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The non-linear journey of the creative process

Being creative makes our lives meaningful, from finding solutions to problems in everyday contexts to building new innovations in the workplace. 

But how do we go from an idea to building something valuable? In reality, it's a process, and Design thinking might be the solution. Design thinking is a non-linear process that aids UX Designers in their creative journey. The 5 pillars of Design Thinking are: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. 

When designing a new product, we start by empathizing with our users' needs to gain a clear understanding of the challenges they face in education. Next we define the problem by clearly establishing what we want to solve. The ideation phase marks the initiation of the creative process, where we explore innovative and well-researched solutions to address the identified problem. In this stage, we break free from assumptions, encourage “out-of-the-box thinking”, and engage in brainstorming. But design thinking is far from linear, and going back and forth through the design steps is mandatory. As a result, after prototyping our idea into a product, we make sure that it meets our user's needs by testing it out multiple times. 

Throughout this article, we'll dive into the creative process of UX-Design at MemoryLab, explore insights from current literature on Design thinking, and discuss methods that can foster a creative culture in your workplace.

Creativity in the brain

Being creative involves both divergent and convergent thinking. 

Divergent thinking allows us to generate a wide variety of solutions to a specific problem, while convergent thinking helps us identify the most useful and applicable ones. By combining the two, we cultivate problem-solving skills that match originality with practicality. Interestingly, studies (Abdulla et al., 2020) have shown a positive relationship between creativity and the ability to detect potential problems that require being addressed and solved, a process known as problem finding.

At MemoryLab, we combine creative thinking with an evidence-based approach. That's why our creative journey always starts with an extensive literature review that boosts our imagination in finding solutions to problems. 

The Double Diamond Design Process Framework

We believe creativity is the first step in building something valuable. 

While creativity can happen spontaneously, having a structured approach helps when facing creative roadblocks. The Double Diamond, introduced by the Design Council in 2004, is an important framework that helps us find creative solutions. It consists of four steps: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. This splits the creative process into two elements: the problem and the solution. In the initial stage, we identify the core problem, and then we generate solutions that can be further tested. Between these two spaces, ideas can either diverge or converge. In the diverging phase, there are no limitations to thinking, while in the converging phase, we select those that resonate with our objectives. For each step we can apply a series of strategies, classified as following: 

  1. Discover (diving) – We start by understanding the problem. We approach both primary and secondary research, by exploring the current state of the art in educational research and interviewing students and teachers. From here we can brainstorm and mind map ideas related to the problem. Two effective techniques are competitor analysis and evidence-based research. 
  2. Define (converging) – While defining the problem we try to narrow down the problems we identified into a clear goal. By analyzing the data we have collected through our research. Various tools such as user stories and journeys, personas, and affinity maps can help us define our problem statements.
  3. Develop (diving) – Following the problem space, we begin the solution space, where early prototype ideas take life. After having a clear vision of our target user, we begin the creation of the MVP, a minimum version of our product that works and can be tested. Prototyping begins with sketches, and gradually transitions into a digital version of the product.
  4. Deliver (converging) – Perhaps the most important step for us researchers is the delivery, which gives us insight into the usability of our product. Here, we test our solution and iterate on it, by creating research questions that will be tested on our users before launching the product. A/B testing, where two variants of the product are compared on different KPIs to validate our choices based on data-driven decisions, is one of the techniques we apply at this stage. 

Fig 1. The Double Diamond framework 

However, this is a nonlinear process. We navigate back and forth between steps if more information is needed to make sure that the problem and the solutions are clear.

A creative culture in the workplace

Sparking creativity in the team while brainstorming makes our jobs feel meaningful, increases productivity, and boosts engagement between team members. While applying a structured formula for the creative process is the start, a more relaxed collaborative approach can also lead to greater solutions and innovations. Strategies, such as embracing a growth mindset, continuous learning, and exploring multiple alternatives, rather than focusing on a single one, enhance creativity significantly. Creativity also stems from inspiration, having a vast library of mood boards and references. Sometimes it is the short walk or the lunch break conversations that bring on new creative solutions. Incubation, the stage in the creative process in which our mind can wander without thinking about the problem indeed helps us in the creative process. Lastly, collaboration within the team, constructive feedback, and diverse approaches foster creativity.  

Key takeaways 

Even though there is no single formula for the creative process, the following findings facilitate the creative process in my daily job: 

  • Design thinking in UX involves five pillars: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
  • The Double Diamond framework provides a structured approach to the creative process.
  • Employing various strategies and techniques can foster creativity in the workplace and bring design solutions to life.
  • Cultivating a creative culture within the workplace empowers the creative process and leads to meaningful results.

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