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Sword Swallowing, Design Thinking, and Problem Solving

Design thinking means starting with the problem.

Facebook designer Ben Barry sees “design thinking” as one of the necessary, unspoken skills needed for great work, citing TextEdit as his weapon of choice in an interview with the 99u.

“Sitting down and getting thoughts in writing about what it is you’re doing, who it’s for, why you’re doing it – once you have that clear understanding, it becomes much easier.”

Design-thinking requires you to understand just enough of a problem to begin asking the right questions. It creates a bias for action, gravity, one that will prevent your early assumptions from becoming the all-consuming - likely false - hypotheses that you will seek evidence to support, even when little exists. When you start with the problem, you tend not to stray far from it. I like that.

The hardest problems that I have had to solve have a common set of properties that aren’t very surprising: grey, unclear parameters, and ambivalence - progress that might feel like ‘better’ but could actually be ‘worse.’ I like these sorts of challenges.

Asking the right questions questions of not just others, but also myself is something that I am trying to do more. What am I about to do? Why am I about to do it? If I can’t figure out why I am doing something, then I try not to do it. I say try because there are those things that we’re aware of doing, that we don’t want to do, and yet we do them anyway. They’re called habits.

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