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  • Academy of Design Thinking

Design Thinking Facilitator: A Quick Guide to an Innovative World

A Design Thinking Facilitator is a design thinker who guides others through the design thinking process. A facilitator has to perform a wide range of tasks in order to smooth the path to the adoption of a design thinking mentality.

The ultimate goal of a design thinking facilitator is to guide a team from messy, complex challenges into clearly defined problems, tested solutions, and great outcomes.

A Quick Intro Into the World of a Facilitator

As a facilitator you should step in and lead a team at all times in activities such as Hackathons and Bootcamps; lead such a team through specific activities as part of a larger project. Some such projects include brainstorming, field research, gathering data, evaluating that data, mapping customer journeys, concepting, prototyping, testing with customers and stakeholders, creating blueprints and roadmaps. 

Many times, a facilitator finds himself/herself in the midst of ambiguity, mess, chaos, and lack of clarity. To navigate through this, a design thinking facilitator should be able to balance his/her own thinking. In particular, a facilitator should move from critical to creative thinking in response to the situation, maintaining a positive approach even when faced with potential failure. 

As in all situations, the best outcomes come from first knowing yourself and your mindset as a facilitator. What triggers your curiosity? How do you react when people bring a different point of view? How open are you to learn from everybody? Answering these questions is a good start to your journey as a design thinking facilitator. Eventually, with experience you will know that somehow things fall into place, “magic happens” and clarity emerges. 

The Many Faces of a Design Thinking Facilitator

As a Design Thinking Facilitator you are the INNOVATION CATALYST and COACH as embodied in Tom Kelly’s 10 faces of innovation:

The Anthropologist: who observes, reads the signs, listens with ears and  eyes, and tweaks the flow on the go; 

The Director: who makes it easy for the team to try new paths, feel the excitement and move to the next stage; 

The Collaborator: who keeps a constant flow of excitement and energy through a project team;

The Set Designer: who creates the stage where the action happens and where characters interact with one another;

The Caregiver: who notices when the energy is low and brings in the energisers, (the music, the games, the fruit and sweet supplies); 

The Experience Architect: constantly designing experiences for every unique product or service;

The Hurdler: who pushes through obstacles by viewing problems as opportunities;

The Cross Pollinator: who understands the different languages of the Stakeholders;

The Experimenter: who loves to prototype and use what is available to physically represent their ideas in order to test them;

The Storyteller: who brings to life how we are using Design Thinking Innovation for great outcomes.

Essential Tasks of a Design Thinking Facilitator 

Finally, let us outline some of the main tasks a design thinking facilitator has to perform to make things easier for people who participate in a facilitated discussion: 

  • Support individuals within a group in understanding their common objectives.

  • Help people collectively move through a process. 

  • Structure conversations and apply appropriate group facilitation techniques to keep discussions effective.

  • Foster participation and get people to come up with ideas, thoughts and perspectives that add value.

  • Get all individuals in the room to feel like they are in a group with a shared interest.


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