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Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Despite (or because of?) the pandemic, 2020 was a very good year for me.

I’ll admit it right off the bat: the changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made my work better and more enjoyable. Not everything, some things degraded, but for the most part the adaptations forced upon all of us led to better, more creative and more impactful work. Despite the restrictions, lack of movement and in-person connection, I enjoyed my work more than I normally do, which is a lot. I feel reticence at the thought of things going back to “normal.”

Now I know that a lot of people have experienced high levels of frustration and disappointment at being stuck in so many poorly led digital meetings in Zoom, Teams and Skype. They felt bored to tears when sub-optimal in-person meetings moved directly online without any adjustments, offering the worst of both digital and in-person worlds. To these people I say: I’m sorry you had to put up with such dreck. It didn’t need to be that way. …


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I just finished reading Erika Hall’s updated version of her book “Just Enough Research.” As a designer and strategist, I do research all the time and have done so for over 20 years. I found Erika’s book refreshing, informative and critical. Critical as in every designer who does for research as part of their jobs should read this book.

If I would focus on one major thesis of the book it would be this: rigor. Hall makes the compelling case that good research, whether done by a professional or amateur demands rigor. And that rigor stems primarily from discipline and checklists. …


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Last December I had the pleasure of holding a Savvy Design breakfast seminar together with a previous client of mine, Apoteket. Apotekets Product Development Manager Carola Edsman and I spoke about the launch of their new service Apoteket DosPac that provides pre-packaged medicine for people with chronic ailments who need to consume several pills per day.

Carola and her team contracted with us at the now defunct Transformator Design to help them figure out how to bring an existing service targeted toward institutional customer to a new consumer market. The service, Apodos, served large and local health care institutions. Apoteket assumed that the demand for this service would grow robustly due to the aging of the Swedish public, but demand had tabled off. …


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I just finished Dr. Max McKeown’s “The Innovator’s Book” — a short, energetic treatise on, as he puts it, “rules for rebels, mavericks and innovators.” Dr. Max’s book isn’t a how-to, nor is it a playbook people can implement into organizations. Rather it is a collection of reminders for change makers who typically face long odds, waves of resistance and general inertia in creating innovative solutions. The truth is that for those who dedicate their work to making significant positive changes there are never enough reminders or inspirations.


A new decade. One hundred years ago we entered into the Roaring Twenties, a decade of change and wild highs that ended in catastrophe. Despite the many statistics showing how things have improved in the world over the last 20 years, the future feels tenuous if not downright dangerous.

What to do?! Can any individual really make a difference in these fast-changing times?

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

People will continue doing what we’ve been doing: we’ll keep our heads down, we’ll show up to work to do the work we’re assigned, go home and enjoy friends and family, and hope for the best. A lot of what I see in the media about personal resolutions and change centers around our private life: live sustainably, reduce consumption and waste, eat and act healthy, spend time with friends. Those are good suggestions and not just for our times. But those suggestions make a critical assumption that if we act primarily as individuals we will then collectively affect the change we want. …


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Photo: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen via Unsplash

I’ve trained a lot of people in human-centered design. I’ve used lots of different tools and methods. I’ve used different types of training scenarios although I’m clearly partial to working on real projects. It’s in those projects, training internal teams to innovate or training entrepreneurs to develop new business models, that I see most clearly the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

It has nothing to do with smarts. I train lots of smart people in design thinking who develop quite poor solutions. It has nothing to do with “creativity” (or rather what people seem to expect creativity to look like). …


Turn those design tools inward

It’s always rewarding to help organizations change their way of working to be more customer centric using design thinking. Like any change or transformation initiative, it has its ups and downs. One thing we notice is that employees feel jazzed up to use the design mindset and tools for creating better client solutions. One thing we sometimes forget is that they can use the same tools internally, with co-workers, staff and leadership, often to great effect.

In a typical capacity building engagement, we need to make sure that people have room to reflect and anchor their learnings. One way we do this is to have them create an internal customer journey of their experience. Turning this design tool inwards gives people valuable time for reflection and discussion. …


”Our organization wants to work in a more customer-centric way. We feel we need to innovate more.”

When we start working with clients, this is often our starting point. How do we shift ways-of-working to spend more time understanding customers and solving their challenges in unique ways? We’re digging into and starting to change the “way things get done” in organizations, sometimes referred to as “culture”.

I spend a fair amount of my work day training, teaching and coaching people to use design thinking and service design. My team and I typically work with teams of people working on real projects at work. …


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This tweet really stuck with me, kind of like a social media earworm. I can’t tell you how much I’ve seen and experienced (and done myself!) over the years. It’s made me come to this conclusion:

Designers should stop trying to show that they are the smartest person in the room. Design’s superpower is asking better questions. Yet put designers in client meetings and most will spend their times talking and explaining to clients their clever ideas, findings, and beliefs. So much talk, so little listening.

Many people believe that designers like explaining so much because they really, really want and need to convince clients of the depth, and truth and sheer brilliance of their ideas. The smartest person in the room syndrome. Design is one of those things that people claim NOT to understand. Many organizations act as if focusing on customers and citizens instead of internal assumptions seems counterintuitive instead of plain common sense. So, designers feel the need to not only bring customer experiences and needs to life, the feel the need to proselytize and evangelize design. …


When there’s so much terrible in the world today, causing me, at least, daily angst reading about Trump, climate change and school shooting, to name three of a multitude of evils, I feel it’s more important that ever to lift up the exceptional. Simply put, I wish life were more like The New Yorker in every way.

It’s hard for me to describe the joy and contentment I get from reading its long-form, slowly developed stories. The journalists do their craft the way journalists everywhere should. The stories are nuanced, personal and well-researched. They make a point and have a point of view. …

About

Rich Nadworny

Design Director and co-founder of Savvy Design Collaborative, design-driven entrepreneurship at YALI Dartmouth, VPR commentator, now playing in Sweden.

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