Really interesting article in the New York Times relating to Bernard Roth’s book The Achievement Habit. Roth, a prominent Stanford engineering professor, says that Design Thinking can help everyone form the kind of lifelong habits that solve problems, achieve goals and help make our lives better.
“We are all capable of reinvention,” says Dr. Roth, a founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and author of the book, “The Achievement Habit.”
The author of the article in the Times, Tara Parker-Pope, applied Design Thinking to her own life over the past few months, and it seems to be working. She says she lost 25 pounds, reconnected with close friends and refocused her energy on specific goals and habits. Design Thinking, she advocates, has helped her identify the obstacles that were stopping her from achieving her goals, and it’s helped her reframe her problems to make them easier to solve.
A key element of Design Thinking is empathy and working out “The problem to be solved”. Often what people think is the problem, is not actually the problem. So, applying this inwardly, think about the problem you want to solve. Then ask yourself, “What would it do for me if I solved this problem?”
One example Dr. Roth uses is a person who wants to find a life partner. Ask yourself, “What would finding a partner or spouse do for me?” One answer might be that it would bring you companionship. The next step is to reframe the problem: “How can I find companionship?” There are more and easier answers to the new question — you can meet friends online, take classes, join a club, take a group trip, join a running group, get a pet and spend time at the dog park.
Tara, in her NYT article, says it happened a few months ago when she declined an invitation to a party with many of her favorite people who she hadn’t seen in years. She didn’t go because she was embarrassed by her weight, and she just didn’t feel up to seeing people who knew her when she was thinner. She realized that her issues with her weight were getting in the way of her living her life.
It was time for Design Thinking. At this point, a design thinker would ask “What would losing weight really do for you?”
The answer surprised her. She wanted to feel better about herself, feel less tired and have more energy and confidence to socialize and reconnect with friends. Conducting her own personal empathy exercise helped her realize that weight loss was really not her problem. Instead, she needed to focus on her friendships, on boosting her energy and getting better sleep.
So reconnecting with friends and getting better sleep became her focus. She bought new clothes, which made it easier to make social plans.
And surprisingly, this new, more empathetic approach to her own needs also illuminated some ways to improve her diet. She realized a carb crash around lunchtime was making her very tired during the day, so she eliminated sugar and processed carbohydrates and immediately had more energy. In shifting her focus away from weight loss to the real issues weighing on her life, she ended up losing 25 pounds.
She says that developing empathy for myself was truly a breakthrough made possible by Design Thinking. You can read the full article here.
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Jeffrey Tobias’ career in the application of information technology, strategy and innovation has spanned academia, consulting, big and small business, government, research and entrepreneurship. He is Director of The Strategy Group, delivering strategic advice on Innovation, Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Ideation, Collaboration and Globalisation to corporations and governments, and is an active Angel Investor in the technology space.