4 key lessons I learned while working with a social impact organization, IDEO

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June 24, 2015
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There are many great lessons that I have learned while working with IDEO.org in the past couple of months. Essentially it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it rewired my brain. If you are in the social impact world, take note(s) and even if you are not, this is equally important for someone running a product based startup.

1. Spend time to figure out the problem

When you are off to solve a problem, try to spend as much time as you can on the problem. Einstein said so “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions” and this makes so much sense now because at the root of problem-solving, you will notice that people often do not spend enough time probing what the problem is. That’s where you need to concentrate the most and spend 90% of your brain power.

2. Talk to the “user”

When I say the user I don’t mean the person or the end user of your product or solution rather anyone or everyone who comes in between. Usually when you are building a product or a solution, you would have more than just 1 group of users, some of which will not be the consumers but ecosystem players and when you are building your product it’s important to talk to each and every one of them.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of feedback

I have seen it happen in the development sector in Pakistan (which is mostly the reason why the whole sector is so screwed up). You can’t make decisions for thousands of people sitting in an air-conditioned room based on a baseline survey that you did, that’s just plain wrong. You will have to leave your comfort zone and talk to “real” people who are going to use your solutions and get real feedback for them if you want your thing to work.

4. Don’t judge people and their ideas

The crazy ones are indeed “the misfits, the rebels…” but they are also the ones “who think they are crazy enough to change the world” and actually do so. So when brainstorming about solutions and fixing problems, defer judgement and try to think as crazy and wild as possible and encourage people working with you to do so.


I don’t like books. It’s one of the blessings of the digital age that I don’t have to carry them but there’s one book that has found a permanent place in my bag and that is the Field Guide to Human Centered Design. There’s a free copy available on here but, I would encourage you to buy the hard copy and keep it with you at all times.

And to everyone who takes even a moment out of their time to create real value out of their work and what they are doing for this country that we know as Pakistan – thank you. Stay hungry, stay foolish! 🙂

Feel free to add more tips and pointers in the comments.

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