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IDEO’s Tim Brown reveals how designers can get seriously creative

Tim Brown is the CEO of the global “innovation and design” firm IDEO, and in his recent TED talk he analyzes what can help designers to think out of the box.

Check out Justinmind’s interview with TED’s UX Architect

According to Tim, what causes us to be conservative in our thinking is that we fear the judgment of our peers. Kids, on the other hand, have no embarrassment at all. But as they learn to become adults, they become much more sensitive to the opinions of others. That’s why many creative workplaces today are designed to help people feel relaxed.

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Playfulness helps us get to better creative solutions, according to Tim.

When we encounter a new situation we have a tendency to want to categorize it just as quickly as we can, we want to settle on an answer and figure out what’s going on around us very quickly.

Kids are more engaged with open possibilities. When they come across something new, they’ll want to know what it is but also what they can do with it. This openness is the beginning of exploratory play, and it’s another one of those playful activities that, as we get older, we tend to forget and we have to relearn. One of the things we tend to do as adults is edit things, our desire to be original is actually a form of editing. But that actually isn’t necessarily really playful.

By forgetting the adult behaviors that get in the way of our ideas, we can be more creative. How? It turns out that we need rules to help us break the old rules and norms that otherwise we might bring to the creative process.

Another way is building prototypes. David Kelley calls this behavior, when it’s carried out by designers, “thinking with your hands.”

“It typically involves making multiple, low-resolution prototypes very quickly, often by bringing lots of found elements together in order to get to a solution. This behavior is all about quickly getting something into the real world, and having your thinking advanced as a result”.

This way, quite complex ideas can spring into life and go right through to execution much more easily.

Having a prototype allows to talk about what one wants in a much more powerful way.

“And of course, by building quick prototypes, we can get out and test our ideas with consumers and users much more quickly than if we’re trying to describe them through words”.

What about designing something that isn’t physical, like a service or an experience? Instead of building play, this can be approached with role-play, according to Tim. The best way to get a feeling for any flaws in your design, is to act it out.

When, as adults, we role-play, we’ve gone through lots of experiences in life, and they provide a strong intuition as to whether an interaction is going to work. So, when acting out a solution, we can be good at spotting whether something lacks authenticity. Another way for designers to explore role-play is to put oneself through an experience which we’re designing for, and project ourselves into an experience.

Do you know a better way to do this than with high-fidelity prototypes?

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How to define, validate and review applications before starting to code are his thing. He is interested in everything related to web, mobile and desktop apps and how to prototype and simulate them before development starts. After hours he’s flexing his math muscles.