Design Thinking for Associations | Part I

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We’ve all seen the latest buzzwords floating around: user experience, customer experience, agile, design thinking… the list goes on and on. These methods are created to inspire our creative genius, enhancing our efforts so we can focus on our customers. Who doesn’t want to do that, right?

The implementation and application of these methods can be overwhelming when you’re first diving in, so we decided to outline these methodologies to demystify them while also encouraging further investment.

What is design thinking?

A human-centered, iterative, and flexible design approach, design thinking allows you to focus on better understanding users through design and collaboration. It is as much about the process as it is about the problem. And although each problem is unique, the process of design thinking is consistent.

This process can be broken down into five segments:

  1. Contextualize: Seek to understand each individual perspective.
  2. Define: Identify personae, challenges, decisions, roles, and pain points.
  3. Ideate: Brainstorm!
  4. Prototype: Create quick cycles of continuous innovation to improve your ideas.
  5. Test: Repeatedly ask yourself what is working and what is not.

Whether you’re designing an event experience, membership campaign, or something else entirely, one thing is for certain: before you can create a solution, you have to understand the problem at a granular level. The trickiest part? Sometimes the problem presented to you doesn’t actually get to the heart of the issue. To produce a design that delivers a functional and meaningful experience to the end user, you have to start at the beginning.

How can I implement design thinking?

Commit to asking questions and challenging convention. Nothing needs to be done in a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Ask questions to push past mediocrity, enhance experiences, and establish meaningful relationships throughout the broader community.

Finding connections between seemingly unrelated services, trends, and experiences offers a fresh perspective through which you can identify and solve problems in your association. Look outside your organization and push past the norm to reconsider challenges from a different angle.

As association professionals, working within a resource-constrained environment is all-too typical. These conditions demand a high level of creativity and resourcefulness. Take the time to look up from your work and explore other consumer experiences and interactions from which you can learn and grow.

Check out Part II here!

Molly Hewitt

Molly Hewitt

Molly is the Senior Education Manager at Innovatis Group. She oversees the strategic direction of our clients' education programs through content development and competency measurement for live and on-demand programming. Her goal is to create a cohesive content strategy that makes our clients the go-to resource for training and education, in effect making membership a necessity. (Fun Fact: Molly coaches middle school girls volleyball.)