It was exciting to be a part of xChange here in Milwaukee. Not only was the venue amazing (Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery), but the people I met were as well. We talked about the power that design thinking can have when it happens early in the process. That when we as design thinkers are brought in early, we can affect change and help our companies to innovate faster and stay ahead of the competition.

When it was my turn to speak, I talked about the similarities I find between solving design problems and with fixing and restoring motorcycles. My process starts with diagnosing and isolating the problem. With a design problem, this starts by listening. I try to understand what it is that needs to be accomplished. I put myself in their shoes and think like it is my company. Too often the problem as it is presented is not the real problem, but rather a tactic. Solving a tactic without thinking it through doesn’t always address the underlying problem. If the context and the underlying problem are understood, a more thought out and focused solution can be developed.

The second part of my process is the repairing. “What is best” is a quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and is the question I ask when approaching a problem. What is best might be a design solution, but it could be anything. A company that’s problem is attracting new customers may think they need a mailer, but the best solution might be to hand out chocolates. Allowing ourselves to think beyond design and beyond our expertise leads to better solutions.

The last part of my process is verifying that the problem is solved and the only true way to measure this is with the customer and how they respond to it.

It was astounding to hear how so many in the design community have the same struggles within their companies. Hearing about the solutions and successes others have found has certainly made an impact on how I will approach future challenges within my organization.

BRIAN BOWLES
Senior Art Director at Kohl’s
Milwaukee xCHANGE – Keynote Speaker