3. September 2018

The Best Framework

It always strikes me when teams express their concerns about synthesizing data in design thinking projects. While many of our students and clients seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with other people and their needs, they seem to have a hard time to carve out meaning from their interactions.

I believe that a lot of this has to do with the way we apply frameworks. Not in our trainings nor in consulting have we figured out how to engage teams in the selection and design of meaningful frameworks for their data.

I often hear the question about what kinds of frameworks we should apply in projects. My answer is always this:

The best framework is the one you as a team will design while you are dealing with your data. It is the framework that allows you to let your data speak to you in an inspiring way. It is illuminating the gaps and empty spaces between single points of data.

Whether or not the patterns you see will actually allow for the creation of useful designs is yet to be proven. At this stage all that matters is that you can engage in a conversation about what you can agree and about what you need to disagree on.

In our trainings and projects we go through the various stages of what this answer implies. We know from research about experienced-based learning (Kolb 2015) that filling out standardized frameworks is only an educational entry point (see image below).

Learning to apply frameworks

The second level would be to play with data while applying various frameworks. The idea is to explore the varieties of meaning that can be derived from data points. The data points remain the same while you constantly change your perspective on them. Compared to user research -more a craft than play- the synthesis of qualitative data ought to be playful.

Whenever possible I aim to bring our design thinking teams to a third level of data synthesis. As soon as you grasp the idea of frameworks as changing perspectives on data points, you can begin to design your own frameworks. Framworks that allow for meaningful conversations -if not arguments- within teams and within the context of your project.