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Design Thinking & the Seven Deadly Sins of Solutions

Iowa Creativity SummitLast week, I was part of a good-sized group to gather for the first Iowa Creativity Summit at Drake University in Des Moines.

Best-selling author Matthew E. May led us through two back-to-back, 90-minute workshops. I was a bit worried we were in for a couple hours of touchy-feely, New-Age-y-ness, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how practical, yet eye-opening, the summit turned out to be.

The evening focused on Design Thinking and how to break traditional thought patterns in coming up with innovative solutions. In a nutshell, Design Thinking is defined as “observe first, design second.”

We took on the challenge of several fun puzzles/dilemmas, and our struggles demonstrated how even the most creative people depend on learned patterns to solve problems.

May introduced the “7 Deadly Sins of Solutions” that come into play when faced with similar issues in real life:
  1. Shortcutting:  We all tend to leap to solutions, jumping into answer-finding before we step back and evaluate the real issue and its causes.
  2. Blind spots:  When faced with a problem, we make assumptions, and “fill in the blanks” with familiar patterns and ways of doings things. This creates blind spots that often prevent us from seeing a clear and simple solution.
  3. Not invented here:  We tend to be less trusting of solutions we didn’t generate ourselves.  We spend time trying to solve issues for which a solution (someone else’s) may already exist.
  4. Satisficing: Often, we jump right to the easy solution rather than taking the time to find the most elegant way of solving a problem.  We “satisfice” –a combo of satisfy and suffice—rather than pushing outside our comfort zone.
  5. Downgrading:  Like satisficing, downgrading involves taking a safer route when problem solving.  The difference is, we compromise our original goal, allowing ourselves to claim success with an inferior solution.
  6. Complicating:  By nature, most of us overthink things.  We don’t trust that the simplest (which isn’t necessarily the same as easiest) solution just might the best.
  7. Stifling:  We are masters at shutting down ideas—both others’ and our own.  May calls this ideacide—second-guessing and mistrusting, rather than experimenting and taking chances. 

May also shared a couple of very engaging videos that demonstrate the power of Design Thinking.  Here are the links so you can enjoy for yourself: 




Some useful takeaways (and a killer slice of red velvet cake) made for one of the better Thursday evenings I’ve had in a while. I’m looking forward to checking out more of May’s work.