I just finished Bernard Roth’s The Achievement Habit…a great start to 2017, when energy levels for Resolutions are peaking and fire is in the belly! Roth is a long-time faculty member at Stanford and a co-founder of the d.school there, and this is a wonderfully candid how-to book on thinking creatively and achieving your life’s ambitions.

The philosophy behind Stanford’s design school is Design Thinking which can be broken down into 5 major tenets with an inherent order but also loop back onto each other in an iterative process:

  1. Empathize with the “user” of the product/experience for which you are designing
  2. Define the “problem” which may take several iterations to get to the heart of the matter
  3. Ideate, generate possible solutions
  4. Prototype, build something to address the problem
  5. Test and get feedback

The big lessons in this process are that the only thing to fear is not learning from your mistakes and to focus on doing, and not just thinking about doing!

Highlights in the book that are important to revisit

  • Relationships and objects don’t have preordained meaning…we choose, assign meaning to them, therefore this meaning can be changed
  • It is you who determines the quality of your life, not external circumstances
  • Intention and attention are necessary to achieve: make time for things that matter
  • Reframing problems can lead to much better solutions: change your perspective!
  • Where you “start” the story gives it meaning, so if the start point is changed, the meaning can change: it’s a question of punctuation

Many ways to generate creative solution possibilities

  • Brainstorm, list, draw
  • Use humour and conversation
  • Create mind maps, storyboards (remember “neat notes contain messy information and messy notes contain neat information”!)
  • Share, steal ideas…”all design is redesign” Larry Leifer

Interpersonal communication

Also, as working with others is highly beneficial to any project there are several skills that should be considered and practiced, not only with teammates but also with those for whom you are developing a product:

  1. Speak from the heart, from your experiences
  2. Don’t interrupt others (one of my resolutions this year!)
  3. Don’t be judgmental
  4. Acknowledge other people’s issues and actively listen
  5. Make sure your point is clear and understood
  6. Give the gift of truly being understood

New Year’s Resolutions

So, as I embark on 2017, my intention and attention will be focused on doing, using an iterative process to find good solutions to my projects, I will practice active listening to get to the heart of the issues and start creating a habit of achieving what I set out do!

Let me know if you have other strategies you find helpful and share, making this the start of a great 2017!

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