Renewing my own enthusiasm – by design

Confession. It’s been nine months since my last blog entry. And before I get to a recipe I’ve found for getting awesomeness back, there’s a bit of a back story. Last fall, I worked to heal a minor tweak in my back, and it took some time to get my rock climbing mojo back. At the same time, a big work project consumed most of my creative juices.

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

In April, I got my climbing groove back on in Joshua Tree National Park, thanks to Matt Walker and Inner Passage. That story will soon become a back story blog entry. In June, I had a surprise ambush date to Munich, courtesy of the Best Boyfriend in the World. That also deserves a back story blog entry – it’s a totally fun story to tell! All of the awesomeness couldn’t compete with this nagging problem – I had neglected my passion project. I had given into resistance, I was losing the inspiration I had received last summer from the Management Innovation Exchange and World Domination Summit. Heck, I felt like I was even letting Kid President down after he gave us all such a wonderful Pep Talk. I had yet to advance my plans to make the world more awesome, and the resulting lack of personal integrity meant enthusiasm gained in Joshua Tree and Munich had a slow, persistent leak.

Luckily, the universe does conspire. When a friend of a friend of mine recommended doing the +Acumen – course on human-centered design for social innovation, I knew I had to say yes. We have common interests, and it was a perfect way to start to develop the 50 million ideas floating in my head. We got two other amazing team members to join, and we’ll be working on a project to redesign space in which people can bring their whole human selves – to a community, to work.

Human-centered design is a process by which a team can design approaches to challenges. It is most commonly known for being used to design products, services and spaces. It’s increasingly being used for broader systems such as organizational transformation and social innovation. When I asked in December 2011, How can we redesign our approach to mental health?, I had this kind of process in mind, but lacked knowledge about, and experience with it. After a lot of networking, Meetups, workshops, communities of practice, LinkedIn discussion groups, books, mentoring, volunteer opportunities to serve in this capacity, I think I have a handle on the process enough to turn to my question about redesigning an approach to mental health.

There are a number of different approaches to design. Here are three examples:

Design Process as described by +Acumen and

Discover, Ideate, Prototype – the design process as described by +Acumen and for their 5-week course

The “what is? – what if? – what wows? – what works?” design process from “Designing for Growth: a design toolkit for managers”

101 Design Methods framework by Vijay Kumar

Sense Intent, Know Context, Know People, Frame Insights, Explore Concepts, Frame Solutions, Realize Offerings from “101 Design Methods framework” by Vijay Kumar

What I love about these processes or frameworks, is that with the right team, they can be resistance-busters. You see, having an idea is one thing, but developing it and realizing it is another thing all together. It’s not enough to wonder how we might redesign our approach to mental health. It’s time to do something about it. And when you have a path to follow, and you have good companionship, you have a way to outrun resistance.

Now the problem with paths that someone else has paved for you is that it may not always fit your context. In innovation literature, a wise man has written about innovating in your own skin. That means don’t just blindly follow the path paved by others, but put it into context of your organization, your industry, your situation.

In the case of the 5-week course, +Acumen and have three particular design challenges they’ve set up to teach this online course (encouraging savings, healthier food options, and social entrepreneurship). In addition to being the exact kinds of challenges on which the world needs over 12,000 designers from 136 countries focused, this makes the course shorter by taking out the difficult work of setting up the design challenge itself. Since the four of us have another worthwhile topic in mind, it means that we’re going to have to take a small detour from the course to fill in the process blanks that gets a team from zero to a well-framed design challenge.

As a detour, we’re taking pages from Vijay Kumar’s 101 Design Methods book, to conduct a popular media search of the most influential books, articles, videos we’ve come across in our professions. Together, our small group has a collective background in employee engagement, psychiatry, theater, organizational development, investigational research, innovation, and community project development – and that’s just scratching the surface. (We haven’t yet delved into the list of secret superpowers.) After we put our research into context, we’ll develop our research participant plan, and rejoin our regularly scheduled +Acumen-IDEO course, already in progress.

Stay Tuned

Stay Tuned by niznoz, on Flickr, Creative Commons license

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