Observation 007 - Design Thinking: Let the Science Begin – Part 2


In my continued effort to find, study and review the ever increasing academic journal articles on Design Thinking I came across a great article by Brian Lucas and Loran Nordgren, from the Journal of Personality and Social Creativity, entitled “People Underestimate the Value of Persistence for Creative Performance”.  An overview is that persistence is typically not seen as an attribute of creativity by some and therefore is not valued. First I will talk about the article and then follow up with an experience I was involved in.

If you are interested in purchasing the article, you can find it here:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26191961

Lucas and Nordgren’s research involved seven studies and are followed up with statistical calculations, that if you enjoy that kind of stuff I hope you will get the article.

Their initial question was:

“Although the link between persistence and creativity is well supported by anecdotes, theory, and research, less is known about whether people recognize the value of persistence in everyday creative problem solving. That is, do people accurately predict how much persistence benefits their own creative performance?"

Note: The word “Disfluency” is used a lot in this article, so let me give the definition: In the world of cognitive thought disfluency means - the task is difficult and requires additional mental effort. Because there are no set start/stops and known conclusions in a creative endeavor, an increase in mental effort is needed.

Lucas and Nordgren discuss how, during creative tasks, it is very hard to know how much longer it will take to get to an answer than in a non-creative task. Some of you will say “Duh!” to this but bear with me.

They follow with:

“To summarize, creative thought is a trial-and-error process that generally produces a series of failed associations before a creative solution emerges. Furthermore, the associative thinking people draw on during the creative process makes it difficult to assess progress toward a solution. We argue that these features lead people to experience creative thought as effortful and they lead people to feel like additional ideas or solutions will be difficult to generate. In other words, creative tasks are experienced with an inherent level of disfluency that is produced by the creative thinking required to work through those tasks.”

The studies included idea generation sessions (with high to low levels of creativity), followed by having participants gauge where they were in the process, fluency rating, performance predictions, domain knowledge/experience effect and the choice of investment in persisting.

After the seven studies, their conclusion was:

“We found that people consistently underestimate the value of persisting on creative tasks and provided evidence that the disfluency of creative thought accounts for this effect. This suggests that adjusting beliefs about the value of persistence may promote creativity by reducing the possibility that people quit too early, leaving their best ideas undiscovered.”


My Example:

I was working with three CEOs and a VP from companies that were creating a new software company. These included the sister company, the VC entity and an outside company that was a partner in the endeavor.

We began at 9AM and through the course of the day we the below exercises to get them to diverge and think about the entire ecosystem that the new venture would be built on and exist in (pictured below):

1)      Business Model Canvas with Visual Risk Assessment – They had done the Business Model Canvas previously but not the Visual Risk Assessment.

2)      SWOT Analysis – They had done one before, but the previous facilitator had not mentioned that Strengths and Weaknesses were internal facing and Opportunities and Threats were external facing, so we got a very different result.

3)      Customer Journey Map

4)      Innovation Sectors

At 3PM we were in the middle of Innovation Sectors. The participants were looking at their watches and even I was getting a little nervous. Then the Aha! Moment happened. Suddenly everyone was in full innovation mode and we designed and mapped out the company; its products and services, organizational structural needs and strategic messaging in the last hour and a half. The map was in the style of an American football field (pictured below). Everyone walked away very pleased and one of the CEOs said “If I had not been part of this process and walked in before 3PM, I would have thought everyone was wasting their time. Because I was part of the process I really see its power.”

Photo above: Divergence exercises on wall. Final plan (convergence) on floor.

So I was a success, but next time it helps to know the science behind the “magic”.

And for those who I may work with in the future – This is why I ask for a two day session instead of one. Bear with me. Persistence pays off.

Observation 006 - Design Thinking: Let the Science Begin – Part 1


If we are honest with ourselves, the Design community needs to build a body of scientific knowledge that backs up what we have observed over time. Fortunately we have the likes of Jeanne Liedtka, Professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia to help us. Her November, 2015 article, entitled “Perspective: Linking Design Thinking with Innovation Outcomes through Cognitive Bias Reduction” is what I would call beachhead research, in that it organizes existing and long standing knowledge in order initiate a great body of further research to follow.

If you are interested in purchasing the article, you can find it here:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpim.12163/abstract

Liedtka begins with an overview of the state of Design Thinking both in the academic research as well as profession practice worlds, with the finding that the former is behind the latter, especially in regards to Design Thinking used by “non-traditional” designers.

Then she finds a world of knowledge in which to delve into the affect Design Thinking has:

“My initial explorations suggest that the literature on cognitive bias offers a good place to start. It provides a well-researched body of work over more than five decades delineating the flaws of human beings as information processors."

Through literature review, Liedtka proposes the following Cognitive biases are areas where Design Thinking can be a mitigating factor. Below are the name of the cognitive bias and a brief description of each:

1)      Projection Bias – “Decision makers project the present into the future. Tendency to over-estimate the extent at which their future experiences of an event will resemble their current experience of an event.”

2)      Egocentric Empathy Gap – “Causes decision makers to consistently overestimate the similarity between what they value and what others value. Tendency to project their own thoughts, preferences, and behaviors onto other people.”

3)      Hot/Cold Gap – “Decision maker’s emotions (hot or cold) unduly influence their assessment of the potential value of an idea, leading them to under- or overvalue ideas.”

4)      Focusing Illusion – “Decision makers tend to over-estimate the effect of one factor at the expense of others.”

5)      Say/Do Gap – “Consumers are frequently unable to accurately describe their current situation much less make predictions.”

6)      The Planning Fallacy – “Decision makers are overly optimistic about how well-received their ideas will be.”

7)      Hypothesis Confirmation Bias – “Decision makers seek explanations that coincide with their preferred idea” and ignore explanations that conflict. Decision makers use different levels of intensity in processing information consistent with their preferences versus that which contradicts their preconceived perceptions.”

8)      The Endowment Effect – “Decision maker’s attachment to what they already have, causes aversion to something new. Loss aversion that makes giving something up more painful than the pleasure of getting something new.”

9)      The Availability Bias – “Decision makers undervalue options that are harder for them to imagine.”

Now that she has targeted biases, Liedtka begins to organize them around specific Design Thinking tools that mitigate the risk of these biases. The below image is a copy of the table within her text:

I am very happy to see serious research being done into Design Thinking and thank Jeanne Liedtka, and others for their work. As a practitioner of Design Thinking it greatly helps in the explanation of what clients can expect.