Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm showing you how to apply design thinking and principles to your career planning and development. The series of posts so far is here.
You've defined your career project challenge and you've been gathering research and inspiration. Now we enter the Interpretation phase of the design process, where you begin to make sense of what you've been discovering.
This can be a confusing part of the process. You have a lot of information. Your perspective on your project is evolving and changing. In some ways your design challenge may seem clearer. In other ways it can get more muddied. This is normal. Careers are messy, especially these days, and you are in the phase where you are letting yourself be open to possibilities, so there's a lot floating around.
We talked in my previous post about the importance of having an Inspiration Journal--your "design sketchbook" for your project. As you seek sources of inspiration, talking to other people and gathering information, you should be documenting your findings in your Inspiration Journal. Capturing what you're learning is an important part of the process, as you will be using this later to look for recurring stories and themes that can give you clues about how you want to experiment with possibilities in the Ideation/Experimentation phase of the process.
Here are some strategies for capturing learning and keeping this phase manageable:
1. Plan For It
Set aside time each day or each week to capture what you've been learning. (This would be a great way to spend the first hour of your day!) One planning strategy that can be helpful to ensure that you do this is "If/Then Planning." This is a simple strategy for achieving any goal.
- If it's Thursday at 4 p.m., then I'm capturing my career project learning." OR
- "If it's 9 a.m., then I'm taking 30 minutes to capture my career project learning."
Believe me, if you don't make specific plans for working on this, then your project is likely to get pushed to the back burner.
2. Capture Your Thoughts, Reactions and Impressions
In addition to documenting the content of your research--for example, recording the results of an interview with someone in your dream career--you also want to take the time to capture some of your reactions and impressions.
- What emotions does your research evoke? Excitement? Anxiety? Boredom?
- What are some of the most surprising or memorable things you're discovering? If you interviewed someone, what surprised you about about what they shared? If you're gathering articles on your topic, what aspects of these articles are standing out for you? Why do you think this is the case?
- What questions are bubbling up for you as you gather your research and inspiration? Be sure to document these as they can be clues to potential experiments you can run later.
3. Capture key stories.
If you're talking to other people as part of your inspiration/research process--and you really should be--it's important to keep an eye out for the stories they are telling. Document these in your Inspiration Journal, along with why these stories captured your attention. Again, these can offer valuable clues for your project.
The idea in this part of the Interpretation phase is to ensure that you are creating space to start making some sense of your research and inspirations. In a future post, we're going to look at how we search for themes and insights in our learning. To do this, though, we need to make sure that we are actually capturing that learning along the way.