Blog: Intersectional design thinking

FreemanXP's Kim Myhre explores intersectional design thinking - a practice that can lead to breakthrough ideas and powerful brand experiences.

Blog: FreemanXP's Kim Myhre on intersectional design thinking
Blog: FreemanXP's Kim Myhre on intersectional design thinking

Intersectional design thinking: a journey into the enlightened darkness

I’m sure that you’ve heard the old saying – we know what we know, we think we know what we don’t know, but mostly we don’t know what we don’t know.

I have found this to ring very true in my years in the brand experience business. We most often make decisions based on what we know, and that tends to be based on a very finite amount of insight. It turns out that often the best breakthroughs and innovations come from the least expected places. Often outside of what we know. But as seasoned experts we generally feel much more comfortable relying on our past experiences. We think we know what works, and we’re hesitant to introduce new, unproven ideas into the mix.

The drunkard's paradox

This reminds me of the story of the drunkard’s paradox.

A police officer sees a drunken man intently searching the ground near a lamppost and asks him the goal of his quest. The inebriated man replies that he is looking for his car keys, and the officer helps for a few minutes without success then he asks whether the man is certain that he dropped the keys near the lamppost.

"No," is the reply, "I lost the keys somewhere across the street." "Why look here?" asks the surprised and irritated officer. "The light is much better here," the intoxicated man responds with aplomb.

I believe in the practice of what I call ‘intersectional design thinking’ – a concept that allows us to explore those places where the light is maybe not so great, where we don’t know what we don’t know, but where the breakthrough ideas that will enable our clients to create more innovative, powerful and effective brand experiences might be found.  

Intersectional design thinking challenges the idea that specialisation is required, that it’s all about what worked best in the past, that decisions must be ruled by age old experience, and confidence and control of the outcome is the priority.

Our approach and mindset requires a re-framing of what diversity of ideas means, creating collision-prone, serendipitous environments, and even challenging our own opinions of what works best.

Sometimes this is uncomfortable, but we believe that intersectional design thinking can enable clients to tap into their most creative possibilities, to create new, refreshing and powerful approaches to brand engagement, empower us individually to become innovation leaders and ultimately drive success for our organisations.

The concept is simple. Just accept that we don’t know what we don’t know, and that there are trends outside of our experience that may offer incredible new ideas and ultimately better results. Imagine for example, that ideas from retail may offer new insights into powerful new brand experiences, or that the way certain species of animals interact may offer new insights into community building and social interaction.  

Embrace diversity

We recommend inviting diversity into your strategic planning process and examining trends from outside of the more traditional event and experiential marketing disciplines to discover new ways of thinking about what is possible to create great brand experiences. 

Whatever strategic planning approaches you may use, recognise that some of the best ideas may come from the most unexpected places. Unlike the drunkard in our story above, we must look into the places where the light is maybe not best to drive the much-needed transformation of our industry. 

Kim Myhre is senior vice president and managing director at FreemanXP EMEA.

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