Join Turi McKinley for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing creative flow, part of Learning Design Thinking: Lead Change in Your Organization.
- Creative flow is about achieving the mental space for creative thinking. However, not everybody gets into the flow in the same way, and it could be particularly challenging when you have people who use your product, or stakeholders from other parts of the business collaborating with you who may not be as comfortable with ambiguity as you and your team. Much of what we call design thinking is about having a set of methods and approaches that help people get into the creative flow, a mental space that's both active and tranquil.
This state of mind allows for new idea generation, provocative thinking, and the confidence to offer an untested or unusual idea. When you're bringing others together to collaborate with you, you need strategies to help keep them focused on small enough asks that they don't get lost in the big picture, and with the safety to offer untested ideas. So, facilitation skills are key, but I find one of the most effective methods for getting teams into flow is timeboxing activities.
It works for internal teams and for co-creation with users or stakeholders. So, timeboxing is a collaboration technique that uses methods such as worksheets, which build from small focused questions to bigger creative moments. It keeps the time for each quite limited, so teams suspend their judgement and have enough focus for creative ideas to come forward. Timeboxing does take a bit of planning. You determine the amount of time you work together, and you map that time into manageable steps, each of which result in something tangible like an idea or a sketch.
This pre-planning gives structure to problem solving and keeps the idea generation focused. And breaking down a big question into small steps helps everyone see progress being made. Plus, as a time management technique, timeboxing helps you get to ideas faster than unfocused idea generation. So, as a basic rule, timebox things to no more than about 20 minutes per step, and you'll find that worksheets do help keep people focused on each part of the activity.
And in general, a worksheet should have no more than three to four steps, also for focus. And that 15 to 20 minutes is about the length of time a small group can focus on any single question before being tempted to dive into a rat hole of details or naysay. And that three to four steps is about the number of jumps people are comfortable with before they need to see something at least somewhat tangible for their efforts.
So, here's an example of a frog workshop. The team, here, is taking some very random inputs to generate a list of characteristics that they're going to mash up with their focus area to quickly inspire possible concepts. Now, they've moved to a worksheet with a similar number of steps, but it's all about making those ideas more tangible. And now here, they're sharing out their refined ideas with the group. In workshops where time gets tight, it's tempting to skip this share out.
But this act of verbalizing what you've done and listening to other groups for inspiration is one of the key moments in facilitating design thinking, so try not to skip it. In this example, timeboxing took the team from very off the wall inputs, to idea generation, to shareable sketches in less than an hour. A few things to consider about timeboxing and flow when you're facilitating groups with non-team members. Timeboxing shared activities creates constraints and provides a sense of order that allows people to suspend their judgement or their frustration.
And keeping activities to about 20 minutes or so per step helps that focus. And remember to always make something tangible for a shareout, and it might be a sketch, a performance, or a presentation of the idea. Because worksheets are so effective at helping people collaborate with a design thinking team. You'll find many examples of worksheets in the literature and online. I recommend building your team a tool kit of these worksheets. So, that when you all want to bring others into your process, you have a strong set to select between.
If you'd like to share some of these worksheets or examples that you found with the course community, head to the course community on linkedIn, and share a link or comment about what you found.
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