An Interview with Michael Chapman, Keynote Speaker Design Thinking: Discovering Unmined Opportunities

An Interview with Michael Chapman, Keynote Speaker Design Thinking: Discovering Unmined Opportunities

We look forward to welcoming Michael Chapman, a design research leader with over 20 years of practice, to the Lean in Design Forum stage. Michael spent 14 years at IDEO as a design director and research discipline lead, established the design research and UX strategy discipline at Ascension Health, and is currently helping organizations take a human-centered design thinking strategy to make bold moves. Michael will discuss how Design Thinking spurs the discovery of unmined opportunities that “differentiate forgettable, fine design from great design.”

Dive into takeaways from Michael’s interview about his address, which will offer notable ideas and inspiration—and don’t miss his presentation, Design Thinking: Discovering Unmined Opportunities, on Thursday, May 2, at 8:45 am. Register for the Lean in Design Forum today!

Design Research—Laying the foundation and more.

It’s about getting the right solution for the right problem people are facing. Not what an organization thinks the problem is. What humans think it is.

As a design research leader, Michael shared that understanding people and user experience is the foundation. Companies turn to design research when they “want to create something or make something better and they’re not sure what to do.” In a Design Thinking approach, the first step is to understand the population being designed for—looking at how they view the world and what their issues are from emotional, cognitive, and functional perspectives.

“My job is to take the broader team into the field where people live, to understand the world they are inhabiting, and look for commonalities between them. We do this to understand both their burning and subtle issues, what they are trying to accomplish, and what values a solution needs to give them—while looking to the future and understanding the consequences of the decisions. You don’t want negative or unanticipated downstream consequences. It starts by laying the foundation.”

He noted that as a design researcher, his job is to take a business problem—for example, increase store traffic—and learn what people value and need to want to visit, to achieve the desired business objective.

It’s also about ensuring the design stays true to what was learned. Designers need freedom to use their expertise in figuring out the design while staying true to the core value proposition. Finally, “Design research plays a role before release. So, we’ve found the opportunities, but let’s de-risk that solution. It includes usability testing and QA before launch to ensure we don’t put out something sub-par. As we like to say, design research makes sure we build the right thing, and then build the thing right.

Design Thinking for solutions

“It’s about iteration, divergence, convergence, always building and accumulating that knowledge.”

Michael spent 14 years at IDEO, a global design and innovation company, which popularized the term Design Thinking. He sees Design Thinking as “building a taller tent pole to make design more inclusive for those who do not consider themselves designers.”

As per Michael, Design Thinking is about the mindset of a designer. It’s embracing all stakeholders’ ideas of how to reach a solution and making sure it’s done with rigor. In this way, by the end, “the solution is well tested and prodded and stressed out to the point when you have a high degree of confidence it will be successful.” Michael shared some key points:

  • Empathize with, respect, and understand the people you are designing for.
  • Don’t jump to the solution. Do synthesis to get to the root cause of the problem; recraft it in a new way and define the problem to solve.
  • Keep in mind that “to come up with a great solution, you need a lot of solutions first”
  • Prototype to make it real; to go from the idea to the design – “turn the corner from a notion to pen and paper—or mouse to screen these days.”
  • It’s about building and accumulating that knowledge so, in the end, you have confidence in what you are doing.

Lean and Design Thinking—Complimentary approaches

“These siblings of approach can play off each other to create that shared goal of creating value, without adding a lot of other things to wade through to get to that value.”

Michael noted there are elements of Lean and Design Thinking that are complementary with slightly different approaches. For example, Respect for People is a large component of Design Thinking. In addition, with Lean, it’s about helping teams get out of silos and look to the whole, and that’s where design research is hopefully coming into play—looking at the big picture of people’s lives.

“They can work together. The intent is very similar. It’s less about the label and more about understanding the parts to use to get to that solution that is driving good business and good consumer outcomes. People can understand how and when to deploy these different philosophies to get the best out of a particular project.”

In the field— St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

“It was to give the families a place to get away and get back their identity, and roles, as a family.”

Michael discussed his experience using Design Thinking for a major St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital project. As a non-profit hospital, donors tour the hospital to see the results of their support. The project goal was to build a space where kids and their families wouldn’t be in front of people constantly and could experience some normalcy. Michael offers, “We found the unmined opportunities. It became the Family Commons. It went from a large idea to a powerful, 45,000 square-foot area for families off-limits to tours. It was a Design Thinking success.”

The big takeaways

In closing, Michael shared some key takeaways he hopes attendees will leave with:

“Understanding how, who, or why someone will be using their design will be helpful to defend or build on that design in front of stakeholders—while simultaneously finding those gaps, niches, or reframing opportunities that differentiate forgettable, fine design from great design. It’s about the confidence to keep pushing what is right and find what no one has found before. That’s where Design Thinking and Lean can complement each other—to find that path forward to push design into the next great stage of where it can go.”

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago! Register for the 2024 Lean in Design Forum!