Don Draper’s design thinking approach to problem solving
What problem are you trying to solve?
He had the ability to solve a problem like no one else. They’d come to the agency because they wanted him and only him to sell their cars, increase their cigarette brand, and persuade people to fly in their planes. They had problems and know one had solutions like Don Draper. Don had the ability to cut to the heart of the problem and read people like no one else; to tell what they were thinking, feeling and wanting, sometimes even better than themselves.
When Don (from TV’s Mad Men) had some tough news for a client or had to answer a tricky question about their product or idea, he would impart the famous line “what do you want me to say”…. Which basically translates to: ‘do you want the cold-hard-honest truth or a sugar-coated-candy-yes-men lie?’
Whether old Don knew it or not, he was implementing a part of what we now term as ‘Design Thinking’.
So what is Design Thinking? Firstly, it’s a solution based way of thinking, asking the question ‘what problem am I trying to solve?’
Secondly, this way of thinking differs from other forms of problem solving by identifying and determining both the known and unknown aspects of the problem in order to discover hidden parameters and open alternative paths which may lead to the solution.
Sheda uses Design, Artificial Intelligence and technology to solve complex problems with an emphasis on delivering solutions that make and accelerate impact and bring about social change.
This form of creative thinking also comes with a set of guidelines:
Identify an opportunity / market research high level
What is? (Current reality) Define problem
What if (Future envisioned) Create and consider many options
What wows (refine selected options, repeat)
What worked? Pick winner
When we talk about ‘design’ we often think of an object or end result.
In this case, its most effective form is a process, an action or a verb, but not a noun.
Design is the most powerful tool and when used effectively, can be the foundation for driving a brand or business forward. So really, we all can be designers and get involved in the process of creating a solution to the problem at hand.
But often we can make the mistake of not putting the ‘right’ thought into our ideas.
We get people come to us here at SEED every week with ideas for apps, websites and products.
They come in really excited about their vision, which is great, but a ‘good’ idea should first be scrutinised with the question: ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’.
Some are readily prepared for this and naturally came to their idea as a means to solve a problem, but others are instantly lost for words, not having thought about this previously.
Usually after a long pause, they answer ‘I wanted to do my own version of ___(name popular app/idea here)___’ or ‘but it’d be cool, right?’, which leaves us having to impart some bad news with our best Don Draper impression; ‘…what do you want me to say?….’.
It’s a tough lesson to learn, and tough to hear, especially if someone’s put a lot of time and effort into an idea or product.
Whether we look at seat belts, water bottles, emergency exits, pop-up shelters, reusable coffee cups and even napkins, they were all designed as a solution to a problem.
Smartphones, apps, computers, tablets and watches, should all be viewed as a tool to solve problems rather than create something with no meaning.
So if you have an idea, instead of getting too far along and someone having to tell you “what do you want me to say?”, first ask yourself the question: “What problem are you trying to solve”.
This way you’ll have saved yourself some heartache and approached your idea from a Design Thinking point of view.
Matt is our Design Lead overseeing the entire process of UX, visual, interaction design and branding. Trained in graphic design, Matt has over 9 years experience designing clean UI, mobile and web applications for various platforms.