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Nobody Wants Egg On Their Face: A Summary Of Design Thinking


Many people have had to do the science experiment, where they must create a parachute for a raw egg, to prevent it from being broken when dropped from atop a ladder.


Some students created hot air balloons, hole punching scrap paper, and tying string to it, placing the egg in the woven basket at the bottom. Others may have created a box for the egg, and filled it with scrap paper, to cushion the impact.


But, out of all of the failed attempts at making these parachutes, the one I remember so vividly was when, still in the classroom, a group tested the egg parachute, filling the basket with rubbers from each team member’s pencil case, and the whole thing fell apart. With just two minutes left, they panicked, and simply wrapped the egg in an entire roll of tape. It was the only egg to survive the drop.


Design thinking is like that experiment. It is a term used to describe a series of cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts are developed. The application of design thinking provides an organisation with clarity that their product or service is desirable, feasible, viable, and sustainable.


In SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework, authors Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell, outlined the processes of design thinking, which we have paraphrased below:


1. Understand the problem. This may appear self-explanatory; after all, how can you come up with a solution to a problem, if you cannot comprehend it. This process, however, requires much deeper understanding than a superficial once-over. In order to achieve this, it is suggested that individuals on the team dedicate some time to acquiring first-hand accounts of the issue at hand, by communicating directly with those affected by the problem. Through this process, user stories can be created to explore the individual’s experiences in a simple, straightforward manner. This part of the process provides insight into the requirements and benefits of a desirable solution.


2. Design the right solution. In order to do this, it is encouraged that the product team look into a variety of means to which this issue can be solved. This includes taking inspiration from products that have already been released, reviews of those same products, and co-designing with a range of different members of the team, thus providing multiple channels to look into for an effective, technically feasible product or service to be the solution to the problem. It is also suggested that in order to gain perspective, prototypes and small-scale tests take place to immediately reject solutions that will not work, and improving the ones that will.


3. Validate that the solution is sustainable. This means that, in order to provide assurance of financial success, the teams at hand would have to comprehend and manage the economics of the solution to ensure that the product returns greater revenue than needed to develop it in the first place.


So, within the context of the science experiment, the problem at hand is that dropping a raw egg from on top of a ladder will break the egg, and the task was to create the solution; provided with a large number of materials to use to craft these parachutes and protection. But, the important part of the task was simple, to prevent the egg breaking. This meant that the teams had to create a feasible, and viable solution.


And, just like design thinking, the nature of the experiment, embraced the reality that the likelihood of creating a perfect product on the first release is slim, or in this case, the perfect solution on the first drop. This means that by having a number of teams providing their insight, you will either have a number of failed prototypes to learn from, or a number of successes to culminate to create the best product.


With the above in mind, as referred to by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell, design thinking measures success by these attributes:

• Desirable. Do customers want this?

• Feasible. Can we actually build it?

• Viable. Should we build it?

• Sustainable. Are we managing the product so that it returns profit or value to the business over its life cycle?


Was the egg parachute desirable in its current form. No. But, could it have been applicable outward? Yes. When I studied this myself, it was related to NASA, and space travel; relating the egg to a spacecraft, and the descent from the top of the ladder to re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. So, through that lens, yes. Yes, it was a desired step of the process of refining NASA’s technology for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere after spending time in space.


Could a bunch of school children build something for NASA? No. But could they create parachutes for eggs? Yes. Thus it was a feasible solution for the issue of eggs breaking when they hit the floor.


Viable, with the guise it was for NASA? Yes. Viable as it would teach children about science, too? Equally, yes.


Thus, the last question is whether, the egg experiment was sustainable. Of course, you cannot quantify the academic value of the lesson, however, being able to ensure your students recall the lesson due to the nature of the class, means that yes, it would have had value. And, of course, if the scenario about NASA had been true, too, then that would have further validated the sustainability of the practice.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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