In graduate school, I read an article about analogical thinking and a place called IDEO. I read a lot of articles in graduate school, but certain readings really hit me. This was one of them. It inspired me to keep learning about design thinking, which for the large part meant actually using the principles and practices in implementation efforts I led.
My big takeaway from experimenting with design thinking over the last decade is that it's less about mastering design methods, and more about mastering myself. Although design thinking is about action rather than contemplation, these actions must take place within a certain frame of mind in order to be worthwhile. If I behave and think in a way that’s incongruent with design thinking principles, it doesn’t really matter how many design methods I use, the outcomes just won’t be there. It’s the mindset - which demands that we take on very human stuff like fear and empathy - that may be the trickiest part to master.
The design thinking mindset demands intellectual confidence AND the humility necessary to truly value others' perspectives. It demands comfort with uncertainty AND persistence to get to a place of certainty or clarity. And, a hard one for many of us, it demands a personal willingness to fail and be ‘wrong’ in the short-term, often publicly, in order to get to ‘right’ in the long-term. In other words, it’s kinda hard. But in my experience, it’s also really productive...and gets easier the more you do it. (When you get to a place where you're not so afraid of failing and are truly engaging with people to co-create solutions, it opens new worlds of achievement, not to mention fun!) I've found the payoff has been better end-products and a level of engagement and trust among users and stakeholders that I don’t think would be possible otherwise. I also know I'm better when I'm in this mindset -- more creative, more open and more useful.