Your Design Thinking Action Plan

by | Dec 16, 2019

All year long, your Spring Plans team has been using the concept of Design Thinking to contemplate many different aspects of your personal finances. 

Why Design Thinking? 

The answer has remained the same all year long: because we want you to have permission to design your life

The world is full of boundaries and fences made up of piles and piles of the word “should”. When it comes to the surprisingly complex universe of cash flow and financial planning, we know you run into those “shoulds” on a daily basis. In fact, you may even be “should-ing” on yourself from time to time. 

You may have received a “should” that shames you about your cash flow (we didn’t say “budget”), and another that stops you from asking for help with your investments – because it “should” be easy. In each of the multiple arenas of your personal finances, there could be “shoulds that are blocking your progress. Those “shoulds” have the potential to stop you from achieving what we’ve always wanted for you:

A life that you love – whatever that looks like for you

The life you love may look like a life you’ve seen in your neighbourhood, or down the street. It may involve marriage, children, a home of your own, and perhaps even some kind of boat. 

The life that you love may also look very, very different. It could involve decades of commitment to education, art, or business. It could involve volunteer work in foreign lands or right here in Canada. It could be a nomadic surfing lifestyle, research at the South Pole…or something else that we at Spring have never considered (but would love to know!).

What is important for you to understand is that the life that you love is the correct one for you, and you have not only the right but also the responsibility to find the best way to live it. We know that financial decisions are a big part of this, and that tearing down those boundaries and fences of “shoulds” – removing shame, fear, and insecurity through a rational, thoughtful process of empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing will lead you to the confidence you need to stride forward. 

We’ve given you an enormous amount of content to chew on this year, and if you’ve forgotten more than half of it, we cannot blame you in the least. 

Just like in the cash flow and financial plans we deliver to you, we want to leave you with a Design Thinking Action Plan, so you can stride forward successfully into the life you love:

Your Design Thinking Action Plan

Step One: Empathize

Gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve – typically through research. Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process, because it allows you to set aside your own assumptions about the world and gain real insight into alternative perspectives. 

Review all the topics we covered in our Design Thinking year, and consider which ones provide you with the deepest, most visceral reactions. Those reactions – especially those ones that feel uncomfortable – are telling you that these are places where you need to dig deeper in order to create the life you want. 

Personal Income & Cash Flow

Business Income & Cash Flow

Risk Management – Disability

Risk Management – Emergencies

Transitioning Into Retirement

Retirement Income Planning (the planning you do before you retire)

Post-Retirement Income Planning (the planning you do when you are retired)

Tax Planning

Charitable Giving

Estate Planning


Step Two: Define

Accumulate the information you have created and gathered in step one. Analyze your observations and synthesize them to define the core problems you have identified so far.

Grab those topics and read through them once more. What about them makes you react strongly? Do you have a sense of pride, fear or shame, joy, anger, or atrophy? 

Divide these topics into those reactions – the good, the bad, the ugly. Then put them in order – with the scariest ones first.

Step Three: Ideate

Generate some ideas. The solid background of knowledge gained in the first two phases allows you to start to think “outside the box”, looking for alternative ways to view the problem and identifying innovative solutions. 

What tools, strategies, and support systems can you use to turn these areas in your life around? Are there ideas in the article covering this that you can and will implement? Do you need help from your family, friends, an expert in the field? 

What will help you move forward in the next steps?

Step Four: Prototype (also known as… planning!)

This is the experimental phase, with the aim of identifying the best possible solution for each identified problem. Produce a number of possible solutions to investigate. 

You may have a lot of topics to cover. We know quite well that in the past year, we’ve only scratched the surface on applying design thinking to cash flow and financial planning, and yet there was a great deal to work with. 

Start by creating a plan for how you might attack these areas of your life. What might you tackle first? How will you get started – and how will you check in to determine if you need to back up and re-start somewhere else? 

Many people start down these roads to change and get stopped along the way, because we’ve committed to a plan. The plan starts to fall apart but we are so committed that we continue. We’ve put in so much effort so far that it feels like an enormous loss to stop – which can lead down a rabbit hole of further loss and pain. It’s called the Sunk Cost Fallacy and it impacts all of us in one way or another.

By taking the prototype approach–a plan that has room to change–we can avoid the paralysis that can come with biting off far more than we can chew, or chewing it in such a way that we end up repeatedly biting our proverbial tongues. 

Step Five: Test!

Now that you have some solutions – test them to see if any gain traction. While this is the final phase in the process, the results could bring you back to step two, with new, or more robust definitions of the issues you are solving. This allows you to come up with even better, more robust ideas, prototypes, and tests. 

This is where you take action on your plan. You know what you want to tackle, you understand the order in which you expect to tackle them, and some of the strategies you want to try. You’ve mapped out a plan, with reasonable time frames (please be reasonable with your time frames!), and stops to check in to see if the plan is working. 

Now is the time to hit the GO button.

Let’s get started on building that life you love. 

Julia Chung