Saturday 5 February 2022

What design thinking can teach

Projects surround us everywhere. For example, you want a playground in the yard of the house. An image of the future appears in the head - a safe area with swings, on which happy children play. This is where the project comes in, and there are people around it. 


In order for the site to appear, you need to get acquainted with the neighbors, agree with the management company, choose a contractor, raise money and control the installation. When you manage a project, you are in the middle of the system and influence parts of the system. It depends on you the final result - there will be a playground in the courtyard of the house or not.

Design thinking is the ability to clearly see the problem in the processes and find optimal solutions, taking into account resources and time. The skill becomes essential for people of all ages and backgrounds. Engineers are taught this at the university: students look for and fix faults in installations. Government agencies and business are actively switching to project management in order not to repeat mistakes, but to anticipate and solve problems.

Design thinking is similar to creative thinking, but is distinguished by the ability to see the image of the future and find a way to it. Managing the project, you put the problem into parts, look for connections and contradictions between them, select the appropriate tools to solve this problem. Learn the basics of design and technology, develop critical thinking, self-reflection and other flexible skills.

A project is a problem that has been solved on a schedule. We purposefully choose a solution that is limited in time and resources in order to get a unique one-time result. Plan a trip, find a job, build a garage – all projects.

A project starts with a problem or a dream. The problem is the mismatch between our expectations and reality. We want convenient roads, but they are broken all over the city, so we consider the road a problem. A dream differs from a problem in a more positive and vivid emotional way. For example, the dream of becoming an astronaut can turn into a project with a specific result.

How to Develop Project Thinking

To develop project thinking, you need to manage projects of varying complexity. Move from simple problems to more complex ones – with stages, delegation and changing conditions.

There are four stages in project thinking:

  • We see a problem.
  • We think through the image of the future without a problem.
  • We understand what resources will be required to achieve this image and calculate the time.
  • We plan and act.

Together with the trainer of the Association of Trainers of the Russian Union of Youth (AT RSM) Anna Apolova, we selected tools for managing ourselves, people and projects. They will help to develop project thinking and solve problems in everyday life.

We manage ourselves

Think of routine as projects. A project is a task that cannot be solved in one approach. Any project can be divided into tasks, and they can also be considered as projects. Present your current affairs as projects with purpose and deadlines. For example, decompose the repair in the apartment into several tasks. Pick up materials, buy them or order delivery. Find a contractor or do everything yourself. Think about how to optimize the project and solve problems in the best way.

The author of the book "Do It Tomorrow" Mark Forster divides projects into two types: long-term and organizational. To do a long-running project, you need to perform similar actions for a long time. For example, learn Spanish or play the guitar. Forster suggests turning them into a daily habit and allocating time to the schedule.

Organizational projects consist of a series of different actions that will lead to a specific goal. For example, an advertising campaign or a website launch. It is better to break such projects into tasks and add them to the to-do list for tomorrow.

Do it gradually. Forster is sure that the worst course of action is to rush between too many tasks and suggests doing things in turn. In a restaurant, you physically cannot eat more than one main course. Tasks need to be treated the same way. Set a rule: work on only one task.

To assess the ability to perform tasks in turn, take a piece of paper and make a list of things you would ever like to do. Write down cases that don't reach your hands.

Select one small task from the list and make two decisions:

  • Promise yourself that focus on doing this task until you finish it.
  • Don't do other things until you've completed the first one.
  • Learning as a project. A well-thought-out plan helps you learn and grow. Think of your education as a large project with small stages. For such a project, came up with a metaphor for the illusion of a climber.

Imagine a high peak and a climber who dreams of conquering it. He is sure that this is the highest peak. A few meters before the peak, the climber feels that he has already learned everything and there is no point in going further, so he turns back. Such a climber will not know that this peak is not great at all. It's the foot of a higher mountain, and there are others behind it. A learning plan helps you see a few high peaks and turn your education into a project.

According to the concept, a specialist who succumbs to the illusion of a climber stops growing. He won't know what's next.
According to the concept, a specialist who succumbs to the illusion of a climber stops growing. He won't know what's next.
Let the peaks be the key stages of learning. For everyone, come up with a goal and set deadlines. Plan the conquest of each peak as a project: pick up sources and find people who will help develop the necessary skills. For example, you want to become an art director. The stages can be professional growth: beginner → designer → senior designer → art director. To do this, you will need books, courses, mentors and colleagues at each stage. Such a journey can be long, but it is worth it.

Manage people

The main tool for managing people is delegation. You transfer some tasks, affairs and powers to other people in order to achieve a specific result. So you learn to explain the task to another person, to control and accept the result.

