Five key takeaways from our latest workshop

We welcomed a host of organisations from the Leeds City Region to The Piggery in Mirfield on the 8th February, for a ‘Design Thinking for SMEs’ workshop on how to better use creative approaches to problem solving.

The masterclass had hit the local business and wider design headlines at the start of the year, as journalists encouraged brands to reserve their place on this fully-funded event. The 1-day workshop delved into design thinking theory in the morning, before inviting delegates to start applying the techniques to their own business challenges for the duration of the afternoon. We spoke to some of the attendees to hear their highlights:

1. For Nas Maqsood, an associate designer at Nestlé, the workshop armed him with a toolkit to share with his team when he returned to the office.

“As a practising designer, I’m already familiar with the merit of design thinking. But this doesn’t mean I don’t like to remain abreast with evolving discussion on the topic. I have a very ‘front end’ role, and am responsible for product and packaging innovation, but it gave me the chance to look at the challenges we face, with a fresh pair of eyes. The workshop also provided a great opportunity to soak up and relay a wealth of information to the wider team, especially people in different departments in the business. We now have a toolkit to use as we tackle various issues, and because everything was so clearly communicated, I think even non-designers can better understand the role that design thinking plays. The consumer research elements were particularly interesting, and we’ve already started to discuss how we can use some of the methods – such as the 24-hour photo journal – for our own development projects.”

“We now have a toolkit to use as we tackle various issues, and because everything was so clearly communicated, I think even non-designers can better understand the role that design thinking plays.”

2. With a very different recruitment background, Abbie Coleman is the founder of MMB Magazine for modern working parents. She arrived at the workshop with a completely blank canvas:

“I had no preconceived ideas about design thinking – to be honest it took a conversation with a peer before the event to even understand what role it could play in my business! It felt quite daunting, as a non-designer, to immerse myself in that creative world, but I soon realised that’s the whole point. You don’t need to be a designer to practise design thinking. It’s a mindset, and a mindset that has business-wide value. As the day unfolded, I also realised that by identifying a market gap and setting up my own business in the first place, I have used a creative approach to problem solving all along. Now, I understand that it’s that same approach I need to keep honing, to further progress our brand and take it up to the next level.” 

3. Tim Preece attended the workshop because he and his fellow directors are currently establishing the foundations for a whole new way of thinking within their 100-year-old business, Sutcliffe Play:

“We’ve always been a family-owned organisation until, eight years ago, the ownership transferred to employees. We’ve undergone a period of significant change as a result, and despite what has at times felt like a tricky transition, we have started to experience some extremely successful years of trading. Now the challenge is to get ahead of the competition again – a journey that, we believe, has radical thinking at its heart. It’s easy to liberate and improve products for clients. It’s far more difficult to work out what we don’t yet know. To establish a truly creative mindset, we therefore looked to learn more about design thinking, and we came away from the workshop armed with a far more logical approach as to what to do next. We are continuing to talk with some of the What Could Be team about our design-led future, and the follow-up conversations that the workshop has sparked, are actually what I’m the most excited about.”

4. Lesley Gulliver, one of What Could Be’s co-founders was inspired by the variety of businesspeople who attended:

“I think the great thing about workshops like this is that they invite contributions from designers and non-designers alike. We welcomed the director of a family-owned cleaning company, the operations manager of a manufacturing network, the owner of a quintessentially British children’s clothing brand and the innovation growth manager from the LEP – to name just a few. This is when the power of design thinking really comes to life – when people with different perspectives share ideas and collaborate together. Some of them joined us to focus on very specific brand identity challenges, whilst others look set to soon embark on large cultural change projects. The dialogue in the room was therefore very diverse, which made for a really interesting day. I’m really excited to keep the conversation going with these guys, when they return to us for their 1-2-1 post-workshop mentoring.”

“It’s easy to liberate and improve products for clients. It’s far more difficult to work out what we don’t yet know.”

5. David Townson, also from What Could Be, elaborates on some of the methodologies that delegates were exposed to on the day:

“There were perhaps three stand-out exercises that we worked through together, and I think everyone was pleasantly surprised that they could genuinely get value from each, for their own organisation. We worked through a stakeholder mapping technique, which helps people define everyone who matters to their organisation, and in what priority order. By visualising this in an almost Bullseye-like schema – with primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders panning out from the centre – it’s then a little easier to start clarifying what matters to these different groups. This is where insights come in, of course. It is important to realise that won’t have all of the answers, so rather than relying on merely theoretical assumptions, we need to get closer to our stakeholders and interview them. We talked about the value of contextual interviews, and how to structure them to maximise the time spent with every participant. And as Nas has already highlighted, we delved into the power of photo journals – one of the most qualitative, media-rich ways to gain a true insight into what matters to stakeholders. Whether the timeframe is a day in their life, or a week, the insight is usually very enlightening, and there can often be a real difference between what people say is important to them, and what they capture on camera. This is not to say that photo journaling should replace face-to-face interviews with stakeholders, but it’s often surprising how close you can get to people using this methodology.”

 

This workshop is running again on 8th May 2019. Find out more.