Design thinking, like that used in the AdaptNY workshop on Feb. 22, may be an unfamiliar term but the process behind it will be familiar to many journalists. It’s a series of steps that takes an idea to a fully realized product, kind of like taking a story from a pitch to a fully reported, finished piece.
The process, as defined by Stanford University’s d.school, involves five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. They have a handy guide, the Bootcamp Bootleg, that explains their approach to design thinking and offers helpful tools for each step.
As Anna Li detailed in a post for the Poynter Institute, journalists can use design thinking for a creative boost and better community engagement. Here’s a shorthand version of the five steps in preparation for our upcoming workshop with ONA.
Think about the community you serve. What do they need from your work? The key is to ask them directly to get a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Once you have an understanding of needs, you can move on to figuring out what you can do to serve them better. You can now start defining your focus.
Don’t keep this process to yourself. Work with a group of colleagues and talk through ideas. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and the Washington Post has a “two-pizza” rule of thumb. That is, your team should be large enough for at least an order of two pizzas. You could also brainstorm with a wider community through social media.
This step brings words and ideas to physical form. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you need to have an app built and ready to go. Think whiteboards, post-its and sketches. What would an app or interactive feature look like? Try working through a couple of ideas without shooting anything down.
Here’s the scary part, where you put your refined project to the test. This might mean opening up the discussion to a larger group of colleagues or setting up an early release model for your community to try out. Ask for feedback and pay attention. Change what isn’t working, improve what is. And if the project falls flat, don’t get discouraged. Go back to step one and repeat the process.