Have you ever attended a design thinking workshop? If the answer is yes, then there is a high chance you left the session feeling like this…
Super excited to apply your learning and make a difference in your organisation. One week passes and the feeling turns into this…
The rise and fall — how and why does this happen?
Design thinking is not a new concept but there are still many large companies that are yet to embrace this modern day mindset and methodology. To put it simply, design thinking is a human-centred approach to problem-solving. Sadly, there is a fundamental problem that exists — management often see it as the solution to every problem in the organisation. After teams are upskilled in design thinking, management get hungry for immediate results but are unwilling to invest further until they see them. These factors contribute to a lack of change in organisations and unfortunately a slow death for the design thinking journey.
Luckily, there are ways that you can ensure the journey continues. Here are 8 ways that your organisation can start to embed Design Thinking and get on the path to seeing results.
1. Run a Design Sprint
Take your learnings and get moving!
Start to actually apply what you have learned in a focused environment. Get teams together and spend 1–5 days tackling a real business problem using the end to end design thinking methodology (Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test).
Important note: Make sure you don’t get sucked into ‘business as usual’ during the Design Sprint.
A design sprint will allow employees to get hands on experience with tools and techniques and allow them to build out a solution that can be pitched to leadership. Much like when startups pitch to investors, employees need to approach management like they are pitching their own start-up. Often times getting buy-in for your idea is just as important as having one.
2. Move onto “Lean Startup”
“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.”
- Seth Godin
Learning design thinking is the easy part — now what?
Try taking your idea and low fidelity prototype developed and apply the lean startup. Design thinking is about ideation, low fidelity prototypes and starting the journey of product/market fit. The lean startup allows you to take your idea/solution to the next level by focusing on:
- Minimum viable products
- Business model validation
- Further product/market fit
- Testing actual market behaviour
To simplify, design thinking helps us come up with better ideas and the lean startup helps us turn those ideas into business models that work.
The lean startup is used to turn proposed solutions into business models, underpinned by assumptions that are rapidly tested with actual customers to separate truth from fiction, learn and iterate towards product market fit. It provides the framework to better understand the elements of an idea including distribution channels, marketing channels, cost structure and revenue models.
3. Try measuring something
Companies often fall into the trap of implementing a new methodology but failing to measure its success.
Design thinking will be set up for failure if success is linked to revenue generated. . Here are a few better ways to measure the ROI on design thinking:
- Training — number of people upskilled and coached in design thinking
- Project — number of projects that have applied design thinking
- Employee satisfaction — measure the impact design thinking is having on employee satisfaction (eg. surveys, feedback from projects)
Give it some time and use these measures to see if design thinking has ‘moved the needle’.
4. Change your old school KPIs
In parallel to setting measures, it is essential to hold employees accountable for driving the change.
Adjust KPIs to promote innovation and creativity. For example, one of our clients implemented a KPI to ensure employees demonstrated each month how they were applying design thinking in their role. Surprise surprise — this organisation is still applying design thinking to this very day.
A change in KPIs also means there is support from leadership (they are the ones that have the power to set KPIs) and employees that are ‘blocking’ the implementation of design thinking will be pulled up for not supporting the movement — the blockers. For instance, in every organisation there is the “that’s impossible” person. The longer an employee has been around, the more likely their thinking will be influenced by the past. Budget constraints, legacy systems and traditional financial metrics all impact the way this person thinks and behaves. Rather than embracing ambiguity and creative problem solving, this person shuts down any ideas from colleagues that challenge the status quo.
5. Turn old processes into relevant processes
Organisations tend to get comfortable in their ways and fail to change processes that need updating. Doing the same thing all the time doesn’t make it the right thing.
Take a step back and understand how your company does its work. Some questions to consider:
- Does your company use traditional business cases?
- Are there silo’d departments across the organisation?
- Does your organisation talk to customers before investing in solutions?
A good place to start is to incorporate customer insights gathering to your processes. Prior to investing money and resources on a big project, ensure that employees identify the actual problem they are solving first. Michael Hendrix, IDEO Partner, said it best, design thinking “can bring powerful ideas to an organisation, but it can just die if there’s not a willingness to take it and develop it in a way that’s effective”.
6. Team up for Design Challenges
Design Challenges are similar to design sprints but rather than focusing on the problem for 1–5 days, design challenges are spread across a longer time period. Teams should spend about 2 hours a week across a 6–8 week period and apply design thinking to a problem area of the business. Spreading the workload is key!
The teams will start by directly engaging with customers to better understand the way they think and the values they hold. While the Design Challenge will end with bringing each element of the program into one clear and concise pitch that can be delivered to management.
The eight weeks could look something like this:
Week 1 — Understanding your customer
Week 2 — Exploration and Insights
Week 3 — Defining the problem
Week 4 — Ideation
Week 5 — Prototyping
Week 6 — Testing
Week 7 — Updating Prototypes
Week 8 — Pitching
7. Spread the word
Would you be shocked if you were told that design thinking is actually a form of risk mitigation?
Design thinking allows us to determine which ideas are worth taking to market and which ones we should pour cold water over. The misconception is that design thinking is a risky process — let the rest of the organisation know that it actually helps reduce risk. Share all the success stories that come from applying design thinking (whether large or small).
Build the curiosity of the rest of the organisation by setting up a physical space (even just a meeting room). Put visuals on the walls — customer quotes, project timelines, prototypes, whatever you can think of. Make it an immersive human centred room. Next time someone walks past this room I promise you they will poke their head in.
8. When all else fails…just do something yourself
Save the energy spent complaining about the lack of support from your leadership and actually apply design thinking yourself.
Change something in your own role. Your day starts at 8:30am. You spend most of your day in meetings, getting coffees and conversing at the water cooler. Sound familiar? Don’t worry you are not alone. The average corporate day consists of an abundance of tasks that “just need to be done” without adding too much value.
Try and apply design thinking to improve some of the following common corporate tasks:
- Performance reviews
- Status reports
- Checking emails
- Powerpoint slide development
This brings me back to one of my favourite quotes by George Costanza, “I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!”
When was the last time that you stepped back and questioned these tasks?
Management is often looking for fast ways to achieve objectives — in other words they end up cutting corners. You can’t cut corners with innovation. It is clear that organisations see the value of the human-centred approach, but the challenge faced is actually being able to embed the mindset in the organisation and gain buy-in from management post training workshops.