Strategic design

Design Thinking with Architects

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During the three months of our collaboration, I worked with the RAD team on two competition projects, one self initiated project, and we co-delivered a lecture and a full-day workshop at Hong Kong Design Institute. The RAD team wanted to find more meaningful work, to improve the process they currently had in place, and to create a happier team and work environment.


We spent several weeks in design thinking training. The approach we took was experimental, and it was driven by application to ongoing projects. Very soon the team’s energy level was high and there was increased optimism and willingness to truly collaborate. One team member took a leading role and started facilitating the process. WakeMake focused on the methods RAD was not familiar with:

  • Framing the challenge
  • Identifying extreme users
  • Conducting interviews
  • Honing facilitation skills

My favorite “aha moment” was the first application of the training on a real client’s project. It was the rushed, as usual, competition for a large global client. The team started with the stress-testing the challenge and very soon found out that they did not have enough information about the project. For the first time ever, they decided to take initiative and call the client. But first, they brainstormed to create targeted questions and then interviewed the client.

“It sounds very simple: just call the client and ask what they want. We never called a client before to talk about their expectations. It is hard to do that when you are under stress and the timeline is short. We only think about finishing the project. Asking questions and diverging from the task looks like a waste of time.” ~Team facilitator
“I see a big difference in the way we work. We work together now, NOT alone.”
“We have started to involve everyone in brainstorming, prototype making, so on. No one is left behind, we are now learning from people.”
“We are creating tailored new solutions based on input from the people.”

“We thought we were doing design thinking until Iva came and showed us what design thinking really is.” Aaron Tan, owner of RAD architectural studio in Hong Kong.

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