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  • Writer's pictureantoniodellomo

Tips for Running A Design Thinking Workshop with Your Team

Running a design thinking workshop is one of the best ways to spark creativity and nurture a user-centric mindset within your design team. As a designer, you will encounter situations where you need to run design thinking workshops either with your team, your clients, or other departments in your organization. This article will give you a step by step guide on how to run design thinking workshops that come up with innovative solutions to user problems.

What is a design thinking workshop?

A design thinking workshop is a creative problem-solving session that is based on the principles of design thinking. These workshops are activity-based and they are often done in person but they can also be done remotely. The activities of a design thinking workshop are organized according to the three phases of the design thinking process: empathy, ideation, and prototyping.

  • Empathy: Developing a deep understanding of the problem that users face and empathizing with them.

  • Ideation: Coming up with many ideas on how the user problem can be solved.

  • Prototyping: Creating a prototype of potential solutions and then testing it with real users.

A workshop can last for a few hours long, a whole day, or even a week.

What are the goals of a design thinking workshop?

Design thinking workshops help design teams to create feasible and user-focused solutions to design problems. This helps the team to design better products faster, reduce costs, and increase profits. Other goals include:

  • Improving the problem-solving skills of the team. These skills are transferable to other design problems within the team.

  • Creating a sense of community in the design team because workshop participants have to collaborate in order to get a solution.

  • Giving the team a competitive edge by producing innovative and industry-leading ideas.

Who should run a design thinking workshop?

A design thinking workshop should be run by a designer who understands the design thinking process. The facilitator should also have presentation skills and the ability to keep the group engaged throughout the workshop.

How to run a design thinking workshop: a step-by-step guide

The design thinking process is made up of activities that are done before the workshop and during the workshop.

Step 1: Planning and preparation

Before you can run a design thinking workshop, there are some things that need to be in place first, they include:

  • Workshop objectives: This is a clear definition of the goals that the workshop should achieve. Is it to generate new ideas or to improve on an existing design product? This is also a good time to define the challenge or question that the workshop will answer. It might be “how can we improve the user experience of our website users?”

  • Workshop location: Choose a suitable location for your design thinking workshop. If the workshop is happening physically, choose a location that has enough space for your design team. If the workshop is happening online, decide on the meeting and presentation tools that you are going to use.

  • Workshop agenda: This is a plan of how and when the different activities are going to happen. Do not overschedule the workshop and be sure to include a lot of activities in your design thinking workshop agenda.

  • Workshop materials: Ensure that all the necessary design thinking workshop materials such as paper, marker pens, sticky notes, whiteboards, and props are in place.

After making all the necessary preparations as outlined above, the next steps will be the execution of your workshop agenda.

Step 2: Introduction

Welcome all the participants to the workshop and brief them on what they should expect during the workshop. Share the following information:

  • The main objective of the workshop and the problem that it is going to solve.

  • A schedule of the workshop activities.

Step 3: Kick off the meeting using an icebreaker

Use fun icebreaker activities to help your team loosen up before the workshop begins. This will make it easy for them to collaborate and share their ideas.

Step 4: Introduce design thinking

Make a brief presentation on what design thinking is, the phases of design thinking, and its benefits. This presentation is useful even for designers who are already familiar with the design thinking philosophy because it brings everyone up to speed and ensures that you are all on the same page.

Step 5: Empathizing with the user

This is the first step in the design thinking process where you encourage the workshop participants to put themselves in the shoes of the user. This will help them to start generating ideas on what the user needs from the product.

You can use activities such as role-playing and creating an empathy map to help the participants really understand the needs, wants, feelings, and language of the user. After these activities, give the participants a chance to share their findings and ask questions, if any.

Step 6: Get more specific on the problem

After the empathy exercise, participants are better placed to really narrow down on the problem that the user faces. Ask your team to create a problem statement that will guide the rest of the design thinking workshop.

Step 7: Come up with ideas and possible solutions

The next design thinking step is ideation where your team suggests possible solutions to the problem that they identified in step 6. Use techniques such as brainstorming to come up with a list of potential solutions.

Give the participants a chance to discuss their solutions and then come up with one refined solution.

Step 8: Create a user journey map

After settling on one solution, get your team to map out the steps that users will take so that they can solve the problem. These steps can be downloading an application, setting up an account, adding their bank details, and then sending money. Give them enough space and sticky notes to create a step by step representation of the user journey.

Step 9: Prototyping and testing

This is the final step in the design thinking process where participants will create low fidelity prototypes of their solution. Ask the users to create screens for each step of the user journey and then ask them to add functionality to their screens in the form of buttons.

Once again, give your team some time to compare their prototypes and then ask them to vote for the best prototype.

Step 10: Describe the next steps and close the workshop

Close the workshop by explaining to your team the next steps such as turning their prototypes into wireframes, high fidelity prototypes, and actual user testing.

This is also a good time to ask your design team what they learned from the design thinking workshop. Don’t forget to ask for feedback so that you can improve your design thinking workshop facilitation skills.

Solve design challenges with the best design tools

Design thinking workshops help your design team to come up with innovative and user-centered solutions to design problems. Use UXPin to design, wireframe, and prototype the innovative ideas that you come up with during your design thinking workshop.


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