything to do with the focus area. You're only giving them about five minutes to do this, so tell them they're going for volume. When each group has that list of associations, hand out the focus areas. The teams will spend the next 25 minutes or so asking, "What if we combined this association "with our focus area?" And generating fast, one-liner ideas. Again, the goal is breadth and volume, and you should encourage folks not to judge.
The first time they do this, it might go slowly. The second round usually goes a lot faster. Once the worksheets are done, the groups talk about the range of ideas they've generated and they pick several they're interested in. You then follow this activity with either an idea quick capture worksheet to lightly flesh out those interesting ideas to a point where they can be shared with the wider group, or use the refinement worksheets to give it more depth.
Both of these worksheets are in the exercise files also. At the end of these series of steps, you've talked about the focus area, you've done the Random Entry exercise, and you've either done the quick capture or refinement activity. Your team will have several ideas fleshed out in enough depth to be shared with the fuller group. Each of these ideas will relate to your key opportunity areas, and your team can now begin to assess them for inclusion in your next iteration.
The course opens with a definition of design thinking, including the roles and spaces required for success. You will then learn how to be a good design thinking leader, with specific advice on topics from setting goals to engaging the different skill sets and personalities in the room (introverts and extroverts alike). Next, Turi dives into creative collaboration: the heart of design thinking. She covers planning, research, and concept creation, and explains how to create a "service blueprint" that will help make the design a reality. Chapter 4 introduces prototyping techniques to advance the design.
Design thinking is all about collaboration so we've integrated a LinkedIn Group called "Design Thinking: frog + Lynda.com course." Throughout the course, the author will suggest opportunities for you to share what you're learning. You'll be able to participate in course-related discussions through your web browser at https://linkedin.com/groups/7022790 or via the LinkedIn Groups app, which is available for most smartphones. This is a great way to expand your learning and get additional insights from other members taking the course.
- Defining design thinking
- Implementing a design thinking mindset and approach
- Leading design thinking
- Aligning the design team
- Managing creative flow
- Guiding collaboration
- Generating hypothesis
- Prototyping fast and often
- Making a culture change