Design Thinking at Live Well Collaborative

A multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving

Team members working together during a brainstorming sprint

The Setting

Live Well Collaborative (Live Well) creates a safe environment for us to experiment, learn, and collaborate. Depending on the project scope, a team may consist of 3 to 15 people. Every team has a project lead and an advisory faculty lead, but most of the key decisions are driven by the team itself.

Moveable tables and chairs in the studio help facilitate discussion and collaboration

The Approach

Live Well uses a validated 15–week design thinking process to translate user-centered research into products and services that meet end users’ needs.

The Live Well Collaborative’s 15–week design thinking process

Phase 1: Research

We often kick-start our projects with a lead-in meeting with the client. Once we get an overview of the brief, we take a deep dive through secondary research, which usually includes reading and extracting information from industry and consumer reports, online articles, and news.

Mapping what digital products are used in a house to identify gaps and opportunities
The team is discussing how to best visualize survey data for a client’s report

Phase 2: Ideate

After receiving feedback from our clients at the research presentation, the team spends some time benchmarking products and running brainstorming sprints. Together as a team, we share out our unfiltered ideas and categorize them.

The team is sharing their unfiltered ideas after a brainstorming sprint

Phase 3: Refine

After our clients share their thoughts on our concepts in the ideation presentation, we usually prioritize concepts that received the most buy-ins from clients and work on improving them.

Prioritizing our concepts and connecting them together for better system mapping

My Role and Contribution

I started out at Live Well as a technical writer documenting the team process. I attended most team meetings and observed the team for hours every week as they interacted in the studio. I took notes of almost everything, from work routine and new research methods used to individual comments or team dynamics that caught my attention. I also compared my observations to innovation frameworks that I learned from the innovation management class.

Project Lead starting a group conversation about concept prioritization and team distribution.

Key Takeaways

1. No stupid questions

We grew up in an education system that limits us to chase after the correct answers. But the truth is—there are often no right and wrong answers. Excellent designs stand out when they can serve users’ needs and reduce their pain points. The key is about whether we’re asking good questions and understanding the core problem. As the saying goes, “A problem not fully understood is unsolvable; A problem that is fully understood is half-solved.”

A diverse, multidisciplinary team coming together to discuss the next steps for a project

2. Learning by doing

We may not have years of work experience, but the packed timeline often forces us to keep rolling even when we face something that is out of our comfort zone. We learn to embrace ambiguity, adapt quickly, be resourceful, ask for help when needed, and build new skills as we go.

3. The power of observation

As a technical writer observing the team and documenting the team process, I had the privilege to be in and out of the team at the same time. While I had a clear picture of what the team was working on, I could often take a step back from the project craziness and analyze the team dynamic.

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UX Researcher + Storyteller who stands for the arts and environmental sustainability. Check out janetchuhl.com/

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Janet Chu

UX Researcher + Storyteller who stands for the arts and environmental sustainability. Check out janetchuhl.com/