3 Design Thinking Lessons That Will Help You Nail Your New Year's Resolutions

Jazmin Harling-Gray

A monkey staring at its reflection in a compact mirror it's holding
Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

January 7, 2020

And just like that, 2019 is gone in a flash.

The start of a new decade signifies an era of new projects, ideas, and adventures. With that ambitious list of goals waiting to be checked off you might be wondering where to begin.

At Greatest Possible Good, we believe in using design thinking to build better, more sustainable businesses. With that, we’ve learned a few things from the DT process that have proven useful in various aspects of our lives.

Here are three lessons from design thinking that will help you create and accomplish your New Year’s resolutions.

Clearly Define the Problem

Often times, when we set New Year’s resolutions we start with the solution. We decide this is the year I’m going to be healthier, get more sleep, secure that promotion, or take vacation time to go on my dream holiday. But before we tackle these goals, it’s important to make sure our resolutions are backed by the root problem or intention.

When a design thinking team embarks on a sprint it is imperative that they first clearly define the problem with a “How might we?” statement. This allows them to keep their users and the needs of their users at the forefront of the design process without prematurely deciding on a plan of action.

Maybe your number one goal this year is to stop procrastinating. However, before you sharpie this goal into your brand new 2020 planner, think about why you procrastinated in 2019. Maybe you were overwhelmed with other responsibilities and didn’t have time to start early on upcoming projects. Or, maybe you weren’t confident enough in your current skill set to tackle new challenges.

Whatever the reason might be, it’s important to fully understand what has led you to want to make a change. When you start with the full picture of your intention you’ll be able to set more intentional and effective goals.

Rather than penciling in "stop procrastinating" at the top of your list, you might find that your New Year’s resolution should be to schedule meditation time between projects to prevent anxiety and burnouts, or to partner with your expert peers on projects that are outside of your comfort zone.

Never Be Afraid to Fail

A natural part of design thinking is failure. The most effective designers must be unafraid of failure in order to find the best solution possible for their users. It’s not often that one can design an app, service, or product without finding that some things simply don’t work.

In the same way that failure is an expectation of design thinking, it should also be an expectation when embarking on your New Year’s goals. Now, before you get ahead of yourself, I’m not saying that you should fail, but rather, if you do, that’s okay.

Let’s say you’ve decided to write one page of your first novel every day for the next year. That’s an amazing goal! Congrats!

It’s important to set your goal with the intention of achieving it, but if you don’t do so perfectly, what matters the most is how you re-frame that challenge after you stumble.

If you fail, learn from what went wrong. Maybe you’re just too tired to write on Monday evenings because that’s the busiest day of your work week, filled with meetings, deliverables, and travel. You can amend your goal to write two pages on Saturday mornings when the kids are at soccer practice, and give yourself a break on Mondays.

Failing to meet your original goal doesn’t mean that you should give up altogether. Designers often find that their original design wasn’t what their users truly needed. If your original goal doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and figure out which method is the best for you.

Two Brains Are Better Than One

Collaboration is key in design thinking. When we bring together a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and perspectives we are able to produce creative, intentional, and thoughtful solutions. Moreover, collaboration allows designers to bounce ideas off of each other and build on one another’s thoughts.

This New Year, try partnering with a friend, co-worker, or family member to accomplish your goals. Few things in life work better when only one brain is involved. When you share your goals with others, you will not only make yourself accountable for the things you’ve set out to accomplish, but you might also find someone who’s trying to achieve the same thing as you.

Word to the wise: it’s easier to suffer through a green smoothie at lunch when you’re not suffering alone. This year, find a friend who will encourage you to buy the smoothie.

Now that you have a few design thinking tools in your belt, which New Year’s resolution will you tackle first?

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