The Creative Well


Water Well Near Pakhi Pahar

Step Design Thinking Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy
1 Empathize: Compile knowledge for recall during the project Remembering: Remember and retrieve knowledge from memory
2 Define: Setting a clear definition from knowledge Understanding: Construct a meaning from knowledge
3 Ideate: Create, organize and select ideas Applying: Use learned material
4 Prototype: Create models Analyzing: Break material into constituent parts and detect how the parts relate to overall purpose
5 Test: Gain insight from feedback Evaluating: Check and critique

I am a practicing creative designer, and my personal and career focus has been biased toward production. So why not, isn’t that the reason we get a paycheck for our professional work?  Isn’t that the reason we can watch the football game after mowing the lawn?  Get’er Done! Being creative involves more than production.

Design Thinking provides project teams with a visual output using common methods that we inherently developed as adult learners.

Methods for approaching and performing a task directly correlate to our level of learned knowledge. What is the reason I chose to use Design Thinking methods for this blog?  It does not matter whether we call it Design Thinking or how adults learn; we develop it naturally through practice.  If you don’t believe me, why is there such a close correlation to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy?  For now, let’s take an easy stroll through an introduction to Design Thinking steps.

Step #1 [Empathize]

The first step of Design Thinking is to Empathize with the user, attempting to understand their needs to get our project going in the right direction. We can hope to complete this project phase with a true north compass point direction.  If we do our job properly, we are more than likely to be somewhere between north-west to north-east.

The compass siting direction is a judgement call based upon knowledge.

We must either have users on the design team with this knowledge, or we bring the design team’s knowledge level up to that of the users themselves. That’s right; we are gathering knowledge found in actual team members, interview documentation of the actual user focus, or expert knowledge from interviews and written work.  The team learns by acquiring a body of knowledge where they are able to recall it when applying to an application.

The better the team is at obtaining knowledge, the richer the knowledge base that can be drawn from. If we were searching for gold nuggets in the Alaskan wild, would you want a soil sampling from a garden shovel or a massive front end loader?

Step #2 [Define]

The second step involves a project facilitator or team sub-set to settle on a framework and project boundaries to the project definition. Using the deep dive knowledge as a foundation from Step #1, a clear design criterion is formulated for that true north siting.  The project now has identity!

The facilitator has a creative freedom, just like a sound engineer setting audio track volume. Adjust the volume so the team can comfortably hear the message.  Too much volume and the scope leaves no room for creativity and a soft volume makes the goal hard to see.  A good project facilitator has compassion for the project team, creating a focus that will set them up for success.

Step #3 [Ideate]

The third step pushes forward with an eye on the definition created in Step #2. The team converges to provide whatever solutions come to mind.  If done correctly, it should rival a frenzied game of charades.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Ideas can be formulated by recalling solutions that have been used to solve a problem in the past.

By mashing together the ideas of a hamburger and bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, the bacon burger was born. There are many that are fond of this creation, even though the solution was created from ideas that already existed.

Take notice of what people are doing in diverse industries, which speaks to a diverse team selection able to bring their experiences to the session. If the field of civil engineering is far advanced in an area that would be useful to the solution process, and you don’t have an experienced civil engineer on the team, the solution will be a shadow of its possibility.

Idea sorting, grouping, ranking and selection of a prototype is challenging

Take the best from each idea and grouping them into something worthy of the next phase. Work together as a whole team, a sub-group of the team or mixture of others that perform this task well.  How do you select?  Use a simple discussion or a democratic vote.  Whatever the selection method, there is no doubt that the choice has a major impact on the project direction.

Step #4 [Prototype]

The fourth step is meant to be simple, fast and cheap. Take a $5 tri-fold display board and use it as a prop while giving a story performance.  Add printed images, arrows, circles and text that will clearly get your point across during testing in Step #5.

This is the first step that goes beyond where most individuals tap out. Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy defines this step as the beginning of higher thinking.  Don’t freak out!  The knowledge for performing this step is gained through experience.  Go outside your comfort zone and follow a mentor if needed.

Step #5 [Test]

The fifth step requires a group of test drivers to take your project prototype out and kick the tires.  A takeaway from one of my favorite interview questions, asking for someone’s top 10 on a specific experience rarely yields better than a 50% match.  Everyone has different experiences, so when you ask someone about cake, strong mental images may arise from a marriage or wiping the remnants that is caked on a face after a mud run.  Just be careful to use the right volume to control the question breadth, similar to when creating the definition in Step #2.

Your question will generate responses with as much value as the time spent to develop it.

It actually helps to use well developed interview skills to ask the right questions that will yield good findings. Using the question “what do you think” may not provide the feedback needed.  After all, the reason for this step is to gain insight from a smaller sample group of users before moving the project forward.  The step can be as important to the final product as the work that went into the previous steps.  If your team does not have feedback experience, tap an expert on the shoulder and ask for assistance.


Base knowledge is not enough to participate as a creative designer. The knowledge gained from experience is required to participate at the Prototype and Test phases of the Design Thinking model or the Analyzing and Evaluating phases of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

Simply put, the greater the amount of experiences, the deeper the well of knowledge that can be drawn from in the future.


Krathwohl, D. R. (2002) A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy In Theory into Practice. Autumn, 2002. Ohio State University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s