The Power of Design Jams (And How They Can Help Your Startup)

With the UAE Innovation Month in full swing, it could be the right time to explore the concept of design jams within organizations, governments and societies.

learn more about Dipika Mallya

By Dipika Mallya


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What is a design jam, exactly? Think of it as a mini think-tank; a space to collaborate and build solutions to pressing social or business challenges. Design jams typically last between 2-3 hours to 2 days, and invoke the participation of students, entrepreneurs, designers, creative thinkers and the public community. With the UAE Innovation Month in full swing, it could be the right time to explore the concept of design jams within organizations, governments and societies.

A jam uses the human-centered design process to guide participants through the event; this five-step process was popularized by the Stanford and IDEO, a prominent design firm. Also known as design thinking, this process keeps the customer's needs at the core of any project or challenge, and ensures that any potential solutions actually solve the problem at hand.

By empathizing with customers, defining the right problem, brainstorming solutions, prototyping with physical or online materials and testing prototypes with real users, participants are able to tap into their creative potential and collaborate with others to build useful products and services. A jam can be held for a specific organization or industry; notable examples include the Legal Design Jam to disrupt existing judiciary processes, and the Global Service Jam to create new services for customers.

As an entrepreneur, how can a design jam help your startup?

1. Empower employees

During a jam, employees are encouraged to think creatively, try new solutions and iterate based on feedback from real customers. This mindset reduces the fear of failure and puts the focus on experimentation instead.

2. Test risky ideas in a safe space

Investing in new, innovative ideas or technologies can often feel daunting for bootstrapped founders. Through a design jam, participants can test the reaction to new products, services or concepts before investing in building the whole infrastructure.

3. Increase collaboration

How often do IT and marketing sit together to develop solutions? During a jam, people from different departments or industries have the opportunity to share their perspectives with one another.

A design jam borrows heavily from agile and lean startup methodologies, and can be a powerful way to align your team on a new project or activity. It's a fun, visual way to jumpstart creativity within an organization, and help employees build an innovation mindset.

Ready to participate in your first jam? The Global Service Jam will take place from 9th to 11th March 2018; this jam will be held in over 90 cities worldwide at the same time, and is a great introduction to design thinking. For aspiring entrepreneurs, the Design Sprint Bootcamp will take place on 31st March 2018. Both events are free to attend at the In5 Design Innovation Centre.

Related: Eureka! Four Ideation Techniques To Get Your Team Thinking

Dipika Mallya

Founder, Ideation Labs

Dipika Mallya is the founder of Ideation Labs, a non-profit initiative to bring design thinking mindsets and tools to educational institutions, corporations, and community organizations. She has worked for leading entities in the region, including the UAE Ministry of Education, The Al-Futtaim Group, and Cleartrip Middle East. She holds a master’s degree in advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her areas of interest include educational design, innovation policy, and social entrepreneurship. 

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