Q&A with SCD: Creative problem-solving with design thinking (+ Post-its!)

I've been thinking a lot about the creative process lately. It's absolutely critical in marketing when it comes to engaging our audiences, yet when time is short it can be the first thing to go. I decided to ask two members of the Siebel Center for Design (SCD) team to share some insight on how we can all leverage design thinking principles in our process. Lisa Bralts (below left) is the Associate Director of Marketing, and Kendra Wieneke (right) is the Associate Director of Business Development and Advancement.

Kristin: The core of Siebel Center for Design is teaching and practicing design thinking, so here’s a question you probably get a lot: What is design thinking?

Kendra: I think the easiest entry point is that design thinking is just a really powerful tool for creative problem solving – one that puts human needs at the center of the process, from the beginning through the middle and to the end. As you go through the process, it helps you discover your own creativity, it helps leverage insights from people who are different from you, and it brings together interdisciplinary perspectives.

Lisa: Yes, all of that. I would also add that it’s a way to organize thinking. It really does help crystalize the steps in the problem-solving process and synthesize the information you’ve gathered. 

Kristin: Can you describe a way you’ve used design thinking in the world of branding and marketing?

Lisa: Designing a website is a good example. Without design thinking, the only people involved in the process might be the people who are designing the website and writing the copy. But if you use design thinking, like we’re doing now for our upcoming website redesign, the process is different. Before you do anything else you start by interviewing a lot of different potential users and audiences, then taking those insights and synthesizing them to shape the website and content. 

Kendra: To build on what Lisa is saying, I think the key contribution of design thinking versus other methods of problem solving is that it forces you to get rid of any assumptions about what the solution will be. Right now especially, people make a lot of assumptions about the technology or digital solution or platform, before thinking about who’s actually going to use it or interact with it. Design thinking forces you to document those assumptions and seek out the actual unmet needs of the people you’re trying to reach. 

Kristin: That all sounds great, but when you have too much to do (we all know what that's like), adding a process like that can seem time-consuming!  

Lisa: Design thinking is really proactive, not reactive, which is an important part of doing efficient work with the best end result. It’s definitely easy to feel like we just need to react and make something. But you have to put the time in at the front to reap the benefits at the end. The design thinking process makes sure that happens. If you’re not taking the time at the front, you’ll end up with more time-consuming changes you need to make later on.

Kristin: I've noticed that Post-it notes are almost like a mascot for SCD. There's plenty to love about them, but I'm wondering what you love about them at SCD?

Kendra: For design thinking you need a flexible, moveable way to organize and reorganize your ideas, and synthesize everything together. Post-its are great for generating ideas and seeing how three or four disparate ideas can become one really good one. I also think of post-its as the great equalizer of ideas. We’re driving innovation and creativity by not assuming that any of our ideas are wrong. We get them all out by putting them on Post-its. Everyone’s contributing. 

Kristin: Thanks for sharing some of that SCD secret sauce, Lisa and Kendra!

Be sure to check out the companion post on this topic, featuring four design-thinking tips we can all apply to our work.