The Design Process
Knowing Where A Project Or Initiative Is In The Design Process, Allows People To Wear Different Hats & Have Fun Participating.
If citizens know a program design is in its infancy, we'll use gentle language, nurturing the ideas and process the way we'd treat a child or a sprout. A full grown, competitive program will have a whole other kind of experience and game rules for interaction. Imagine an NFL linebacker sparring with a little leaguer: it doesn't make any sense. Without having shared #DesignThinking language standards, we can inadvertently make innovating a scary proposition, especially on the interwebs, where critics with short attention spans abound and viral vitriol can go global in an instant.
FOCUSING OUR SPECS
In many #DesignThinking and engineering processes, there are consistent methodologies to move from concept to manifestation. While the vocabulary may vary from field to field, certain predictable & identifiable phases occur during a creative process. In order to have productive conversations, it's important that everyone involved understands what phase an initiative is in, so that comments and contributions are beneficial. For example, worrying about details during a creative brainstorming session can kill playful & innovative ideas: sometimes goofing around with the craziest stuff gets people laughing & the "ah ha!" moment happens. But being careless while proofing the final draft of an important time-sensitive application may cost you the job. People won't know how to behave appropriately unless they know what phase the team is in.
For our purposes, let's use the following verbiage. We can expect different folks in different industries will have themes, variations and subcategories of these. But to roll conversations up into messaging tiers the "average citizen" (meaning someone outside your specialized area of expertise) can understand via three-minute Memes That Matter, we must have standards. (see the "Tiers" section on the AVA2016 platform graphic.)
DISCOVER, DESIGN, DEVELOP, DELIVER
evaluate* & repeat
*the recurring discovery phase for ongoing creative processes
In a discovery phase we are gathering information to validate whether or not to develop a proposed project, process or experience.
This phase may include research and analysis of a body of information, including existing facts and figures, or may identify unknown information to investigate. It may involve conducting interviews or creating estimates. It might involve looking at similar initiatives. At the end of a discovery phase, there is an answer about whether the pursuit of a particular work is feasible, and a general outline about who will be involved, what their responsibilities are and what parameters will be used to indicate project success.
Some standard questions that may be answered during a discovery phase:
- What is the work are we undertaking? Define the project's scope & evaluation processes.
- Why are we doing this work? What's the essence or proposed meaning of engaging in it?
- Who will benefit from its existence? What is the value of the proposed work & what resources should be allocated to its realization?
- Describe the environment (physical, cultural, time, place etc.) in which the project is to be developed. e.g. In 2015 we do not lack the information, connectivity or access to education that informed the local (>city>county>state>federal) to national governance design we still use in the U.S. Whole new kinds of technologies and organizational entities exist now than did when our Constitution was written: organizing leadership programming by subject category will introduce efficiencies, cost-savings and ultimately create a better citizen experience.
In a design phase we are generating and evaluating ideas for how to manifest a project, process or experience.
In a design phase we generate ideas about solutions to problems posed by, or opportunities identified during, the discovery phase. In this phase, we create prototypes, models and sketches. We engage in conversations and creative brainstorming. We set up #SocialLab experiments to test our ideas before launching them to broader audiences.
This phase is about developing *how* best to manifest the essence of the project as described in the discovery phase: creating evaluation frameworks and outlining attribute filters to weigh the pros and cons of our ideas against project parameters.
Typical design phases move from very messy or sketchy into more and more refined blueprints, outlines and documentation. With each refinement, we return to the discovery documents to assure we're meeting audience, intention, essence & environmental requirements.
A thoughtful design considers:
- Who the project, process or experience has been designed for. Unlike personal preferences, where one's taste affects the decisions process (I like the blue shirt more than the yellow one), a thoughtful design considers the needs and perceptions of a particular audience. i.e. A didactic design for a preschooler will look very different than a decor one for an adult.
- Environmental factors including budgets and timelines.
- An evaluation process for determining a design's ongoing deployed success, acknowledging assumptions made, recognized unknowns or possible variables.
In a development phase we are building the actual project we designed.
This is where the rubber meets the road. We should expect to be making dynamic choices about how to apply the design ideas we created, because manifesting stuff in the real world is often messy & laborious. Ideally, we would like to translate design abstracts into a concrete form as smoothly as possible, but sometimes that's not as easy as it seems. That's what makes reality shows about crackerjack teams working on home renovations are such a powerful #HXD teaching interface for our governance redesign project. Anticipating obstacles keeps frustrations at bay & relying upon trended thought leaders (like Paul the hunky carpenter on Divine Design) is how smart designers gets stuff done. We monitor our progress as we proceed with development, and handle difficulties and new information as we go. If processes for handling variables is a part of the design itself, it makes building the project or experience easier & more fun.
Sometimes problems arise during the development phase that send us all the way back to the design drawing board or even the discovery phase. As a general rule, the further along a project development process that problems arise, the more expensive and frustrating they become. That's why we're taking the time to teach our citizens about #DesignThinking principles. It's easy to take risks on paper & less expensive to try out new ideas in a social lab prototype than it is to make massive mistakes at the federal level of government programming. Once we have billions invested in something, it's very difficult to be agile.
Some standard questions that may be answered during a development phase:
- Are we on track with the design, timeline & budget?
- How are we assuring quality, testing, managing details?
In the delivery phase we are completing the work process and preparing the project for release.
Delivery phases may include: Promotions or Communication campaigns, Evaluation & Maintenance, Administration, Processing or Cultivation. Ongoing signs of project health are monitored, like growth, sanitation and renewal. Needs are identified & in well-designed living systems, these needs roll into the next Discovery phase and the process starts all over again.
We have lots of teachers who can help us develop #LifeLongLearning skills, like #DesignThinking principles, in more detail and specific to local projects and initiatives we have going in our communities. This is like people engagement OS (operating system). By identifying a local gathering place to learn sharing skills, then connecting our projects socially, we'll truly be able to manifest meaningful change in governance.