Welcome to our guest blog for January, written by one of our preferred training providers for Design Thinking:
How do you make design thinking stick in your organization? Spoiler: it’s not through conventional workshops and trainings.
Design thinking is a creative and collaborative approach to problem-solving that focuses on understanding the needs of users and developing solutions that are both effective and user-friendly. Design thinking has become a well-worn buzzword with many organizations professing to use it, yet it is still rare to find an organization that genuinely applies its principles. That is because despite all good intentions, as anyone who has tried will know, it’s incredibly difficult to bring lasting change to the way teams work.
Over the past six years of working with serveral of our clients in this area, we at Anglemap have learned three valuable lessons about what actually makes design thinking stick.
As a boutique consultancy and learning services provider specializing in design thinking and its even more holistic relative, service design, we have seen the same pattern for years: one or two highly motivated individuals at an organization are fed up with slow, waterfall decision-making and product development and seek out help to bring a fresh approach to their team. The first stop is usually to book a training course to introduce everyone to the new methods.
While a training program can be a great first step, it predictably turns out that parachuting into an organization for a three-day course, getting everyone excited to use new tools, and then leaving does not often result in meaningful change and frequently leaves teams more frustrated than when they began.
Instead of a one-off training, consider running a small, low-risk project within your team with a design thinking methodology. With capable external facilitators joining your team for a few weeks, your team can learn and directly apply the tools without taking time out of their schedules, all the while building a success case in a supported environment.
Whether after a training course or a pilot project, it’s too much to expect from a team to be able to run with the new methodology completely unsupported. To build on these first learnings for lasting success, make sure you have an internal or external person or team that is qualified to provide support, guidance, and facilitation to the design thinking process in real-world situations.
This works best when this design thinking expert exists outside the normal project structure so that they can provide the zoomed-out perspective design thinking requires. Even if you have a capable design thinking practitioner on the team, consider creating space for an additional internal or external resource outside the team that can check in with the team once per week and provide guidance on the practicalities of applying the tools and methodology.
The main benefit of introducing design thinking through a pilot project rather than merely a training course is that it builds shareable, relevant success stories. Training may get some people excited, but there is usually little to show for it besides a certificate and a group picture. However, when the methodology is directly applied to a business-relevant project, and when it leads to new ways of working and new kinds of solutions, people across the organization start to take notice.
After two years of providing one-off design thinking trainings to leaders within a client company in an attempt to introduce the method to the wider organization with only moderate success, this year we were hired to join a project team at that same company – to support them in applying design thinking to an actual business case. Within eight weeks, we had accomplished more together to promote design thinking than in two years of training dozens of leaders.
The team who asked us to guide the design thinking process in an internal project now has a treasure trove of materials to share across the organization: quotes from users, relatable insights, previously undiscovered opportunities, and three new service concepts that are currently in the prototype phase and are yielding daily new insights and benefits. Most importantly, the team built new skills and applied a new way of working while achieving tangible results. Leaders from other teams have taken notice, and we are now working on three other projects to directly apply design thinking to other challenges.
If you want to introduce design thinking to your team or organization, skip the one-off training course. Instead, try running a short-term pilot project using design thinking with external support. In as little as two months, your team will learn on the job, have the support to apply their learnings, and create the stories that will ensure the methodology spreads across the organization for lasting change.
This guest blog post was written by Simon Herzog at Anglemap, one of our preferred training providers for Design Thinking.
Simon and his team bring extensive experience and enthusiasm with Design Thinking in the workshops and research projects they offer.
To discuss this blog in more detail or explore your current design thinking status in your organisation please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.