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Consultant's Guide to Parenting

Consultant's guide to raising children: design thinking

Design thinking is a way to solve tricky business - and parenting - problems.

It is characterised by three things:

  1. Lots of effort spent framing the problem to get under the skin of it and pin point exactly what it is. Refining the problem statement can run in parallel with developing the solution
  2. Empathise with the user to truly understand their underlying needs, desires and fears
  3. Prototype, experiment and iterate throughout the process with lots of direct user feedback

Design thinking has become extremely popular in business because companies that are obsessed with making things awesome for their customers perform the best, e.g. Apple, Amazon and Google. it also promises an approach that, if applied properly, can help any business design great products and experiences for their customers.  

What do you do?

Firstly, you spend a lot of time wallowing in the problem. Ask questions. And engage with the user. Get to know them and understand what makes them tick. Next up start coming-up with ideas. Approach the problem from different angles with an ‘anything goes’ mindset. In doing so you might realise the true problem is something different.

Early-on, start prototyping to test your ideas with your users. See how they react and listen to what they say. Refine your ideas based upon feedback and observation.Keep iterating until you have something your user loves.

Design thinking-based parenting

Your children are the users of a service provided by you. The service is called parenting. It is extremely expensive to provide, free to use and both loved and hated by the user. How can you design the ultimate parenting service for your special little users?

The same as you would if designing a product or a service as a business.

A worked example

We applied design thinking to a common household problem – a pile of shoes by the door that creates a trip hazard, is embarrassing and leads to lost shoes (a major process failure in one of the key household processes – leaving the house – see previous blog).

  1. Firstly, we generated the initial problem statement starting with the parental perspective: how can we stop our hallway looking like a ransacked shoe shop?
  2. This drove an initial phase of idea creation e.g. let them run free and shoe-less or provide chocolate every time shoes are correctly stowed. But this is a very parent-centred approach so we set about refining the problem statement to be more empathetic to the user
  3. By immersing ourselves in the mind-set of our children we refined the problem statement to be: how can we make putting shoes away effortless and satisfying?
  4. Finally it was time to get prototyping and experimenting

Here are the ideas that we tested and the outcome.

  1. Massively reduce the total number of shoes stored by the door. This was unsustainable due to the necessity for a bi-weekly shoe sorting process
  2. Use a shoe rack (prototype with boards on bricks to test). The user finds it very unclear where different shoes go and gives up. This led to a pile on-top of the shoe rack that is even more difficult to search through
  3. Shoe drawers. Children love drawers as they are satisfying to open and close. It looked like we might be on to something… we iterated with tall drawers so that our children could only access their everyday shoes. Shallow drawers avoided creating a pile within the drawer and we allocated a draw to each family member to create a sense of ownership

We have fully implemented the shoe drawer solution. Since installation we have had zero (we couldn’t believe it either) missing shoe issues when leaving the house and our hallway is totally and permanently free of shoes.

Why? Because we listened to the customer and created a solution that worked for them without the need for bribery or punishment. We understood their true need – a feeling of ownership and personal responsibility related to the putting-on, taking off and storing shoes – and we designed a solution to meet that need based upon experimentation and feedback.

As a parent, design thinking is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Use it.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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