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Define/Ako Overview and Mindset

What sort of mindsets should we take into the Define stage? In this article we'll overview the Define stage and see where the challenges lie.
A lot of data on post it notes on the wall

Welcome to week 2 of Solving Sustainability Challenges with Te Ao Māori. This week we will delve further along the design thinking process, as it applies to sustainability, biculturalism and the application/understanding of indigenous knowledge and practices.

The Define stage is a convergent stage where we make sense of our findings. The Empathy/Wananga stage was about discovery, uncovering knowledge from various points of view, and now the Define stage is about creating sense from that knowledge, determining what really matters from our users. Ako, a Māori principle, means to make sense of data to identify the real problem. A principle within Ako is Tau Tikanga which means to find the common ground.

What really matters can be called a “point of view” or can be specified as a new question to solve. To get to this point of view we take 4 main steps.

First we analyse the information by collecting, clustering, interpreting and summarising key learnings. Each summary we may call an insight.

Secondly we summarise the most important insights. Which are the ones that associate strongly with the user group or groups. There is no limit but from experience it is best to narrow down to the top 10. Any more than 15 and it becomes hard to establish defined points of view (this depends on the size of project and resource carrying out the project)

Thirdly we create key themes from the most important insights. We turn these themes into key questions to investigate (this is called reframing).

Finally we test our key questions (on users, or sponsors), and refine and improve upon them.

The Define stage therefore has its own set of important mindsets.

Human centredness is still a big part of the Define stage. Each piece of information, whether it is from secondary or primary research, needs to be analysed with the stakeholders in mind. Once summarised into an insight, it is really important that it can evoke a sense of “this insight matters”. I like to think of an insight as a written statement that evokes a sense of emotion from the reader or creates an action that they want to solve it.

Crafting Clarity is really important of this stage. By the end of this stage we want to be able to remove all the distractions of the challenge and focus in on the main points simply and clearly. Our final statements need to be able to be understood quickly and clearly by those we share with.

Bias toward action in the Define stage means we are still focussed on action over thinking. There are times to think during this stage, but to start with we need to sift through data and turn it into useful insights. Many people state they feel overwhelmed when starting this stage, hence action is a great mindset to have to get started. Once we start to make sense of data it becomes easier to move forward into the thinking process.

Being mindful of process is important in the Define stage as we need to ensure we leave this stage ready for ideation. This means during this stage we are mindful that we need to get to clear insight statements to launch ourselves into the next stage. At times we may need to go back to empathy (i.e. we have identified some gaps in research), but this should be a quick jump backward before carrying on with the Define stage. While Empathy was about recognising we can’t collect information for ever, Define is about creating those final statements to start the next half of the journey (ideate, prototype and test) really effectively.

Are there any mindsets that you think are missing for the Define stage? Or you think are more important than the ones above?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Solving Sustainability Challenges with Te Ao Māori (Māori World View)

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