Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Divergence and Convergence

There's another idea from Tim Brown's Change by Design I thought was worth writing about. It's the idea of divergence and convergence.  Early in a design project (or any project), we want to collect lots of ideas. This is divergence...creating lots of possible choices. Linus Pauling, winner of 2 Nobel prizes, stated "To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas." If you're writing user stories, don't try to limit story creation. Just because a story is written doesn't mean it will be delivered but if it's never written it definitely won't be delivered.

Brown provides some ideas for generating ideas
  • Have an overarching purpose. I think of Design the Box when I hear this.
  • Involve the whole organization (or whole project team, sounds like agile again).
  • Don't discard ideas just based on who came up with them
  • Allow people room to experiment. This sounds like a spike to me. 

Now we get to convergence; making our choices. This is where we take a look at all our ideas and decide which ones to move forward with. It's grooming the backlog, prioritizing the stories, and throwing away the ones that don't fit our goal. Again, we should use our vision to help make these decisions. 

Brown points out the design is both art and science. The divergence is about being creative. The convergence is about using more analytical tools to make decisions. Also, don't think of this as a linear process...you may go back and forth between the two steps. For example, you just finished an iteration and are getting ready to plan the next one. You may have a divergent step and you synthesize the information generated in the iteration and demonstration but you need to quickly move to convergence to pick the user stories for the next iteration. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Design Thinking and Constraints

I've been reading the book Change by Design by Tim Brown. It's part of my overall interest in design in general. I have found a number of interesting ideas in the book so far, and I'm not even half way through it. 

One concept had to do with constraints. Anyone that has worked much on projects know that constraints are a big part of it. He talks about three aspects of constraint; feasibility, desirability, and viability. 

Feasibility is looking at whether or not something can be done in the near future. 

Viability is looking at whether or not it's sustainable from a business model perspective. 

Finally, desirability of course is will it be something that people want. In design thinking you want to take into account all three of these aspects as you're working on a project.

As I think back to projects that I have had that have been either successful or not successful, I can see how all of these play into a project's success or failure. 

On an actual project, we can test for feasibility by doing something like a spike, a short test to prove out if the idea will work.

Viability may be a bit harder to show on a project. It will take other supporting input such as market research to prove the approach is a sustainable business model. This is probably best done before you go to far in the project.

I think there's a very strong tie between desirability and how agile projects work. It's that whole idea of working closely with your users to truly understand their needs. 

I've seen other ties between design thinking and the agile approach. I'll have more to say on the future blog post.