Image: People Watching by Erica Boothby

Crafting the design-driven growth mindset: the art and science of sensing, sensemaking and changemaking.

This is the second post on Business Design.

  1. Need Finding Mode: Sensing

Sensing: becoming aware of something; the act of observing, feeling and noticing.

This mode is focused on understanding the value of sensing both people and context impacted by your proposed business innovation. To effectively sense humans in situated places and spaces, you engage in design research. Design research involves qualitative research methods critical to the design of products, services, processes and systems that respond to human needs. Design research can be practiced deeply with insights-focused team OR can be an inclusive activity involving the senior leadership team, managers and the front-line employees. All will benefit from redeveloping their curiosity and empathy for others.

Design research involves primary, secondary and tertiary activities:

  • Primary research involves direct engagement with intended users. Methods include ethnographic observation, empathy interviews, group interviews, online chat rooms, and questionnaires. Technology-facilitated methods include social media listening (observing and collecting data from websites and social networks) and netnography (ethnographic studies of online communities).
  • Secondary research involves reviewing and analyzing information from primary research activities. Methods include print or digital media reports, whitepapers, and industry reports from libraries and other professional sources.
  • Tertiary research involves republishing or citing charts, quotes or completed analysis of 3rd party research activities. Sources include industry reports, mass media published articles, Wikipedia, etc.

The output from Design Research are observations, findings and insights:

  • Observations: ‘facts’ without interpretation or judgment. They describe a situation or object as explicitly seen or heard. (e.g. a piece of paper, a smile, a man walking)
  • Findings: ‘facts’ filtered and interpreted with judgment that reflect patterns in behaviour. They offer a proposed “why” as a functional motivation behind an observed fact. (e.g. a paper with red ink placed on a desk; a smile in response to a friend’s comment; a man walking uncomfortably fast )
  • Insights: interpretations of findings that reflect a deeper understanding of what is currently seen or expressed — it provides an emotional intention to an anticipated, future behaviour. (e.g. the ‘red-inked’ paper was placed on top of others on the desk suggesting high level of importance; the smile was an emotional response to a trusted storyteller; the man walked faster than normal pace as he caught sight of the bus arriving ahead of schedule, etc. )

2. Need/Problem Framing Mode: Sensemaking

Sensemaking: the process by which people give meaning to a collective or shared experience.

This critical mode guides you to make sense of the observations, assumptions and insights generated by your investigations of needs, problems and/or opportunities. It spans insight development, problem articulation, prototype design and testing. This mode requires multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate on gaining a deeper understanding of the users (customers or stakeholders) while also understanding how the business will benefit from resolving the user needs. Together, teams sketch, form and test models of their ideas.

The most effective problem-framing techniques to practice sensemaking include: empathy mapping; concept mapping; personas; How Might We Statements; rapid prototyping; user journeys; etc.

3. Problem Solving Mode: Changemaking

Changemaking: the process of altering or modifying something to make or create value.

This final mode integrates the thinking, processes and actions required to embed your insights and your tested prototypes into a meaningful and adoptable business innovation. Storytelling skills are required. Through story you can help others see the path of the new offer (product/service/strategy) through to its adoption, and impact (profit and value).

The most effective creative problem solving techniques to practice changemaking are those involved in storytelling. These include: scenario planning; analogs and metaphor simulations; role play; business model canvas; solution roadmaps; implementation planning; etc.

About the author: The two-part Business Design blog series offers a POV on the what, why and how Business Design can effectively impact business innovation. Dr. Angèle Beausoleil (PhD in Innovation Process and Design Pedagogy) is a former industry executive and designer, and has been teaching design methods for business innovation for the past 10 years in Canada, USA and Mexico. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

professor, business designer, innovation agent, strategist, inventor, tech passionista, renaissance woman.