Spaces, Disruption and Design Thinking

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How important is the space in which you conduct a design thinking workshop? Cant it happen in any room, in any building, with any set up?

When we explain to clients and people that we need to check out the venue before conducting a Design Thinking Intro workshop for them, it is usually met by a baffled response. So I will attempt to explain the relation between spaces, people and design thinking.

Do you remember the last time you went to a beach?

When you arrived there, what did you feel like doing?

Let me guess, you wanted to go on a long walk to explore the place to eventually find a quaint, indoor café where you could catch up on some reading…
…probably not!

Your first thought was actually to take a quick dip in the cool waters of the ocean, and then come back and lay on the beach chair, soaking in the sun and drinking a chilled beer.

However, if I changed this setting to a small town in Himachal Pradesh, India, you would probably want to do all the things I mentioned above – “go on a long walk to explore the place to eventually find a quaint, indoor café where you could catch up on some reading”

The point I am trying to make, in a round bout way, is that a space and its vibe influence your actions and your vibe.

As a refreshing change, we recently facilitated our nth client workshop, in a space that was really conducive to our purpose. And as we had imagined it was one of the most successful workshops we have witnessed.

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This is because a space and its vibe influence your actions and your vibe.

When you replace isolated desks with hexagon shaped tables and replace walls with surfaces on which you can write and paste, post and project, you disrupt the minds of your participants. You force them to discard their ways of working and explore new alternatives.

Design Thinking is usually described as a problem solving methodology. But the true value of it lies in its mindsets. It is these mindsets of design thinking that make it such a widely applicable process and it is these mindsets that help change the culture of organisations.

Hence I believe, that if Design Thinking were to be practiced in spaces that supported the mindsets it preaches, then the success of Design Thinking is sealed.

In the end, I would like to leave you with ideas you can use to disrupt the spaces in which you work, workshop, meet, brainstorm, etc.:

  • Change the way tables and chairs are arranged– let things be staggered and look chaotic, it’s better that the predictability of symmetry
  • Add some colour – Though formal corporate clothing and aesthetic says otherwise, people like colour
  • Play some music whenever you get a chance – it helps to get people out of their own heads
  • Find ways you can get people to move around 3-4 times through the day – no one likes stagnation.

If you have more ideas, add them in the comments, and we shall build this list!