Thursday, April 20, 2023

Use Design Thinking and Gut Brain for Agile Teaming: an #InflectraCON2023 Live Blog

 Jenn Bonine Avatar

Jenn Bonine

Founder and CEO, Valhalla Capital and COYABLU

I confess I'm stealing these graphical assets from the InflectraCON site but they make things nice and easy to associate a face with a name and a talk with a byline. Jenn and I have spoken at a variety of conferences together over the past decade and it's always fun to catch one of her sessions. Also, I'm proud to announce that the pink lion she gave me at last year's InflectraCON sits proudly on my guitar amp at home (LOL!).

One of the ways we tend to create or develop things is that we make them based on what "we" want. "We" means the people who are making it making it for themselves. However, Design Thinking goes beyond that, in the sense of designing something that will affect and influence many people, perhaps millions or even billions at the outer edge.  

Design thinking incorporates elements of imagining the future. What will this thing look like a year, five years, or ten years from now? Can we speak to what that future might look like? More important, can we actually shape that future? This is the FORESIGHT aspect necessary for Design Thinking. Often, we have to get out of the ways that make sense to us and see if we can make sense in a way that works for many people. 

Apple is a good example of a company that started as one thing and then over time grew into and developed markets that not only were not their specialties earlier but didn't really exist prior. Just think about the way that we interact with our phones today (and for that matter what phones look like today). There is a dividing line between pre-iPhone and post-iPhone coming on the scene. Cell phones used to have wildly different design aspects prior to 2007. Now, almost every phone we see is the ubiquitous "black mirror", regardless of who makes it. 

ChatGPT is the new design thinking brainchild that is capturing everyone's attention. We now have the job description of "Prompt Engineer" which, unless you are an AI nerd, was something you may have never even heard of or considered but now will likely become a prevalent focus. This has come about because ChatGPT has considered the breadth of who their potential customers might be. You may think to yourself that there is a limited level of use for this technology but given some time and experience, you realize there is a lot that can be done provided you know what to ask and how to ask it. That's prompt engineering in a nutshell.

So how does Design Thinking fit into all of this? In art, it means that we need to look beyond our immediate needs and our immediate bubble. Too often, we only focus on the areas that are either our specific pain points or our immediate sphere of influence. While that's a great approach for inner peace, it's probably going to cause us to fall behind if we don't look further afield. Heck, as a person that does automation, we can often get used to the patterns that we have determined that work. Once we do, we can do a lot of work and be seen as effective. That may work for a time but if we don't continually look farther afield, we will effectively be working feverishly on yesterday's problems. Taking a bigger picture look to see what can either make things easier or, barring that, may pay off years down the road can be a big step. 

Design thinking principles (originally from Nielsen-Norman Group)

The ideas behind design thinking fall into three broad areas and six efforts that support those areas. First, we have to understand (discover) a problem, explore our options (create) , and then materialize those results (deliver). Often, we start with one idea but in the process, if we are open to and see the interactions with other people, we may develop something different than what we originally envisioned. Each of the big areas can be broken down more, such as Empathize and Define for Discover, Ideate and Prototype for Create, and then Test and Implement for Deliver.

The next step is to look at what is called the "Gut Brain" (And while we're not talking about specifically the microbiota that resides in our digestive tracts, it absolutely plays into this ;) ). This sense of "Gut Brain" is delving into our intuitiveness and looking at things that hit us viscerally and deciding to use those intuitions and interactions to look farther afield of our immediate considerations. In short, this is a way of tapping into our playful nature and making considerations we might not tap into. Sketch notes are examples of this, where a person instead of just writing words includes pictures and other doodles to help inform and nurture further thought and understanding. In some ways, it requires visualizing a different world than the one others see. I'm reminded of the woman that finally beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy years back. How did she do it where others failed? In part, she didn't go in thinking Ken was unbeatable. She visualized herself being able to beat him and used that gut instinct to get the better of him. I'm spacing on who it is but I always loved her statement that so many people thought, "It's such an honor to even compete against him" but she said, "He's beatable, I just have to figure out how". She led with that gut instinct and figured out how to prevail.

Lots of neat stuff to consider here as well as a lot of digital tools. In short, explore, discover, consider, play, and see if you might actually reinvent your world.

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