I just finished teaching my graduate school class on design thinking for business. For a few weeks each fall I have graduate marketing, research, finance and mba students learning how to solve a classic business/marketing problem using design thinking methods and mindsets.

Framing. Empathy/Inspiration. Iteration. Storytelling. Prototyping. Curiosity.

Things they have yet to learn in their prior studies, or so I am told by my students.  Foreign concepts in business school, yet oh so useful. Once again, I was amazed by what the students were able to accomplish with these tools…oh, and one more….Failure.  While it is not highlighted in the syllabus, it is another secret weapon of the rapid iteration and exploration of design thinking.  Along the way, you likely will fail.

Proving the point of failing early to get to wow, one team struggled and resisted and was on a fast path to nowhere with only 3 weeks left to go.  They received a little “tough love” from the invited alien eyes who came to review their work in progress.  “If I were to grade this today, you would fail.”  They leaned in a bit more and iterated the process only to discover a “WOW” that took the breath of the sponsoring client away.  As the team of students shared “we wanted to find the simplest solution” to solve the problem.  Goose bumps. Silence. Awe.  Wow, what an incredible success born out of the ashes of failure just a few weeks earlier.

They had a choice of course.  They could have chosen to continue down the less fruitful path and try to dress it up in the interest of time and effort.  But, in true design thinking spirit, they iterated back to the beginning, questioning everything and discovering where the true breakthrough idea was.


Take Action

Think about the projects you are working? Are you dressing up a mediocre idea rather than iterating through the process to find the wow?  What would it take to iterate and see if there is another WOW yet to be discovered?

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