• Sam Cen

3 Lessons from a Design Thinking Workshop

Updated: Dec 9, 2020


Design Thinking as a human-centric innovation method is well known to a lot of people nowadays. Years after learning and applying the method I have finally got the chance to have my very own workshop to work on my project „Hairpy Life„.


Sommer vacation, 30 degrees outside and the workshop took place on Friday and Saturday , all these „negative“ factors did not keep the participants from having creative, interesting and great ideas to the topic „redesigning salon experience„.


We are all satisfied with the process and the results.


For me as the customer as well as the facilitator in one, I learned three valuable lessons.


Lesson I — Spend time on figuring out the problem


It is no secret at all that the design thinking process has the so called double diamond structure: room for problem and room for solutions.




Looking back in the corporate practice we spend 1% of the time generating ideas and 99% of the time implementing them. By applying design thinking we spend at least 50% of the time by figuring out who the users are and what their problems might be.


It was also a big challenge for my participants as well. They kept on talking about ideas or solutions to address a certain problem. As a facilitator I have to interrupt continuously to remind them to concentrate on the discussion of the problems, and only the problems. I had to remind them that we will do the ideation systematically on the second day.


At the end of the two days they reflected on what had learned and practiced. Most of them admit that it is really important and valuable to JUST talk about the problem without spending time on talking about ideas or solutions.


Lesson II — Spend time for ideation


We all know the principle „quantity over quality“ during the ideation phase.


I chose three different methods to exercise and apply. Since I had a very strick schedule, I did feel anxious as the ideation phase was running over time. Since the participants did enjoy generating ideas, I calmed myself “secretly”: Let Go of it, we can make it.

At the end, it turned out to be great: We had a lot of ideas and we agreed on which idea shall we turn into a prototype for test.




Looking back, I would thank for the decision to let go and not to follow the initial plan strictly. By allowing people to have enough time for generating ideas, their brains worked simultaneously in the backend to filter and prioritize them. By emptying our working brains and pouring out everything inside it helped to spend less time making decisions. I don’t understand if there is any psychological explanation behind, but it worked.


Lesson III — Making prototype(s) to visualize the chosen idea(s)


We tend to overestimate our ability and capacity for imagination. We think if we don’t like a certain idea, it must be a bad idea.


This is not true though. Actually we tend to make quick decision to push forward some ideas we like for implementation and kill some ideas just by our gust feeling.


The valuable part of the design thinking process is that, we have to spend time turning ideas into prototypes. With a prototype we can share our stories better and get feedback from users with higher quality. Making prototype also helps us the reconsider and rejudge a certain idea. Too often we might just let go some very great ideas because we have never spend time making a prototype.


Last thoughts


A participant asked me why it is called „Design Thinking“. To be honest, I could not give a very quick answer, because I read different explanations. But two things for sure: First, the word „Thinking“ suggests that it is a mindset over a method; secondly, we spend more time in DOING than just THINKING.


So, let us enjoy more DESIGN DOING!




P.S.: Recently I had the chance to attend a HPI Online Course to the topic "Design Thinking in Organizations". There I learned the official explanation why Design Thinking is called Design Thinking: By applying the mindset and principles of designers to generate user-centric innovations.

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