Five Lessons You Can Learn from Designers

Last Updated Sep 2, 2009 7:52 AM EDT

Innovation tips from designersYou might be in sales, PR or accounting and barely have the artistic talent it takes to draw a stick figure, but that doesn't mean you have nothing to learn from designers. The people behind every product you love have certain habits of mind that can benefit young professionals in every aspect of business, according to Presentation Zen. The blog is offering ten ways that thinking like a designer can benefit businesspeople and aid innovation. With no less prominent a figure than President Obama repeating the business mantra that innovation is the key to the future, young people who are going to bring this bright new era of creativity to life need all the tips they can get. Here's a sampling:
  • Embrace constraints. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without constrains never would have been discovered or created.... There's no point complaining about constraints such as time, money, tools, etc. Your problem is what it is. How can you solve it given the resources and time that you have?
  • Adopt the beginner's mind. As the old saying goes, in the expert's mind there are few possibilities, but for one with the beginner's mind, the world is wide open. Designers understand the need to take risks, especially during early explorations of the problem. They are not afraid to break with convention. Good designers are open minded and comfortable with ambiguity early on in the process, this is how discoveries are made.
  • Check your ego at the door. This is not about you, it's about them (your audience, customer, patient, student, etc.). Look at the problem from their point of view -- put yourself in their shoes... Empathy, an under valued "soft skill," can be a great differentiator and is key for truly understanding a problem.
  • Obsess about ideas not tools. Tools are important and necessary, but they come and go as better tools come along. Obsess instead about ideas.
  • Sharpen your vision and curiosity and learn from the lessons around you. Good designers are skilled at noticing and observing. They are able to see both the big picture and the details of the world around them.
For the complete list of lessons check out the blog post, which also points interested readers to metacool's 16 innovation principles (right hand column). Principle one: experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world.

(Image of a crowd of designers by thinkpublic, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.