Design Thinking workshop for... programmers?


I’m planning a workshop on Design Thinking currently. We would like to include programmers in this process, since it is a multi-disciplinary group we are going to be working with. I am a programmer myself, but this is actually easier to plan for non-programmers, since I feel like their mind set is a bit different than the business stake-holders, researchers, and designers who will be involved.

What sort of challenges should I expect from including programmers?

What sorts of exercises and methodologies to help illustrate design thinking would be appropriate for programmers?

My biggest fear is they will think it all a waste of time and end up getting sort of isolated from the experience and not get anything out of it.



I’ve noticed at a few hackathons I’ve been to that had a “design” angle (e.g. more focus on low-mid fidelity prototyping and business fit than cool tech), the programmers usually end up disappointed that they could not use their skills in the time-frame, or their work is rejected in favour of something more conceptual that communicates the idea better.

I agree that the production mindset might make it hard to reach them. At the same time, I’ve seen some programmer-focused design jam sessions (e.g. for a data-science problem) that went okay!

Perhaps some ways to approach this could be…

  • Use examples of design thinking that influence very technical products and tech companies to set the tone.
  • Don’t just say “everyone is a designer”, call out how programmers have something special to contribute by showing where great technical people worked from inspiration.
  • In your warm up excercises, throw a bone to developer mindsets. “Draw eight different ways of saying you have five objects in 60 seconds” or something like that.