Written by Dylan Gerstley

On our shelves: iDea Fan Deck

We are forced to solve problems in every area of our life: at home, at work, and everywhere in between. But many of us don’t solve problems effectively. Maybe we don’t fully understand the problem, we only have a few solutions, or we don’t reflect and improve before investing time and/or money into an answer.

The iDea Fan Deck, a design-based, problem-solving tool developed by Drs. Anthony Middlebrooks and Jules Bruck at the University of Delaware, combats these issues with a nuanced and easy-to-modify creative problem-solving process that focuses on the power of deep reflection. Tackle problems effectively and confidently by understanding, imagining, and iterating your way to a positive, creative solution.

Understand and explore the problem

The iDea Fan Deck takes a deep dive into the practices of design thinking, which includes thinking deeply and considering all perspectives, generating many ideas, and engaging with others. It focuses on questions, turning individual leadership into an active exercise.

The first step is to consider the problem: what information are you missing? What solutions did others offer in the past? Who and what is most involved? Deeply considering a problem becomes an easy checklist with the design thinking principles. It also helps identify key areas for improvement and pushes you toward a powerful, effective solution.

A real-life example of understanding and exploring a problem is in physical health and diet. Is it more crucial to change physical activity habits or to cut out unhealthy food from the diet? Which is more feasible? What do those closest to you think? How can they help? This general theme and line of questions can be tailored and adapted to a variety of situations.

The creative problem-solving process proposed in the iDea Fan Deck provides a blueprint to develop clear solutions. It makes it easier to become a better individual leader for yourself and others. Consider a problem deeply, ask yourself tough questions and approach issues with this creative process to find the best, most effective solution.

Imagine and implement solutions

Just as design thinking asks you to consider the problem from all sides, it also asks you to think about the reception of your solution. Your creative problem-solving process needs to take into account the emotions and perspectives of those impacted by your solution. And don’t forget to address worst-case scenarios.

Truthfully considering the emotional impact can be extremely difficult and personal, but it helps to be honest and think about what the costs of your solution could be. Would you be able to handle the worst case scenario? How would you react if someone approached you with a similar proposal? It may not be easy, but the process prepares you for the ramifications of your solution just as much as it protects the sensitivity of others.

Though you may try to keep your work and personal life separate, the two significantly impact each other. By stopping to consider how your proposed solutions affect others, you can better communicate and connect with those closest to you and those working with you. People appreciate empathy. When you observe the perspectives of others, you demonstrate a high level of respect, creating the basis of a compelling connection and truly meaningful relationship.

Assess the outcomes and adapt

When it comes to problems and solutions, the iDea Fan Deck guides critical thinking and encourages you to ask the important questions. And when it comes to actually assessing outcomes, the process is very similar.

Your process for solving problems should allow for space to assess and reflect on the outcomes of the solution. Is it overly complicated? Is the solution doing its job and is it sustainable over a long period of time? Assessing the problem brings you back to the drawing board. It asks you, as an individual leader, to improve and adapt based on your observations.

There is power in repetitive and structured questions to deeply consider all the nuances in a problem-solution set. The creative problem-solving process in the iDea Fan Deck makes individual leadership an active exercise in self-reflection.

The process helps create the first step towards becoming more irresistibly compelling and seriously relevant to yourself and others.

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