Use this exercise to solve any Product Design Challenge

Public on March 30, 2017

UX design, product design, service design — whatever you’re into — in the end, if you’re creating value, what you’re really doing is creative problem solving. It’s is the only non-commodatisable attribute of the design process, the only part of the process that you can’t just throw money at to get done right. It’s being able to assess what the real challenges are, prioritise them, produce solutions and measure their effectivity. Creative problem solving is a cornerstone skill that separates good designers from the best designers. Everything else is production work.

The problem with anything that requires creative thinking however, is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Many products end up being released late and full of compromises to the original vision simply because the team is so fatigued from bashing heads together on endless, unprioritised problems.

This “project fatigue” (which I’ve written about a few times before) shows itself in many ways within teams; there’s an underlying passive-aggressive tension, there’s gossip, people start leaving and there are clear ego imbalances. The team has been fighting in the trenches for too long, and people begin to sabotage each other to promote their own ideas, whether they are “good” or not. So, how do you solve this extremely common problem that you’ll find at almost every company?

The Solution

Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with clear process. At first this will absolutely feel weird, I’ve seen the scepticism on the faces of designers who are used to battling through passionate back-and-forths with colleagues until eventually one person gives up, or someone says “let’s test it” (often used as a ‘get out of jail card’ for anyone wanting to end a tricky discussion). Freedom to discuss might seem conducive to creativity, when it’s in fact the enemy. Structure and Discipline create the Freedom needed to be creative.
Okay, okay, the only way you’re going to see the results of this principle of killing discussion is to try it for yourself. Let’s have a look at a very simple, 30 minute exercise we use whenever we want to kick off a short problem-solving meeting. Keep in mind, we have dozens of different exercises to pull out depending on the scenario — so take this as an introduction to the principle of Removing Discussion rather than the “only way to do it”.

The Exercise: Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)  Follow this video.

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