November 10, 2015
By Laura Griebenow
November 10, 2015
In March I participated in the Twin Cities Service Jam, part of the 2013 Global Service Jam. With just 48 hours to work, six teams were challenged to ideate and create a human-centered service around the theme “Grow^”. The biggest challenge was not the time constraints, but rather walking into the project as a team with different skills, practice backgrounds, and without a common process to follow. What I’d like to share here is how following a design thinking methodology helped us collaborate effectively, which led to more efficient and innovative problem solving—and ultimately, a more human-centered service design.
Our five-person team came together with a common interest in the idea of growing children’s creativity. On day one we sat down and immediately started brainstorming solutions and functionalities. After an hour of discussion and problem solving, I pointed out to the team that we had yet to identify our users and discover their needs. In order to create a truly human-centered service, we needed to define what our users’ unmet needs were, rather than solving around our own ideas and opinions. At this point, I challenged my team to take a step back from problem solving. “Let’s consult our users to gain empathy first,” I suggested, “and then decide what service to build for them”.
We started fresh on the second day as I introduced my team to a design thinking methodology. We hit the streets and gained empathy by spending time with young families to learn about their children’s creative activities. We returned to the team with great findings to share, but when my teammates responded, “Okay, cool. Write it down somewhere I guess…”, I stopped my team again. I grabbed several pads of Post-it notes and Sharpie markers and brought my team to a wall to learn about our users together. It took the team a few minutes to feel comfortable with the radical collaboration and group unpacking method, but as we excitedly and frantically tossed up every bit of information we heard, I saw my team light up with enthusiasm, delight and real empathy for our users.
Our findings helped define two sets of users: technology savvy children between 6-12 years old and their family members. We learned that children’s creations are precious to their families and sharing the creations is very important for children to gain encouragement. We also learned that these creations are often difficult to preserve. We ideated solutions from our findings and put our concepts in front of kids and parents immediately to gain more empathy and refine our ideas. On the third day, we recapped, high-fived each other, then took a deep breath and continued to develop and fine-tune our service with a focus on our users. The end result was a digital tool that allowed children to capture, share, and preserve creative moments. Safe and secure social functionality and feedback loops were included to allow family members to encourage creative growth in their young children.
Had we not sought out empathy for our primary and supporting users, we may not have been able to increase the joys and reduce the frustrations that children and their family feel during and after creative moments. With empathy on our side and the needs of our users constantly at the forefront, my team came together and was able to develop a truly human-centered service.