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The Design thinking space in a Startup

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Creativity is a gift, mastering it and being able to channel it productively is a discipline. As an experience designer, I bring sensitivity and empathy to the work space while factoring the value proposition for the business. Working in a startup has created an opportunity for my ideologies to be challenged, always striving to ensure design principles remain relevant and practical within the business objective. There are insights that have stood out over the period I have worked in startup that could help a new entry design stay afloat and build a case for design thinking.

Startups are a great space to work in if you are looking to grow your skills and experience beyond what you’d assume to be your job description as you’ll often find yourself working on assignments not in relation to your profession. These setups allow you to stretch your tentacles beyond the imaginary dotted lines of ones confides.

For a UX/UI designer working in a startup for the first time, you will fast realise one of the biggest struggles is what title should they tag you and in what department will you fit as a design thinking department maybe non-existent.

You will note they struggle to understand what you do, defining your skills in relation to the company’s need and how to evaluate your performance as most startups are focused on numbers and results overlooking a key element, impact.

It is common perception that your skills will best fit in the tech department of the organisation and that they’ll have an idea of what you should do.

I’ve gathered a few learnings from working in a startup that should help designers find their space and showcase the value of design thinking in any organisational space.

Be flexible

As much as you’ll be assigned to a particular department, you get to find it’s mostly structural for reporting purposes. Your role will involve interacting with different departments to help them with the “challenges they perceive to have”.

Having the right attitude allows you to learn in depth the different operations of the organisation and have the privilege to access knowledge of how the different departments are wired and are supposed to co-relate for the organisation realise its mission and vision.

Having privy information places, you at an advantage as is becomes easy to engage the different departments on projects while remaining aligned to the overarching objective of the organisation.

Willingness to share knowledge

To most organisations, human centric design is an exciting enigma that everyone is trying to associate with and employ in their operations.

You can leverage on your presence to shed light through engaging different teams in some of the processes. This allows you to build a case for design thinking as well stir appreciation for the same.

Some processes that you can use but are not limited to:

· Card sorting exercise — ideal in situations where you are trying to figure best navigational structure for digital interfaces.

· Synthesis session — allows participants to group related components of information to form a bigger idea/theme.

· Prototype sketches — involves both UX/UI. Participants are able to debate not only on how a service/product will look like but how it will function to the satisfaction of the end user.

Be accountable

One of the values and strengths one should be keen to develop is accountability as most UI/UX projects don’t have defined KPIs. Being able to develop the discipline to be structured in your processes and reporting validates the value and impact of design thinking in any startup. This allows others to measure what you do and appreciate the processes you take to put together your learnings.

Be agile

Startups are fast paced and dynamic environments which are constantly reinventing themselves to attain their goal. Understanding the business and its operations makes one adaptable. This enables you to move in the same speed as the organisation is moving without struggling, allowing you to develop concepts solutions relevant, applicable and desired for the time space the organisation is operating in. The ability to run short and effective sprints is a vital skill to develop.

Take initiative

Design thinking gives one the ability to see beyond the norm. Spare time to research and volunteer in projects not assigned to you that you feel the inclusion of design thinking will multiply the value and impact. This gives you even more platforms to exercise your skills, grow your experience, your thought process to be challenged and your creative confidence to grow. Don’t take a back seat.

In all you do, always wear a heart of empathy as this encompasses all design thinking values and allows you to connect with the users you are designing for.

Bonstein Sisa Contributor

I am a passionate impact designer keen on designing sustainable and impactful solutions for developing communities. I have a multidisciplinary skill set that integrates creative knowledge with technical and business expertise. I’m a critical thinker with an open mind, a communicator and a facilitator.

At home, I am a father to a wonderful daughter. I enjoy different genres of music, to travel, meeting new people, writing, reading articles and spending time with family.

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