New ways of thinking about design can come together with expertise marketing—our preferred term for thought leadership—to help you to understand how to identify what your users want and need. You can then use that information to help you design a personal editorial calendar that will deliver information that is useful to your customers, and also acts as your personal ‘shop window’ onto the world.

Understanding design thinking and expertise marketing

Design thinking is a term used to describe the process of allowing user experience, or even users, to drive the design of your products or services. The expression emerged in the 1960s, when it was considered to be a solution-focused way of thinking about design problems, intended to produce practical results.

Solution-focused thinking works by building possible solutions, and adapting them when and where they do not quite fit the requirements. It is, therefore, a very constructive way of solving problems. Problem-focused thinking, by contrast, tries to break down the problem into its constituent parts, and work out the constraints, to find the perfect solution. It is, therefore, more analytical. In practice, the two are not so easily separated: analysis needs later testing using a more constructive method, to see if the assessment of the constraints is correct. To be repeatable, a solution-focused answer needs to be examined more analytically.

Design thinking, therefore, builds solutions with users, and then tweaks them where they do not quite address the problem. It also goes hand-in-hand with analysis: to enable user experience to fully inform design, you must be aware of user experience, and user wants and needs—and this requires analysis.

Expertise marketing is our preferred term for thought leadership. It requires three elements: knowledge of your customers or users, knowledge of their problems or issues, and ability to identify solutions to these. These three come together under an overarching ‘umbrella’ of your strategic focus: your unique selling point, or where you can really add value for your customers.

The intersection between design thinking and expertise marketing

The intersection of design thinking and expertise marketing is a crucial point. You can use design thinking to help you move around and between the second two elements in the expertise marketing framework: your customers’ problems and issues, and the solutions to these. Involving users in designing products and services means that you can define problems and identify possible solutions at the same time. You can also assess whether and how far each proposed solution addresses the problem. The application of this to both your product (or service) development pipeline and your personal editorial calendar should be obvious.

How, though, can you change the way that you work, to ensure that you can genuinely use design thinking? The good news is that adopting design thinking is, as the term suggests, mostly about the way that you think, and the way that you see the world. Becoming more aware of that, and the assumptions that you make about the world, is a very good start. The second stage is to develop your empathy, so that you start to see the world through other people’s eyes. This is not about you imposing your assumptions on others. Instead, you need to start by listening and watching what people do, and asking questions, so you can understand what matters to them. This will help you identify what issues need to be addressed earlier in your editorial calendar, and which can wait.

At an organisational level, creating a culture that fosters innovation is helpful to the long-term adoption of a design thinking approach. This means making time for people to connect and create together—and not just through workshops, but in conversations and everyday interactions. Design thinking can be applied to everything, and not just working with customers. For example, meetings can be designed to be more effective if the agenda is put together focusing on the needs of attendees. The same applies to your editorial calendar.

Content is good—but not enough

Finally, it is important to remember that when you are thinking about your personal editorial calendar, bringing in design thinking will help you to understand the subject matter: the content. But content is not everything. Present it badly, and it will have little or no impact. Using a tool like the Minto Pyramid can help you to structure your content more appropriately and effectively, and get even more ‘bang’ for your design thinking ‘buck’.

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