Problem Solving By Design

Cover image for Problem Solving By Design

The Problem Solving By Design Workshop draws on design thinking principles to create a practical, immediately applicable framework for solving complex problems. Because it’s a workshop, you’ll get your hands dirty right away, identifying a real-world problem at the start. You’ll then work in collaboration with other learners in the Workshop to find a solution and participate in their problem solving processes. Through this practical, hands-on approach, you’ll develop a core set of design thinking abilities that will change how you address complex problems in the future.

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Program Overview

We are in a moment of rapidly accelerating complexity. In the midst of trying to solve a massive global public health crisis that is riddled with uncertainty and risk, we’re now being called to collectively address the entrenched, multi-layered, deeply complicated problem of solving systemic inequality.

Solving problems as complex as these will take massive amounts of creative energy, learning, time, and a willingness to try things and fail. And while the problems we typically face in our organizations may not be quite this knotty, they are still quite complicated. We need tools, mindsets, and actions that we can turn to in order to untangle the problems we face, no matter what they are.

The world of design offers ample inspiration for how to do just that. Over centuries, designers have found revolutionary solutions to massive problems and changed the way we live our lives each day. In recent years, the ways they work have been loosely codified into what’s now called “design thinking.”

Design thinking is meant to unlock creative thinking and allow us to tap into ideas or solutions we might not otherwise access. While the framework can sometimes appear prescriptive and orderly, its mindsets, techniques, and tools, extracted from the narrower frame of design, can help anyone in any industry solve problems in revolutionary ways.

The Problem Solving By Design Workshop draws on design thinking principles to create a practical, immediately applicable framework for solving complex problems. Because it’s a workshop, you’ll get your hands dirty right away, identifying a real-world problem at the start. You’ll then work in collaboration with other learners in the Workshop to find a solution and participate in their problem solving processes. Through this practical, hands-on approach, you’ll develop a core set of design thinking abilities that will change how you address complex problems in the future.

Key Questions

What complex problems do we need to solve and what will it take to solve them?

What are the core abilities and tools in the design thinking process?

What can we learn from designers of yesterday and today about solving complex problems?

When does it make sense to apply a full design thinking process and when does it work to apply a design mindset instead?

Why does design thinking work particularly well when thinking about large complicated problems?

Field Manuals

The Problem Solving By Design Workshop is made up of 6 Field Manuals (our version of an online module). Each one contains a variety of types of content and social exercises culminating in a mini-project, reflection, or debate. Each Field Manual will take you between 30-45 minutes to complete but you can jump on and off at your own pace, as often as you’d like. The deeper learning happens in the discussions with your fellow learners so be sure to check in on the conversations regularly.

  • Design in Context

    This Field Manual looks at how design thinking can be deployed as we try to solve complex problems. It offers suggestions for how to undo our habitual approach to problem solving and urges us to look at problems within the broader context in which they arise.

  • Framing the Problem

    The answer to every problem is inherent in the way we pose it. If we’re framing the problem with a limited viewpoint or assuming the outcome, we’re unlikely to really solve it. This Field Manual looks at how we can learn to reimagine a problem and develop innovative solutions as a result.

  • Observing Reality

    When we approach a problem, we often assume—wrongly—that we understand the conditions that brought it about. This Field Manual looks at a crucial step in the process: gathering data in the real world that will help us truly understand our problem. It will look at good interviewing techniques, ways to develop an ethnographic mindset, and how to bring empathy into solving our problems.

  • Sparking Imagination

    Once we understand the problems we need to solve, we need to generate ideas. This Field Manual explores an often forgotten or rushed step in the design-thinking process—how to create the conditions for ideas to flourish. It also explores how (and when) to balance big ideas with constraints.

  • Testing Ideas

    The problems we face today are too complex and too unpredictable to be solved in the comfort of a conference room. Once we have good ideas, we have to experiment: testing ideas in reality, carefully measuring what works, and gradually perfecting their thinking. This Field Manual offers insights into how to test, when to test, and what to look for at the end of an experiment.

  • Continuous Iteration

    Problem solving processes are iterative. We frame, learn, ideate, and test, over and over. Throughout the process, we make decisions that, ideally, move us forward. This Field Manual looks at the factors that wrap around our choices and how to use them to move closer and closer to a solution.

Featured Voices
  • Kate Seward

    Senior Writer, Viacom Velocity

  • Geoffrey Baldwin

    Industrial Designer and Founder, People, Places & Things

  • Jaclyn McKay

    Visual Design Director

  • Tylea Richard

    Entrepreneur and Founder, Thundress

  • Reza Moussavian

    SVP Digital & Innovation (HR), Deutsche Telekom

An excerpt from the Program

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about design thinking; it’s been a hot topic in business for the past decade. But what is it? And what isn’t it? Watch this animation to find out.