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Are You a Manager or a Leader When it Comes to Your Career?

Designing Your Career: Reality Checks and Evolving Into Experimentation


This is the next in an ongoing series of posts  I'm doing about how to use design thinking in your career. 

When we last left off in the Designing Your Career series, we had entered the Ideation phase where we talked about how to brainstorm potential ideas for experimentation.

In this post we're going to discuss how to do a "reality check" on your ideas and how to begin evolving your thoughts for the next phase, Experimentation. 

Reality Check

As you look at the promising ideas you've developed in your initial brainstorming, you'll want to do some "reality checks" on these ideas in order to further evolve your thinking. Remember, we're brainstorming and exploring ideas that will help you grow your career and design a work life for yourself that meets your criteria for success. 

For each promising idea you've identified, explore these questions:

  • What's at the heart of this idea? What values is it expressing for you? What real needs or issues is your idea addressing? Let's say that you're exploring the possibility of starting a "side gig." What's attractive to you about this idea? Is it a need for freedom and independence? Is it about being able to utilize and express different aspects of yourself? The more you understand what's underneath your idea, the more open to all possiblities you become. 
  • What are the constraints on your idea? What are the challenges and barriers you may face in implementing your idea? Who in your life might oppose what you're thinking? Remember, constraints or limitations don't have to be insurmountable. They merely give you a sense of where you may have to be more persistent or creative in your thinking.  
  • Brainstorm new solutions. First look at the underlying values you identified previously. Are there other ways that you could express or connect to these values? Then brainstorm ways that you might address the challenges you identified. It can be helpful if you go back to the core group of people you were working with in your initial brainstorming session. They can often offer different perspectives or ideas for how to address these issues. 

Work with each of the ideas you came up with in your initial session in this same way. Once you're finished, take a step back and see which ones feel most "do-able" at this time. Which of your ideas has the most juice and energy for you? Those are the ideas you'll want to experiment with, at least initially. 

Make sure to archive any ideas you don't want to work with at this time. It may be that at a later point, you decide you want to go back to them. I have entire notebooks of ideas that I've been playing around with for years. Sometimes it's a matter of the right time and people coming together for an idea to take on some new life. 


Summarize Your Idea(s)

At this point, your ideas will have gone through several iterations. It can be helpful to summarize and refine it as you prepare to go into the Experimentation phase. 

Take a look at your notes and field research and then try to capture your current understanding of your idea. 

  • Give it a title--try something playful or inspiring. 
  • Write a one-sentence summary--what's the heart of your idea? 
  • Describe how your idea would work--what would you be doing? What needs and opportunities do you see in your idea?
  • Who are other people involved in this and how can you get their support?
  • What value and benefits for yourself and others do you see in your idea? How will this address your career and life aspirations? 
  • What questions do you have? What is still open or uncertain for you? 

Again, it can be helpful to share this next write-up with your brainstorming team. They may provide you with additional ideas and information or point out holes in your thinking. 


In the next post in this series, we're going to look at how you play with your ideas in the Experimentation phase. This will be all about testing and trying out, pushing the edges of your comfort zone and being open to what you learn in the process. Stay tuned!




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