thinking about design thinking

This year I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a month-long introduction to Design Thinking with work and it’s been a really rewarding experience. There were about twenty of us in total and our focus during the course was to try and find solutions to some of the challenges faced by charities during this pandemic. 

I’m not going to repeat the methodology we used – you can read that elsewhere – but I just wanted to highlight two areas I found really useful. The first was just basic audience research: we were given a series of questions to ask friends/family/people-we’ve-never-really-actually-spoken- to-for-yonks-on-Facebook to find out a) if they donated at all and b) if their perception of charities or general donating behaviour had changed over the last year. We were also asked to note how animated people became when giving feedback on a certain topic and to explore why that might be.

The feedback I got was really varied but there were four main themes that resonated with our group – (a) a general scepticism about the actual impact bigger charities make; (b) an increased emphasis on ‘supporting local’; (c) people wanted very easy ways of donating and (d) people were looking for incentives to donate. Now, all of these points aren’t exactly rocket science but it was really powerful to collect all these opinions ‘direct from the source’ so we could really hear those emotive responses which you just can’t get via a survey.

Anyway, following this initial audience research we brainstormed a number of possible solutions then agreed as a group on a top three that we would take forward to the prototype stage, finally selecting one for our final ‘pitch.’ One of my ideas did not make it to the final round – and that was because it became very complex, very quickly.

I wanted crate a funny version of the Bear Grylls show on Netflix ‘You vs The Wild.‘ This has a basic story arc: you have to help Grylls to get from A-B and on the way there 4 or 5 ‘either/or’ decisions you have to make. I wanted to take this model and apply it to a ‘Make your own Charity promo video’ scenario – you would choose between a number of good and very bad decisions in the creation of your promo video. Instead of helping Bear Grylls, you would be helping a well-known funny celebrity personality who would be trying at all times, to get you to select one of the bad decisions. The point of the whole exercise would be that you’d something learn about the challenges charities have faced during the pandemic, the value a charity can bring to those in need PLUS it would all be hilarious resulting in a final video that could be shared on the socials.*

To be fair, even as i typed that paragraph I reminded myself that that even a simple ‘Choose A/Choose B’ format can quickly become complex, especially if you’re trying tick off a number of objectives in addition. I started to draft the script but then quickly realised I had to sketch out the whole scenario from beginning to end to make any sense of it. And when I started to do that, I realised I had to get feedback on the structure and the whole project in general – in short, I had to sketch a wireframe prototype, discuss with others, making quick amendments as I bounced from zoom call to zoom call. I think with more available time, I would have eventually refined the model into a decent state – but we had a hard deadline to hit so I had to ditch it.

Anyway, my key learn from the whole exercise was simply this: if you have an idea that you think could work, but as you discuss it, it starts to feel complex – sketch it out. The very act of a sketch invites feedback and suggestions for improvements. Confront the unforeseen challenges early in your project and that will save you a lot of time further down the line!

Also, I humbly salute anyone out there creating any kind of visual project – especially if you have to deal with people like me who say things like ‘hey, this would make a cool video, should be pretty easy to do, right?’

For that, you win all the gold stars.

*During this project I never actually said ‘this video will be hilarious’ simply because when people say ‘this will be hilarious’ you can guarantee it won’t be.

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Steven Wilson-Beales

Content strategy consultant
I'm Head of Editorial at Global Radio, London looking after a fantastic range of websites including Capital FM, Capital Xtra, Heart, XFM, LBC, Classic FM and Smooth. Find me on and Twitter. Please feel free to email me here.

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