The Mayo Clinic team presents its ideas at the Aspen Design Summit. From left, conference overseer, Larry Keeley, Allan Chochinov, Gong Szeto, Henry King and Dr. Jay Parkinson Photocredit: Jade-Snow Carroll
Dr. Jay Parkinson is the co-founder of Hello Health, an online network that connects doctors and patients. He was keen to use Web 2.0 principles and techniques to create a virtual community for Austin, featuring videos of local heroes taken by school children and including a diary of local wellness-themed events. By the final presentation, he had even mocked up a prototype of what the Web site might look like. It was a bewitching concept, and Parkinson put together a beautiful piece of design. It was also the idea that stopped me from sleeping.
My suspicion, as I thought about it in the middle of the night, was that we were falling into a trap. Our intentions could hardly be faulted. But without deep understanding of the community we were trying to serve, our efforts seemed doomed. After all, a brilliantly creative idea in the eyes of Aspen Design Summit attendees, most of whom live and work in large cities on the coasts of the U.S., might seem like entirely inappropriate bunk to those actually living in Austin. We didn't know, for example, whether the area had broadband Internet connection. Moreover, many of Austin's residents are non-native English speakers. Yet here we were, conspiring to offer them a Web experience freighted with bells and whistles?
But an interesting thing happened after I somewhat timidly voiced these heretical thoughts when we gathered bright and early the next morning. Designer Gong Szeto jumped in with some thoughtful analysis of his own, and moderator Allan Chochinov, of design resource Core77, guided the conversation to remain useful and respectful. One of the other groups, looking at the problems caused by poverty in Hale County, Ala., struggled with the same theme in a more fractious way. (There were tears, apparently, though the team did come up with an interesting proposal by the end of the Summit, and the members have now committed to traveling to Alabama as a group next year.)
Junk the Detail; Keep the Principle
Questioning and even conflict are a critical part of the design thinking process. In this system, any proposed solution can be revised or improved. By putting something, anything, into the ether or on paper - Chochinov also implored us to write or draw constantly Â- and by rapidly working through a series of ideas, different and better ideas can emerge. Even those that go nowhere can have value. It's not always neat and tidy, but it's all useful.
Niti Bhan focuses on offering strategic insight for growth opportunities and revenue generation in the rapidly evolving interstitial space between design and business. Her 15 years of experience include employers such McCann Erickson Worldwide, Hewlett Packard India, The Second City and most recently, the Institute of Design. She is an engineer and an MBA whose most significant achievement in the field of design has been dropping out of two graduate design programs on two continents in two centuries - the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Design, Chicago. Her areas of interest are business intelligence and trends, business strategy as well as creating a compelling user case for design as force for increasing value.