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Want to Be a Better Problem-Solver and Opportunity-Finder? Strategic Design Thinking Holds the Key

Design thinking awakens creativity and activates innovation.

Moura Quayle has had an amazing career as a landscape architect, urban-systems designer, a strategic-design scholar, senior leader in government, university dean, and co-founder of UBC Sauder School of Business Quayle draws from her multi-faceted background in academia, government and business to illuminate the power of strategic design as it applies to leadership in her new book, Designed Leadership. She teaches you how to use the mindsets, tools, and methods of design and designers to shape the practice of leadership. I have said in the past that design applies to leadership and management, not just products and services and Quayle does a brilliant job of bringing strategic design principles and practices to life as she walks you through her own learning journey as a designer, and design thinker. She also makes design thinking understandable and actionable by providing a simple step-by-step guide to help you solve complex problems in your own area of expertise, What is strategic design? Quayle cites Angèle Beausoleil, who describes the strategic design method as "an approach that involves strategic thinking and reflective action through the use of critical thinking techniques resulting in situated innovation." Quayle asserts, "Strategic design drives our thinking toward transformation, to action, and change, to designing something better." I asked Maura Quayle for tips from Designed Leadership that would be useful for entrepreneurs. Here are her 5 takeaways:

Pay Attention to your Thinking and Problem Solving Processes.

Sometimes it seems that entrepreneurs might jump too quickly into finding the right solutions, the right customers, and the right marketing strategy. In others words, getting on with it. After all, you are "doing" people. This tip is about staying in "Ask" in a very general way - you and your team will benefit from some work on your individual and team problem solving processes and innovation skills. Lean-start-up and business modeling are all great -- but "pre-work" on increasing your innovative capacity is critical.

Slow and Fast.

There are different paces for designed leadership. Generally, it takes time. There are some times when you want to go fast, fast, fast. Especially if you are generating ideas and testing them. There are other times that you should be in "not so fast" mode. Reflection is a learned skill. It takes time. Expect it. And don't forget to "mark time" as you grow your business. Pause and mark occasions --not just big events (IPOs) but perhaps weekly recognition of what has been accomplished by your team. And take time for your own designed leadership development on a regular basis.

Think and Speak Visual

Part of practicing designed leadership is building your visual communication capacity. Any opportunity that comes along--practice your visual thinking skills. Trying to explain something? Draw it. Diagram it. Trying to think through a problem and opportunity? Reach for a pen or a crayon or e-stylus. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs who are reaching across language boundaries as you deal with coders, designers, accountants and other edge disciplines. A drawing or diagram invites discussion and can clarify the most complex of issues where verbal language can easily leave us still puzzled - and more problematic down-right confused. So think and speak visual.

Connecting to Passion and People

There is a lot of talk about everything becoming more "human-centered"--all a good thing, although not really anything new. Being aware of how important it is to design with people in mind is important. But so is connecting your passion (your business and its value proposition to people) to the way you think about solving problems that inevitably can and will improve people's lives. So thinking about passion and people together works.

Continuous Learning

Designed leadership is most of all about continuous learning - formal and informal. As a busy, busy entrepreneur - how do you carve out time for learning? Partly, being a good listener and question asker increases your learning quotient. Every opportunity to talk with someone who probably is on another planet from you is a great learning moment (or two). It's about openness, learning to ask many good questions and thinking about learning as continuous.



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