Coaching Approaches for Longer Design Thinking Projects

Design Thinking education for professionals mostly comes in short, experiential formats. After having spent two or three days going through a full innovation cycle in which no step takes longer than an hour, participants are often asking about possible structures of longer projects and coaching initiatives.

In several projects, we have used a coaching approach which is built around regular, structured workshops in which the team works through the converging phases of the design process and then diverges to do homework. In a sense, a rhythm of getting together and making decisions in a team, then spreading out in smaller teams to gather data, meeting again, spreading out etc. I find this structure uses people’s time efficiently and delivers good results.

In a recent project redesigning idea management, the flow was:

1. Kickoff – Workshop: Working through Understanding the problem, a fast forward of the design challenge and preparing field work.

—- Field phase: Four weeks of research built around the team members’ availability.

2. Synthesize – Workshop: Working through the data gathered all the way to prototypes to test hypotheses.

—- Field phase: Four weeks of decentralized testing prototypes and hypotheses.

3. Iterate – Workshop: Working through feedback from testing all the way to a presentation of a concept prototype.

And this could be repeated more often. Here is (a rather confusing) illustration of how the three workshops related to the Design Thinking process:

design thinking project structure