Applying Design Thinking to Relationship Challenges

George RAYMOND-ALSHOUFI
3 min readJun 5, 2023

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Twelve participants engaging in a session, applying Design Thinking to overcome relationship challenges.

As an Innovation Consultant, I’ve had the privilege of steering businesses towards creative and innovative solutions. However, I felt the pull to direct my expertise towards an arena more personal and nuanced — love relationships. This led me to pioneer a unique initiative: A Relationship Workshop using design thinking principles. The aim was to assist individuals navigating their relationship struggles in Lausanne, Switzerland, an area that boasts an eclectic mix of Swiss natives and expats.

The Structure

The workshop structure was built on the foundation of Design Thinking, a solution-oriented process that comprises the stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. This structure was coupled with the guidance of a psychologist, ensuring emotional balance and facilitation of productive conversations.

Phase 1: Empathize

In the initial Empathize phase, I conducted one-on-one interviews with potential participants, aiming to understand their unique relationship challenges and what they wanted to learn. This exploratory stage was crucial, as it formed the bedrock of our workshop, determining its design and focus areas.

In the first workshop session, participants paired off, rotating every 10 minutes to share their relationship experiences, answering three specific questions: What was positive about your last relationship? What was negative about your last relationship? And what did you learn from it? This empathetic sharing helped develop a shared understanding and respect for diverse relationship experiences.

Phase 2: Define

From the personal narratives gathered in the Empathize phase, four main themes emerged. These themes, in essence, defined the workshop’s main topics: Relationships & Emotional Well-being, Dating and Social Dynamics, Modern Relationships and Society, and Dealing with Breakups and Divorce.

Phase 3: Ideate

In the Ideate phase, participants were divided into four groups, each assigned to one of the defined topics. Within these groups, they discussed five specific questions related to their topic. The brainstorming sessions enabled participants to delve deeper into the issues and collectively generate potential solutions.

Phase 4: Prototype and Test

The final phase of our workshop mirrored the Prototype and Test stages of the design thinking process. Each group presented their findings and proposed solutions, effectively testing their ‘prototypes.’ This phase was facilitated by a professional psychologist who ensured that emotions were managed, and discussions remained constructive and supportive. Feedback was shared in an environment of trust and respect, enabling each group to refine their conclusions.

Outcomes and Insights

The insights and solutions generated from the workshop were impactful. Participants found value in the insights and felt equipped to handle their relationship challenges with newfound perspectives. Professionals, such as psychologists and relationship counselors, appreciated the insights and applied them to their practices. They found the shared stories and resultant conclusions from a diverse group of individuals very beneficial. Key findings included:

  1. Relationships & Emotional Well-being: Communication, authenticity, shared values, and mutual support are crucial for a healthy relationship. Emotional baggage can be managed through therapy or self-care.
  2. Dating and Social Dynamics: Societal pressures and fear of rejection pose significant challenges in dating. Self-confidence and personal growth are essential for navigating the dating scene.
  3. Modern Relationships and Society: The influence of hyper-independence and social media influencers on relationships was discussed, alongside societal norms around monogamy and polygamy.
  4. Dealing with Breakups and Divorce: Participants discussed coping strategies for breakups and divorce, including therapy, seeking new experiences, and building self-confidence.

Psychological Support

Given the emotional sensitivity of the subject matter, a professional psychologist was involved throughout the session. They provided emotional support, ensuring the conversation flowed smoothly and stepping in whenever discussions got too intense. This helped maintain a safe and supportive environment, enabling open sharing and learning.

Reflection

As I reflect on the experience of applying design thinking to the personal arena of relationships, I am heartened by the results. It affirmed my belief that this solution-oriented process, honed over 7+ years in business innovation, could be equally effective in tackling personal and emotional challenges. The outcomes of this workshop have strengthened my resolve to continue applying design thinking to the nuanced realm of human relationships, creating a safe and supportive environment for individuals to address their challenges and find meaningful solutions.

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George RAYMOND-ALSHOUFI

Innovation consultant with 7+ years experience. Passionate about design thinking and its application to personal relationships. Contact me xdgeorges@gmail.com