Take a stand

Linus Pauling, a Nobel prize winner, once said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas."

As a designer, Paul's words are no stranger. We explore ideas to find the best solution. Some of us may know the idea of exploring ideas from a methodology popularized by the UK Design Council, Double Diamond. One of the key processes is to find lots of ideas and inspiration to answer a clearly defined problem.

If we talk solely about the number of ideas, finding as many ideas as possible is arguably easy. We can take some time to do some research, competitive analysis, or go through an ideation process like crazy 8s with our team.

But the tricky part is to think about the rationale behind the ideas we have, isn't it? Which idea is best suited to answer the problem? Which idea has win-win solutions and considered from various points of view but still aesthetically pleasant?

Lose the argument

I've seen from the designers I collaborated with that they can have a lot of ideas. At first glance, their ideas are good. But when I did some digging and asked them, "which idea comes closest to being the solution to the problem? And why do you think that? – Some were silent for a moment, feeling unsure of what to say. Some of them answered that they needed to do cognitive walkthroughs or usability studies to get confidence about which idea is best. Ironically, they have spent their time thinking about potential problems and solutions. Still, they didn't have convincing opinions to help stakeholders understand the idea and make decisions.

I didn't see them taking a stand on the solutions they made.

I saw many good ideas lost in battles for feasibility reasons – or ideas shattered by those who give snap judgments with little context.

Taking a stand, finding the rationale, and striving for ideas to be heard won't be a straightforward journey. Sometimes the project we work on is fraught with uncertainty. In a short time, we need to navigate solutions out of ambiguity. We seek an understanding of the data, but we have to move forward with incomplete data at the end of the day.

As a designer, often times, we conceive what doesn't yet exist. It's not easy to convince something that hasn't been there before. Sometimes the existing solutions become shortcuts – in the name of being pragmatic to move fast and have a quick-win.

We often hear, "Don't reinvent the wheel." Still, we lost the argument. We don't know how to balance creativity and being pragmatic.

Still, be open to others' points of view.

Taking a position and speaking up doesn't mean we want our ideas always to win and follow our direction a hundred percent. We remain open to other opinions or if there are recent data or findings that we didn't take into account.

Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor, explains that she pushes her students to take a position or a stand. Because it forces students to think deeply about their ideas, the risks, the weaknesses, and be open to influence, so they are ready to challenge each other.

I believe what the professor said applies to our exploration process. We need to think through our ideas in detail, such as risks, weaknesses, and hypotheses, which still require further investigation and a logical correlation between user problems and business needs.

These days designers demand a seat at the table, which will be available, of course, with greater responsibilities.

When we do our responsibilities: taking care and thinking deeply with the ideas, taking a stand, and being ready to challenge each other, the seat will be automatically available.

In that way, we take advantage of our position as someone who empathizes with users to influence the team and seek harmony between people, business, and technology.

Are you ready to take a stand for your ideas?

  1. Take a Seat in the Harvard MBA Case Classroom