Ask better questions: business lessons from designers

As an entrepreneur I spend a lot of my time optimising. Better copy at Articulate, new features for Turbine, better processes, staff training etc.

This is necessary and important.

But real breakthroughs come when you stop trying to optimise what you’re already doing and start doing something altogether. Sometimes you have to work on the question rather than the answer.

I was at Microsoft’s ResearchNow event at Modern Jago in Hoxton last week. It was a great day with speakers including the Head of Design at Aston Martin. Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council and ex-IDEO designer, gave a great presentation and it included this diagram.




He said that most designers (and I reckon most business people) spend most of their time focusing on the right diamond between the brief and the delivery.

But the breakthrough thinking is in the left diamond between the real world problem and the brief.

If you ask the right questions you get the right solution. If you ask the wrong questions, at best, you get a perfectly executed implementation of the wrong solution.

(Full disclosure: Microsoft is an Articulate client as was the Design Council.)

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4 Responses to Ask better questions: business lessons from designers

  1. Julien says:

    Very true, and I would add that it is very rare that the skills required for the diverging and the converging side of each diamond are found in the same brain. The left part of the diamond is about creating choices, the right part about making choices. Typically you won’t turn software developers into designers.

    • That’s a very interesting observation. I suspect that the left diamond requires some facility for creative, abstract thinking and the ability to collaborate with other people. But even within software engineering, the ability to choose the right technique or algorithm is often more important than the ability to code it efficiently, don’t you think?


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