How design thinking actually helped me from becoming a Zombie?

Hi ! My name is Chloé, I’m 28 and this is a short story about the importance of looking for growth. In any way. Always.

Illustration made with the Repaper graphic tablet.

How many times per week, month or year do you wonder “where am I going”? In my case a lot and I realize that, what could be interpreted as “being/ feeling lost”, was actually the beginning of waking up ! Overthinking can be a pain in the butt, even counterproductive, but elaborating a real reflection about different topics, in order to move on and to find a new path, is my key to stay motivated and intellectually stimulated. To stay alive. Why ? Because, I did notice that when life becomes harsh, when anything attempted seems to fail (which is actually not true, I am just being very narrow minded), well, I am very tempted to put my precious brain on the sleep mode… and the consequences are bad.

One day of winter, as I was waiting for my metro like hundreds of people, I felt it. I felt the emptiness in my head.

Working in Paris, I have the convenience of having trains to bring me to my job so I can literally sleep on the ride. Then, I have managers to tell me what to do and “help” me from thinking too much. Then, I have Uber which can simply give me a ride. Then I have supermarkets nearby that provide all type of foods and products. Then I have Netflix who, also, can simply distract me — and prevent me from thinking “too much”. Then, at the end of the day, I go to bed and start again. Why torture myself when everything is so comfortable?

One day of winter, while I was waiting for my metro, like hundreds of people, I felt it. I felt the emptiness in my head and I saw myself, running into a wall that I will never be able to break. I was going nowhere. I could not see any future.

What do companies do when they’re stuck? When they need to get a new vision? A new strategy? They hire people to unstuck them; to give them a fresh pair of eyes. Well, my life being also my business, I decided to act and to ask for help to put my consciousness, my willingness, my motivation and my vision in order… And, surprisingly, I realized not a long time ago — thanks to my UX design studies — that my coach and I did follow the pattern of the general design thinking method, as presented by the d.school of Stanford: Empathize / Define / Ideate / Prototype / Test.

Empathize.

How can you solve a problem if you don’t know what it is ?Understanding (someone, something) starts with empathizing.

First of all, I told myself “allow yourself to empathize with yourself and look for people who will help you to put you back into your own shoes. Not the shoes that you borrowed to look like someone or to please someone.”

I am serious ; I literally had to convince myself that this was not about self pity. I was living a conflicting situation, questions were bumping into my head and I needed to put words on it.

The Empathize step is the moment to observe, to carefully listen and to collect information and, because it was difficult for me to self-reflect and to be honest with myself, I went to see a coach. Little advice, as coaching is a human-centered design process of your future goals and your strategy to move on, have a conversation with her/him before to start the all process. Just to make sure you two are feeling comfortable working with each other.

Another thing, coaching is not magic, you have to put a lot of energy in to get results and to find out — or rediscover- your natural skills, your passions, your values… What do you know ? What do you want ? What’s your vision of the world ? What would you like to change ? Why ? Where do you fit in ? Who are you ? What did you love to do as a kid ? (My favorite question by the way.) Why ? (Again.) What are my interactions with my environment ? How am I perceived ? How do I see myself in 5 years from now ?

It took me 4 months to gather elements that would be useful to make a relevant analysis of the situation. She interviewed me a lot, I sketched a lot and I did a lot of mind mapping to visualize my ideas and be able to communicate them better. We worked towards collecting feelings, aspirations and to write a new story which I would be the main character.

Define.

Ok so, at this point, all the result of the empathizing step are in front of me and our main observations are :

  • 1st : I don’t listen to myself.
  • 2nd : I stopped doing what I love.
  • 3rd : I overwhelm myself by always thinking about other people’s needs.

What do we do with that ? Besides the fact that I didn’t want to turn into a complete zombie, I had to find a better “point of view” that would be used as a guideline to imagine solutions and, then, test them. We quickly identified that my core problem was : I ignored my passions, my values and what I am good at because I got worried to be a misfit and to struggle to find a job that is me.

It feels good to recognize it.

And the question becomes : What kind of job would match my passions, my values and my talents?

Ideate.

This part was, for me, the most fun ! Well, maybe also because I love to think and elaborate ideas, but also because it was “MY” moment. Nobody could tell me that my ideas were stupid, weird, impossible to implement. All I had to do was to let my imagination go wild under the benevolent eyes of my coach who helped me produce ideas in an efficient way.

Over 20 hours of coaching, it took almost 1/4 of it to come up with “feasible” ideas : “I am going to get a certification in neurolinguistics programming, in design thinking, in sprint, in visual mapping…” “Hummm, ok, but what’s the job ?” “Well, you know, it could be in environment and energy management, or maybe still in fashion and luxury, or in business development of social purpose companies…”

Keep thinking. Think.

This phase is composed of several step : generating as many idea as possible (divergent thinking style). We first want quantity. Then organizing, connecting and sorting the ideas. Right after that, taking a step back and putting a critical eye on it (emergent thinking style)… Because, now, we want quality. And, as a final step, we want to choose the most desirable, viable/ sustainable, feasible ideas (convergent thinking style) and think about how to implement them.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Sir Ken Robinson.

I thought about my core strengths: studious, futuristic, ideation, intellectual and responsible. My passions for change, discovery and learning. The mission I want to embody : being part of the change that’s occuring in our society and showing that another future is possible by finding solutions and by sharing knowledge.

“I think that I would be happy as UX designer.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s me.”

Prototyping & Testing.

That’s kind of where I am now and, here, I am the prototype that needs be tested.

I interviewed people, looked at job offers, watched Youtube videos, talked on the phone with companies and training centers/ schools to talk about where I come from, where I want to go and why. Today, it’s been a month since I started to take classes with the Interaction Design Foundation and two days since I started to work on my first case study. My learning inspires me on a daily basis and I get even to rethink some aspect of my current job.

I went to look for my old graphic tablet and started using it again. I opened this Medium account to write stories. I am currently reading books that talks about the story of humanity (Sapiens, a brief history of humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari), creativity (Creative Confidence, by Tom & David Kelley) and gamification (Gamestorming, a Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers). My brain is not a cold rock anymore and I feel alive, again.

“Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.” — Morihei Ueshiba

That’s my drama queen side. But I absolutely think it’s true.

I keep going back to the ideation stage sometimes, because it’s important to iterate the design thinking process, to keep a fresh pair of eyes, to be open minded, flexible and creative… And that’s just the beginning of a new journey.

Write and share thoughts for fun. Makes me happy !