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Zaana Howard on Design Thinking at Lean UX 14
Recorded at:

Interview with Zaana Howard by Todd Charron on Jul 17, 2014 |
09:41

Bio Zaana is Huddle Academy Lead at Huddle in Melbourne, Australia. She designs transformative experiences for people to learn together and encourage new ways of thinking and doing with meaningful outcomes. Zaana is also near completion of a PhD in design thinking, researching how people develop design thinking capability and grow to mastery.

LeanUX NYC provides expert insight into some of the ways Lean, Lean Startup, Kanban and Design Thinking practices are being combined by people already doing it - the real pros, the upper echelon, the ones driving the iterative discovery and development of new products for both startups and enterprises.

   

2. And we are here at the Lean UX 2014 Conference and to get us started maybe just tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ok, I am a Service Designer from Melbourne Australia where I work for a small company called Huddle Design and we do Service Design, Strategic Design all of those sorts of things.

   

3. And so what interests you and what brought you to speak here at the Lean UX Conference?

I’m doing my PhD at the moment, almost finished in Design Thinking and so that sort of brought me to the Conference, I think Will was trying to add a different academic as well as design flavor to Lean UX which is I think what prompted him to invite me here.

   

4. A lot of our content here at InfoQ covers a lot of Agile, covers a lot of Lean Startup which both fall under Lean UX, but one thing we don’t necessarily have a lot of coverage on, is Design Thinking, so maybe you can tell us a little bit about what Design Thinking is?

Sure, Design Thinking is really kind of abstract and useless term in many ways that just causes more confusion than clarity to people overall and Design Thinking is really, I think it’s more the mindset that you bring to design more than it is an actual process or method in itself. Design Thinking often just follows design process, if you use the UK Design council double diamonds sort of method it’s just discover, define, design, deliver, develop, deliver, something like that, and then it’s really just about the mindset that you bring to each of those stages that allows you to do Design Thinking and such.

   

5. Ok, and so what are those sort of mindsets like, how do they differ say from traditional design?

I don’t think they necessarily do in many ways, I think that’s what causes a lot of confusion, but it really is using mindsets such as optimism and curiosity and empathy of course, one of the big buzzwords, and how you use these in different situations to get that information in the outcome that you need. It’s also of course very, compared to traditional esthetic design, also very collaborative and human centred and still creative of course, but Design Thinking is much more about the conversations and the dialog and the learning that happens through that, and then to design from.

   

6. What sort of a kind of practical applications on the day to day that we might see from somebody who is applying Design Thinking?

It looks quite similar I think to many other design disciplines to user experience that was design and those sort of things, so I might just abstract your question a little bit if it’s ok, so part of my research for my PhD I have been researching what Design Thinking in practice looks like and not at the tool sort of level but more how it acts as a situated practice and what that means. And so really most people when they think about Design Thinking they only think of it as a process or a method or a way of working and they don’t necessarily understand the things that happen around that, so of course that design process and method aspect is really important, but then you also have to consider the environment that Design Thinking is done within and both at a project sort of level but also at an organizational culture level and how these things impact on design and what those design outcomes might be and then there is also the third aspect of the actual designer who leads that design project because, and they become the most critical aspect in Design Thinking of all, because they are the people who bring the mindsets, the knowledge sets, the school sets and the tool sets that are used within Design Thinking that produce the results independent upon their experiences and their level of capability really influences and impacts on the actual design solutions that you can come out with.

   

7. Now, there is a lot of stuff that goes on in design here from what you are talking about and now often people don’t necessarily think of it on that same level, and one of the talks that you gave here today was kind of an analogy about dinner versus fine dining, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Sure, I think that one of the design and particularly Design Thinking has been a massive buzzword I think particularly over the last 5 years also in business, and because of that there has been a lot of consultants, a lot of people in general who are just jumping on board and go: “Yes that’s kind of like what I do, I’m going to call myself a Design Thinker” and that has a massive impact on how people perceive, understand design and how they use it and there is sort of a quality issue starting to come out where there is a lot of people who are just good cooks, but they are calling themselves Chefs and we need to be aware of that and do something about it.

Todd:So maybe you can give us a little bit of the details about how that kind of maps up, how does that apply, because why is somebody who does just say Graphic Design and works in Photoshop, why aren't they really at that level, same level as somebody who is really doing to fine dining version of that.

Yes, so what my PhD research has uncovered is that if you are leading a design project with customers or clients in particular, so you are working in dual teams, there are really five roles that a designer applies, which one of those is the traditional esthetic sort of design that they design things, but there are also other roles around facilitation, how you navigate people through a design process and there is also an educator to teach people about design and to do some design things during that process. There is also the composer and the composer is I think one of the roles that is most unacknowledged and that is really designing the experience of design, so how your clients experience in the design process through you, and then the final one is this funny one called “The Cool Kid” which came directly from one of my participants in my research and that really is the fact that designers come in and they are a little bit different and they have a different world view and they dress a little bit differently and that is actually really inspiring and can be really encouraging to people, so we need to be responsible and accountable for that in the way that we build relationships and we build actual proper human relationships and connections with these people to help them move forward personally not just in a project space for an organization.

Todd: And so how can they help or how can they be helped to kind of show their value, so that they are not viewed just as the dinner experience, so they can understand the importance of it in say an organization.

I don’t really understand your question, I’m sorry.

   

8. [...] How do you talk to management, let them know and help them understand the value of what you are doing?

Todd's full question: So you know, the analogy here was dinner over dining or you had mentioned that anybody who can cook calls himself a Chef, so there is a lot more involved in the fine dining experience, there is a lot more value there and people see the value in the dining experience where they may not in say organization, and so if you are somebody working in an organization who is doing these sort of things, how do you talk to management, let them know and help them understand the value of what you are doing?

I think part of that is that is difficult is to have an articulation for what that is and what designers actually do because it is evolving so quickly and in such a complex sort of way. It really is just about being able to articulate these are the things that we do now and I do much more than design things but I can help you through that whole process of designing and this is what that means and this is what that looks like, and I think as designers we need to take on that responsibility to start building that value proposition for ourselves in a much richer way.

   

9. What comes next for you after this conference, what is the next exciting thing?

What’s the next exciting thing, finishing my PhD, almost there just a few months to go, that is the big tick box for 2014 for me.

   

10. Excellent, is there any other aspect kind of around the field that has really caught your interest while you’ve been kind of going through the PhD?

I think one of the biggest things that I really learned from my PhD research is that there are really two ways of viewing Design Thinking and either you view it as a way of work, eor you view it as a way of being and depending on the view that you take, really depends on how Design Thinking plays out within an organization and within the world in general and there is not lot of discussion about this yet, but I think this is kind of going to become the next conversation around design.

   

11. So somebody who was just looking to get started on Design Thinking and figure out what that is, where would you recommend they start to get some information?

I actually have a resource page on my blog which is about Design Thinking resources because everybody asks me all the time it’s just www.zaanahoward.com and there is a page there that has a whole starting list of resources for people.

Todd: And that is also where people can reach you if they want to find out more?

Exactly, definitely.

Todd: Well, thank you very much for doing this!

Thank you!

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