When Apple famously urged people to “Think Different” in a 1997 ad campaign, it revitalized the company. Within 12 months, its stock price tripled.
Today I encourage you to think differently, too. I want you to think in new, innovative, and wildly different ways — and rewire your brain through design thinking. By practicing design thinking, you’ll awaken a power that can not only open new doors but also create them out of thin air.
Train Your Brain to Think Differently
To understand how to think differently, you need to understand a little about the human brain. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a myth that we use only 10 percent of our brains. Brain scans clearly show that we use most of our brain most of the time, even when we’re sleeping.
What’s more, there’s no such thing as a left-brain or right-brain personality or skill type. While the brain is divided into two hemispheres, neuroscience research shows left-brain or right-brain dominance is a myth. We’re not left-brained or right-brained. We’re “whole-brained.”
However, some of us identify as analytical and shy away from a non-linear approach to problem-solving. This may be due to the way our past experiences have shaped our behavior or our general personality.
This can cause our brains to get stuck into ruts. As psychologist and brain researcher Caroline Di Bernardi Luft and her colleagues conducted a concluded in a study published last year, we become stuck in ruts due to our brains’ habitual electrical patterns.
Our past shapes present and future behavior. To escape from these ruts — the old ways of thinking — we have to take advantage of our brain’s ability to rewire itself through humility and challenge.
The Brand Experience Difference
As a User Experience (UX) Designer, I’m constantly challenged to think outside the proverbial box. UX Design means creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences for users. In the words of Don Norman, co-founder and principal emeritus of Nielsen Norman Group:
“Products were once designed for the functions they performed. But when all companies can make products that perform their functions equally well, the distinctive advantage goes to those who provide pleasure and enjoyment…”
At Arke, we focus on brand experience. As our Co-Founder and CMTO Chris Spears said, “Your brand experience encourages a big-picture lens to evaluate experience in all of its contexts. It also weighs the impact it has on every person affiliated with your brand, whether that person is a customer, employee, supplier, vendor or another stakeholder.”
Good Design Solves Problems
Imagine an elegantly crafted home with high ceilings, exotic light fixtures, marble countertops, stainless steel appliances, and a modern minimalist staircase. Is this good design?
If you nodded “Yes,” then rethink the question. Is this good design for someone who is legally blind? As you can see, our previous aesthetic choices do very little to consider the needs of the visually impaired.
In practice, information about the user should inform our approach to good design. And while beauty is a byproduct of good design, it’s not the main goal.
Design is more than making sure your shoes match with your hat. It’s about solving problems.
How to Practice Design Thinking
The Interaction Design Foundation is a 16-year-old Danish nonprofit community with a focus on global design education. It describes design thinking as “an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.”
In short, design thinking helps you break free of old, even antiquated ideas that hinder innovation and the change your organization demands. But where do you start?
1. Understand the design thinking framework.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation that means empathizing with your users; defining your users’ needs and problems; ideating; creating prototype solutions; and testing those solutions. In other words, follow a process.
2. Ask stupid questions.
Cliff Seal, UX Lead at Pardot, a Salesforce company, said “stupid question time” creates a safe time and place to brainstorm without fear of embarrassment.
3. Cultivate creativity.
Follow the example of leading companies including Google, Nintendo, and Intuit to facilitate environments that purposefully cultivate innovation and encourage creativity.
4. Aim for diversity in the workplace.
By seeking input from people across a spectrum of genders, races, ethnicities, ages, and educational backgrounds, you gain the ability to explore perspectives outside of your own life experiences.
5. Engage your users.
By seeking direct feedback from your users, you gain insights and ideas that drive the most relevant and useful designs.
6. Build prototypes.
Reduce risk and assess new ideas with feedback from early prototypes. This takes your brainstorming to a tangible, flexible level without breaking the bank.
7. Focus on solutions over aesthetics.
Your primary goal is to solve problems, not to make a broken product aesthetically appealing.
Design Thinking Works
Design thinking opens the door to innovative solutions. You can take comfort in knowing there are established guidelines based on collective experiences that provide a guiding light for your transformation.
Design thinking isn’t new, but it always feels fresh and exciting — and you don’t have to be a designer to benefit from it.