Solving complex problems with Lean Design Thinking

Red Badger is prototyping a tool to solve any sticky challenge with inspiration from Lean, Agile and Coaching. In the following series of articles we are going to share our best tips with you.

Since I joined Red Badger I had the realisation that the toughest challenges for design consultants may not be in design or tech but stakeholder/team related or in organisational change. To gain insights I shared a Google Survey with our social network.

5 groups of problem situations have been recurring in the survey:

  • Goals and KPIs not clearly defined
  • Brief addressing the wrong things, Stakeholders jumping to solutions before fully understanding the challenge
  • Unvalidated assumptions taken as truth, No buy-in to research from client, Big upfront research creates long lead times before value can be proven to business
  • Tasks seem too big to start or take forever to complete, ideas don’t flow, resistance to share rough ideas early with the team
  • Teams working in silos and are not collaborating across functions, organisation falling back into old patterns, Services don't get built [to vision]

Deeply rooted in design lies the belief that we can create change and learnings, we just need to [know where to] start.

As a remedy for these stuck situations we have been looking for a Clinic format, something to open a new perspective, something playful.

The best first step is to realise that you are stuck because it is easy to waste a lot of time in this unproductive and unresourceful state. The best thing is to stop and talk with someone on the team, an Agile coach or a mentor. This requires a safe space that allows to admit “Hey, I’m stuck here….” 

A Stuck Story Card will help participants to capture the problem situation and its context in the workshop.

To find unstick inspirations I interviewed an agile coach, a lean evangelist, a psychologist and an executive coach and found fantastic resources for the design process. 

5 areas appeared to be fruitful right away:

  • Setting goals, Inspired by Smart Goals Trigger Questions
  • Challenging Assumptions, Inspired by our Cognitive Biases
  • Align & Motivate Cross-Functional Teams, Inspired by the Agile Frames & Rituals
  • Learning, Inspired by Lean/Jobs to be Done [JTBD]
  • Forming Ideas, Inspired by Design Thinking and Lean

This list of unstick trigger will continue to grow. 

After a few iterations in the studio we chose to present one simple trigger per playcard. Any card might hold a question, provocation or reframe, so they are open enough to work for as many situations as possible and leave room for the participant to create her own solution with it. 


We were looking for an opportunity to test the workshop format. The Service Experience Camp in Berlin seemed great for this. It consciously is not a ’content delivery machine’. Instead it is built around its visitors and lets them meet and collaborate in Open Sessions over two days. It has a festival-like atmosphere with many open-minded people and loads of inspiration. 

On the morning the Service Experience Camp opened we were invited to pitch the Open Session for 20 seconds on stage. I invited the conference visitors to participate in two ways: They would share their Stuck Stories in a small group and challenge their problem-solving and facilitation skills by helping others in the session. After a short intro participants wrote down their problem situations and discussed with the people on their table. The groups soon split into pairs of two.

Learning from the first iteration

Next time I will spend more time building up the problem statement step by step with the participants. I would ask them to pair in groups of two from the start so people get most value and practice out of the session. In addition to the existing triggers I will introduce blank cards to write new ideas for unstick trigger and keep more time to share results back to the group. During the session people started by pulling play cards from the stack with the theme best matching their situation. Some mixed all cards together and pulled random cards to see how the context shift might open an unexpected door. Others laid out all cards in front of them to get an overview first and then started to coach their partner. I really enjoyed to see participants experiment with the cards and create their own ways to facilitate with them. 

To find even better triggers in the future we will speak with people who face really sticky challenges. To get more feedback we look for opportunities to play and facilitate the session again soon.

If you like to share a Stuck Story or a resolution that worked for you, you like to collaborate or host a Lean Service Clinic at your place, please be in touch andreas.conradi@red-badger.com


Update 1: Luis Arnal of Insitum suggested Behavioural Economics as a source of inspiration for research, and service ideation during Service design in Business conference.

You can find the series' second article here.