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10 Tips to Be an Effective Design Thinker

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Greg Holderfield is director of the Segal Design Institute, clinical associate professor and co-director of the MMM program. In the second of two posts, Holderfield examines what traits he thinks are essential to be an effective design thinker. 

Part 1: The power of design thinking

My experience has taught me that, first and foremost, a design thinker must have an optimistic mindset.

When you are truly innovating, you are often in a space that is unknown and uncomfortable. It is difficult to effectively develop and push ideas forward if your mindset continues to cast doubt in the early stages of innovation. Therefore, it is critical to reframe your perspective around what is possible and that your actions and voice are both optimistic and encouraging.

Also, it is my belief that an individual must possess the following 10 traits to be an effective design thinker:

  1. An observing eye and a constant sense of wonder (what is possible, not what is probable)
  2. An empathetic attitude towards people’s behavior and habits (qualitatively-based through in-context observation and discovery)
  3. A questioning mind that goes beyond the obvious
  4. Patience to remain in the problem space until the right questions are identified (problems are opportunities in disguise)
  5. A holistic approach to problem solving
  6. A willingness to experiment and build (doing!)
  7. A passion for team-based collaboration that puts the user at the center of the opportunity challenge
  8. A willingness to always be sharing
  9. An acceptance of the messy (design thinking is not neat)
  10. A commitment to lifelong learning

Greg Holderfield‘s design work has been recognized globally, having received more than 25 design awards, including two prestigious German “Red Dot” awards, Japan’s “Good Design” award and the IF International Design Forum award. Most recently he was the vice president of design and strategy at ARC Worldwide / Leo Burnett, where he led breakthrough initiatives for McDonald’s, P&G, Kellogg’s, and Symantec.

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