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Designing for 5G

Jade Salazaar led 150 Collision attendees through a Design Thinking workshop to uncover some solutions the 5G wireless technology evolution might bring 


Billed as both the fastest-growing tech conference and one of the biggest start-up conferences in North America, Collision recently brought together over 25,000 technophiles and investors from 125 different countries.

Major event sponsor Rogers Communications showcased the exciting possibilities of 5G, announced the coming launch of its NB-IOT network and participated in a number of discussions. Rogers also hosted a Design Thinking workshop on the theme of the Future City. Drawing on her experience as a leader in Design Thinking and UX Research at Rogers, Jade Salazaar introduced attendees to the Design Thinking framework; she then guided them through a hands-on, “user-focused” design session meant to explore the problems 5G could address.

A woman speaking into a mic on a stage with a presentation screen behind her

Design Thinking is an approach to solving problems that keeps people (the users, the customers the guests, whomever) at the centre of the design.

Jade Salazaar, Senior Manager of Design Thinking and UX Research, Rogers Communications

A woman using a large board to present while people sitting around her listen

Step one: Empathize

Divided into facilitated working groups, attendees chose one member to act as the subject of their research. As a user-focused process, Design Thinking requires that ideas and solutions originate from the needs of the people you are considering. Accordingly, each working group interviewed their “subjects” to determine areas causing stress, anxiety or simple frustration. Findings ranged from lengthy commute times and parking, to feeling incapable of organising children while managing a hectic work life, to needing quiet places to work or study.    

By focusing first on our subject, we ensure that the things we design respond to a genuine need. If we focus on the technology first, we run the risk of designing something cool that ultimately fails in the market because it doesn’t address something people need.

Jade Salazaar

A woman in a yellow top smiling

Step two: Define with “How might we…?”

Armed with these issues, participants moved to the definition stage, reframing the concerns as a question leading with “How might we…?” There are two keys to this process. The first is to not prematurely limit the scope of these questions. As Salazaar cautions, “what is possible is always going to be limited—by time, by budget, whatever—but it’s important not to do that too soon. Things always narrow toward the end, so it is important not to start narrow.”

The second key at this stage is to not try and answer the question once you’ve framed it. “One question might lead to several answers, but only if we don’t think about it as already answered. The moment we see a solution, our minds tend to stop thinking about more ways to address the problem.”

A man writing on a big board with paper on it

Step three: Ideate

Keeping this in mind, each participant privately recorded their potential solutions for the defined problems. They then shared their ideas, clustering them into themes and patterns. Salazaar encouraged the highly engaged groups to knit common themes into ideas for a more complex solution.

People sitting around conversing in a conference

The final steps: Prototype, test and present

Because Design Thinking is an iterative process, teams then went back to their subjects for feedback on their initial results. Outside the bounds of a one-hour workshop, the process would involve several feedback sessions with the subject—to ensure the ideas were on track and the problems still resonated with the subject. Once the feedback was captured, it was time to prototype.

For this step, Salazaar challenged participants to create a model of their ideas using craft materials. Several groups created “wearable tech,” while others created mock-ups of autonomous commuter vehicles. While not working models, the prototypes provided simple visuals for the final presentations of ideas.

Design thinking isn’t just for technology

As she closed the session, Salazaar reminded participants that Design Thinking isn’t just a way to brainstorm new technology solutions; it’s also a problem-solving tool that can be used to tackle a wide variety of issues—from process improvement to keeping food in your fridge from going bad.

Read more about Rogers and 5G here.