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3 ways to make design thinking stick

Organizations are really beginning to see the value of training people to think like designers.

In turn, people are finding all sorts of different applications for Design Thinking ranging from the more traditional application in product development to the very challenging reality of digital adoption. (e.g. WalkMe).

Many people are keen to step up to the challenge of how to take advantage of these powerful ideas to drive innovation and transformation in their organizations.

Here are 3 ways to help you make your Design Thinking programs stick:

1. RECOGNIZE THAT DESIGN THINKING REQUIRES A SHIFT IN MINDSET
Design thinking is not just about learning new skills, for many people it involves learning to see the world, work and interactions with others as a possibility for creating a new and better future together. Without a shift in mindset you don’t have an organization that can ‘do’ design thinking; you have an example of where someone once did design thinking for you or to you and a few of you know the words. Make sure you design your programs and projects to shift mindsets.

2. ACCEPT THAT DESIGN THINKING REQUIRES A SHIFT IN MINDSET AND DESIGN YOUR PROGRAM FROM THERE
As Carol Dweck, author of Mindset puts it:
“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”

“How companies can profit from a growth mindset” does a nice succinct job of showing how understanding mindset applies to organizations.

Since design thinking is defined as an iterative process that begins with empathy, developing empathy often becomes a starting point for organizations seeking to bring design thinking into a culture.

Beginning with empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another or being able to walk a mile in another’s shoes, is a very powerful way to begin any design project, any process and any relationship. It is also a learned skill. As with any new skill, it is extremely hard to learn in mid process, in the middle of a hectic life, in the middle of a project deadline. So, for many people design thinking is a luxury that they cannot engage in the midst of the craziness that they perceive as life and work, where they are constantly in firefighting mode and they perceive that work is building up all around them.

If, as design thinkers, we are to practice what we preach, we have to start with empathy. But we can’t start with theoretical, inspiring empathy. We need to start with real, messy, in the weeds, down and dirty empathy. The walk in another’s shoes type of empathy. Otherwise, it is as if we are asking people to begin their hillwalking experience by climbing Everest.

3. DESIGN TO CHANGE PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORS; YOU CAN’T DO IT VIA CULTURE ALONE:
Yup, sorry to say, you have to get to where the rubber meets the road. You can’t just teach new ideas and walk away, talk about culture and expect miracles to happen. You have to get down to where the rubber meets the road, to where the day to day practices and behaviors happen; you have to help people apply it so they can embody it.

You need to design programs and projects and processes so people can:

LEARN – DO – SHIFT MINDSET – BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY.
Otherwise, it’s not human-centered design, it is manufacturing input-process-output applied with wishful thinking to humans.

Jennifer Kenny helps companies innovate better together with a focus on applied Human Centered Design Thinking for Innovation and Transformation. She is passionate about helping amazing people thrive in highly complex technical environments.

FOR MORE ON HER INNOVATING BETTER TOGETHER, AND HUMAN DESIGN THINKING PROGRAMS PLEASE CONTACT HER AT JENNIFER@JENNIFERKENNY.COM OR WWW.JENNIFERKENNY.COM