Curate Update: A Little More About Design Thinking

By Christopher Durso, Vice President of Content Development, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

The centerpiece of next month’s Fall Curate 2019 program — an exclusive Executive Insights Forum for HSMAI Organizational Members — is a hands-on workshop on design thinking, which in a previous article we described as “a human-centered approach to creative problem solving” that can be used to address seemingly intractable challenges. Such as? Convergence and collaboration among hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals and departments!

Learn more from Marc Bolick, managing partner of DesignThinkers Group USA, who will be running our Curate workshop:

How do you define design thinking?

It’s a problem-solving methodology. The biggest differentiator between design thinking and other methodologies is that it’s based on empathy for the people that you’re designing for. It puts the people you’re designing for at the center of the process as opposed to starting with the technical feasibility or the business viability. It’s also different in the sense that you spend a lot of time finding the right problem to solve. We call that framing the challenge versus jumping straight to solutions. We spend quite a bit of time in an exploratory stage of unpacking the problem and building empathy for people before we’re even able to say, “Okay, this is really what we need to solve for.”

Are there particular types of problems for which design thinking is well suited?

There’s two parts to the answer. The first part is, it can be used and applied across a really broad spectrum of types of problems or challenges. There’s a couple of Stanford people who have written a book called Designing Your Life that uses design thinking to basically do what it says on the cover — essentially, to think about your life and your career and how you see yourself in the world, and and use design thinking for that. That’s an example of how broad and how versatile the methodology can be used. It really is very good at problems that are poorly bound, where there’s a lot of different stakeholders involved and a lot of moving parts or complexity.

I would say it’s not the right methodology for improving a process or an existing system. Six Sigma is really good at improving quality and taking out defects and taking out costs based on repeated process. Design thinking is not the methodology to use for that. Equally, I would say that design thinking’s not for problems where you’re solving a technical issue, because it’s not a technical-based problem-solving methodology. Although it has roots and foundation in the scientific method, it’s more for problems where you’re focusing on the people that you’re designing for and then you just work back from there to, “Okay, how can we get it to work and is it financially sustainable?”

What will the workshop you’re leading at Curate look like?

The first thing we’re going to do is level-set people on what design thinking is. We’re going to make sure that everybody understands the basics of design thinking. We do that as briefly and concisely as we can, giving some examples, because we always talk about design thinking as being something that you have to do to learn it. And then we’re going to pick what we call a design challenge — a problem area, if you will — to explore, and we’ll use some of the tools and activities that I referred to, to explore that problem area.

We’re really just trying to skim across a few points that we think are really interesting and activities that will expose them to some of these tools, so they could literally go back to the office and use them the next day. What we’re not expecting them to do is to do design thinking from end to end the next day. We’re just going to give them some simple, versatile activities that you can use in a context that’s outside of that full design thinking process but have their foundation and their roots in design thinking and in this empathy thing.

It is, as I said, what makes design thinking different from other problem-solving methodologies. It’s empathy, and that’s one of those things that you don’t learn in college. But that is the key differentiator of design thinking — this idea that you need to understand who you’re providing value to. These tools that we’re going to give people are going to be tools that act as an interface for them to have a conversation with other people about the types of people that they’re serving.

Fall Curate 2019 will be held at The Breakers Palm Beach on Sept. 4–5. If you’re not already registered, check with the primary contact on your Organizational Membership to see if you might be able to attend.

Categories: Conferences & Events, Marketing
Insight Type: Articles