Design Thinking: Your Questions Answered

 In eLearning Brothers

We had a great first eLBX Online session, Design Thinking Meets Instructional Design, on Monday with Chris Willis, Senior Product Manager – Customizable Courseware. Attendees asked tons of great questions and we tried to answer as many as we could during the webinar. However, Chris didn’t want to let anyone down, so she took some extra time to answer a few more questions for attendees here!


When is the right time to use Design Thinking?

Use Design Thinking at the earliest stage of a project, as part of your needs analysis. A Design Thinking session or workshop will help you confirm your learning objectives and the approach that best meets the needs and goals of both your target learners and your organization.


How can I keep my coworkers from locking into a familiar tool or approach?

Any time a Design Thinking session starts slipping into “design by committee” or new ideas aren’t being recognized, it’s a sign that participants have moved away from learner empathy and into their familiar ego-centric problem-solving approach. The best way to open minds is to refocus on the user stories. For example, ask  yourself, “Who will use this solution?” “Why?” “What are their goals—not ours?”


If you can’t get participants together at the same time and place, could you hold an asynchronous Design Thinking session?

A facilitator can hold a Design Thinking workshop using any of the popular remote meeting platforms. The downfall for asynchronous participants would be missing out on the energy and scaffolding of ideas that happens when people are sharing in a room together at the same time. And when you’re working from your own head, it’s also a lot easier to fall into traditional problem solving and lose focus on the learner, which is something the facilitator can steer in real time.


What is the Design Thinking prototype if it’s not actually prototyping a course?

Design Thinking starts by prototyping concepts based on learner goals. The process asks that you be open to the idea that the best learning solution may not even be a traditional eLearning course, which can open the door to an innovative new approach you haven’t yet imagined.


How do you test your Design Thinking “prototype” with learners if it’s all still conceptual?

Good question! Since what you’re testing are concepts and ideas, you’ll need to be able to present the concept in some way that is quick for you to pull together. It can be a text-based narrative, a flowchart with notes, a series of quick sketches, a brief slide presentation … whatever works for you. Remember, you want to invest as little work possible so you can solicit meaningful user feedback. The goal is to test whether the solution is viable and which direction to go next without putting in so much effort you have a vested interest in keeping it alive and headed down the preconceived path. Although the Design Thinking process uses the word “test,” at this stage of a learning project it may best be thought of as user interviews or a focus group.  


What if I don’t have time or resources to do a Design Thinking workshop?

There’s no real reason to run a full-blown Design Thinking session for projects that are well-defined or those which have constraints that dictate solution design, for better or worse. The most important thing is to adopt a user-centered focus, regardless of the project. Try writing some user stories as part of the Analyze phase of instructional design. Then check your hypotheses about your learners as you do early SME interviews.


You compare an Agile Story to a learning objective. Can you share an example?


Sure! An Agile User Story follows the formula:

As a <type of user>, I want <X> so I can <accomplish Y>


“As a Customer Service Representative, I want to handle difficult customers more efficiently, so I can meet my bonus targets.”

In a Learning Objective, all learner types are typically grouped together as “learners.” After your initial Design Thinking and analysis, you will combine and map the desires and goals of your learners to specific actions and behaviors that will provide the desired business outcomes for your organization.



After completing this course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe the traits of a difficult customer
  • Explain why customers become frustrated or angry
  • Demonstrate three actions for efficiently managing a difficult customer



If you missed Chris’s session from Monday, don’t worry! We will be posting the slides and the webinar recording—along with the rest of this week’s sessions—on our site at the end of the week.


Click below to see the full eLBX Online schedule and register.


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