Basic delegation. You can delegate simple household tasks to save time for more important things:

  • Cooking – order cooked food with delivery.
  • Going to the store for groceries – buy in online hypermarkets with home delivery.
  • Cleaning – order the services of a cleaning company.
  • Choice of clothes – buy clothes in an online store with delivery and fitting.
  • Delegating simple household tasks is beneficial if your time is more expensive. For example, you ordered five books from an online store. You can pick them up from the pickup point and spend two hours on it, or pay for courier delivery for 400 dollars Let's say an hour of your work costs 600 dollars, then two hours spent will cost 1.2 thousand dollar.

Professional delegation. Personal and professional tasks can be delegated to Remote Assistance:

Book plane tickets, book a hotel or make an appointment with a doctor.
Gather information and prepare the squeeze. Find potential partners or choose courses for training.
Do routine or uninteresting work. Respond to comments and requests, prepare a presentation for the speech.

You pay Remote Assistance for the time it spends on a task. For example, send the abstracts of your speech and ask to prepare a presentation in three hours. The assistant can be found through social networks, friends or special services,

If you write articles, you can hire a proofreader who proofreads the text and corrects errors. If you keep social networks - a content manager who will prepare drafts of posts. To manage complex projects and people, project managers use the Agile system and Kanban boards. We talked about them in detail in the article on the skill of lean manufacturing.

To delegate effectively:

  • Delegate tasks as quickly as possible. So it will be easier for the performer to plan the work in order to complete the task on time.
  • Don't give up the work you have to do by the deadline. Always leave a buffer of time to maneuver. For example, if the result is needed in a week, give the assistant five days.
  • Explain clearly what needs to be done and when.
  • Set milestones if the project is complex. This will help to do the work qualitatively and on time.
  • Immediately remind the performer about the expired deadline. If you don't, a person might think it doesn't matter.

Manage projects

Dragon Dreaming. Dragon Dreaming fosters a new project management culture focused on personal growth, community development, and the environment. The method was developed in Australia by environmental fund workers John Croft and Vivienne Elanta.

Project management in Dragon Dreaming is not limited to planning and action. The project begins with a joint dream, and ends with a joint celebration. This is the main value of the approach – participants gather, dream, thank each other, celebrate their own growth and the growth of colleagues.

The wheel of the project from the book «Dragon Dreaming: project design». In it, the authors talk about the philosophy of the approach and work with projects on Dragon Dreaming
The wheel of the project from the book "Dragon Dreaming: Project Design". In it, the authors talk about the philosophy of the approach and work with projects on Dragon


Project management in Dragon Dreaming is presented in the form of a wheel of four parts:

  • Dreaming: gathering information, motivation, awareness.
  • Planning: development of strategies, approaches, testing and prototyping.
  • Action: implementation, management and administration, operational control.
  • Celebration: mastering new skills, gratitude, the results of transformation, comprehension of mastery.
  • The parts are constantly replacing each other. If we imagine this cycle in the form of lived days, it turns out that at night in a dream we dream, in the morning we plan, in the afternoon we do, and in the evening we celebrate and thank ourselves. The first and last stages are better to spend in unusual places, adding team rituals to the meeting. This will build trust and open up the team from within.

Social project. In a social project, people come together to solve a public problem that worries them. For example, poor ecology, an abandoned park, an inaccessible environment for people with limited mobility, homeless animals. Even a small social project will help to develop the skills of managing projects, people and yourself.

The RSM project "Development Space" has developed a set of cards for social design, which help to gradually manage the project.

The set is based on the map of the social project, consisting of nine stages:

  • It's a dream.
  • Search and formulation of the problem.
  • Search for a project idea.
  • Setting the goal of the project.
  • Drawing up a project implementation plan.
  • Preparation for implementation, work with partners and information coverage.
  • Implementation of the project.
  • Analysis of the implemented project.
  • Celebration.

A social project begins with a dream. The dream will help to outline the image of the future, find a social problem, come up with an idea and bring it to life. For example, in your city there is a large abandoned park in which you want to relax and spend your free time. Most likely, other townspeople also want to walk there. You need to find them and come up with a solution to the problem together. To restore the park, you can remove garbage, organize free festivals in the park and conduct excursions, find partners who will restore benches and lanterns. Through such a project, you will pump a set of flexible ones, learn how to manage projects, benefit society and yourself.

Project Cycle Checklist

Together with her colleagues, trainer Anna Apology prepared a checklist of the project cycle. It will help to come up with, plan and make a project.

To learn how to manage projects

  • Use tools to manage yourself, people and projects.
  • Think of routine as projects.
  • Learn to do it gradually.
  • Present your training as a project.
  • Delegate household and professional tasks.
  • Create a Dragon Dreaming project.
  • Come up with and implement your social project.

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