From producer to participant
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From producer to participant

Design thinking

Having been producer on Design Thinkers Academy London Bootcamps for the past three years, I recently had the opportunity to attend the week-long Summer Bootcamp as a delegate.

I wanted to attend this session to experience our premium product as a delegate and also expand my own learning, probably taking myself out of my comfort zone too. As a team we are working on a project to understand our customers better and their journey related to all our training programmes, so design thinking was ideal for this.

I arrived on Monday morning to register and grab a coffee before the start, with a sense of excitement and some nervousness. We always set our delegates a real-life change to work on, which changes for each Design Thinkers Bootcamp. As I had just been on a month work break away from the office I knew very little about the challenge and specifics of the programme for the week, so I was in the same boat as all the other delegates.

On Day 1 after an introductory session we had a masterclass on ethnographic research before being set our challenge for the week by Sophie Thomas of WRAP. It was a very topical and motivating problem to tackle – reducing plastic waste.

How can we harness the appetite among UK citizen-consumers for swift action on plastic waste and pollution to deliver fresh, impactful and systemic solutions?

  • We’re focused on reducing or eliminating single use plastics
  • We’re drawing our inspiration from consumer behaviour
  • We’re creating concepts that can be made quickly and that are feasible, viable and desirable

Then it really was in at the deep end and time to get to work, using the design thinking tools to aid our progress on the challenge. I had used some design thinking tools in my work as a project manager but I was introduced to many more. By the end of the day I was inspired and exhausted by the activity and slightly overloaded with information. I produce training courses – it has been a while since I’ve been on the receiving end of a training session!

The masterclass each morning was a great way to start and really set you up for what was going to happen during the day. I had heard Joe Ferry, one of our masterclass presenters, speak before. This time I was hearing things differently, in a way that related to the challenge and the problem I had been set and I was 100% immersed in every word he was saying.

The pressure was building as the week progressed in advance of our presentations back to the client on Thursday afternoon, for them to select the winning team who had the strongest response to the challenge. Questions kept arising in my mind – Did we have the right idea? Was the idea strong enough? Did we really understand the end user? Were we empathetic?

We also had a to prepare our presentation, which we did using storytelling and role-play. This reinforced for me how important narrative is and how it can really help you get your message across in a compelling way. I’m familiar with some of the best practice tools and techniques of design thinking, but you can’t beat actually having a go.

The presentations were all fun with lots to fit into three minutes, with the Dragons then having five minutes to ask questions, so you have to be prepared for this too. The delegates all get to vote on which idea they think is best in addition to the Dragons. The winning team gets the trophy and the glory, but this time the team that came second got a special mention as the result was so close with lots of toing and froing before the final decision. It was, in fact, my team that came second which we were really happy about!

During the week I was really enjoying stretching my mind, coming up with lots of ideas, soaking up the design thinking mindset, working fast, embracing failure and moving onto the next thing with my team, who came from diverse business sectors and areas of the globe which added fascinating insights too.

The Bootcamp also opened my eyes to the importance of team dynamics and how this can influence the outcomes of a project, in addition to the ability to come up with an innovative solution to the problem. A true reflection of the outside world.

Having spent most of the week working in a team the final day was much more about the individual, looking at your own skills, plan and how to take the new knowledge back into the work place, this was also fascinating.

Now back in the office, I will be using my learnings on our team project about how we interact with our customers from initial enquiry to what happens after they have been on one of our courses, plotting the highs and lows along the way. We will look at all the pain points and work together on how to eliminate these to provide the best experience possible. All very exciting.