4 Ways to Apply Design Thinking Learnings When You Get Back to Work
May 4, 2018 | Innovation
by ExperiencePoint

ExperiencePoint-innovation-pdfguide-backgroundThere’s nothing like the excitement and possibilities that are ignited from that initial opportunity to use Design Thinking practices firsthand during an ExperienceInnovation™ program. You leave energized and inspired to go back and do great things. But as we all know, the day-to-day grind has a way of creeping back in and taking over. If you’re not deliberate about building, refreshing and continually applying your Design Thinking habits, they can easily stagnate or get pushed aside.

So, what can you do to keep that initial spark alive and make sure your Design Thinking and innovation chops continue to deliver value long after that initial experience? Here are some principles and prompts that can help you embed Design Thinking practices into your team’s consciousness, both to hone your skills and habits and to continually reach new breakthroughs and game-changing results.


Collaborate with others on a shared definition of the outcomes you want to see from your Design Thinking efforts

When people are clear about the results you’re working to achieve through your innovation initiatives, they’ll be more motivated and invested in keeping the momentum going.

Try these steps to get your team involved:

  • Share the aims of Design Thinking and innovation with others on your team so that they’ll be familiar, aligned and engaged with what you’re doing and why.

  • Keep the definition simple. For example: Our innovation initiatives provide a clear and compelling benefit for customers, build a sustainable competitive advantage, and create measurable value for our organization.

  • Stay on track. Don’t derail or slow down your efforts by introducing confusing definitions or outcomes that might compete with other existing initiatives.


Approach Design Thinking and innovation as a mindset, not an individual initiative

To do this, you have to set the stage by:

  • Regularly reminding people that learning and applying Design Thinking principles isn’t a one-and-done process; your skills and success with it will continue to improve over time — and that means your best Design Thinking work will always be the next application.

  • Recognizing and encouraging others when they apply Design Thinking principles and practices.

  • Creating your team’s version of The Failure Report, like EWB, that celebrates low cost, quick learning and innovation returns through prototype experimentation.


Strategically and tactically sandbox and time-box your Design Thinking efforts

Time and resources are fixed, so be smart about how you use them:


  • Get focused with your How Might We questions so that you can build your Design Thinking capabilities with concentrated attention in areas that have strategic priority.   

  • At a tactical level, use short cycles to reflect on how you and your team are progressing with your learning and application of Design Thinking principles. Consider questions like:

    • What’s getting better?

    • Are there “stars” who are emerging from the work who would be great facilitators or mentors?

    • What needs improvement or more focus?

    • What’s an application for the approach that might help us get better in areas we need to improve?

  • Debrief and reflect after Design Thinking cycles to capture new learnings and new opportunities to apply it to create an approach that works with your culture.


Take the long and broad view on your Design Thinking and innovation efforts

Making innovation part of your team’s consciousness requires thinking about the big picture — of your organization, your strategy, your goals and your planning. Here are a few ideas for integrating Design Thinking as a way of doing business and for getting more out of your innovation initiatives:

  • Draft an innovation calendar that lays out where you can apply Design Thinking practices over the next year while attempting to block time for specific tool and skills development, along with increasing awareness and application, quarter by quarter and project by project.

  • Engage a diagonal slice of your organization for as many initiatives as makes sense, expanding from the “usual suspects” or from sessions that involve just one functional group to groups that include new voices and perspectives.

  • Apply Design Thinking principles with a portfolio perspective. In other words, consider it both for initiatives that are close to what you’re doing already and clients you already serve as well as for more long-ball or moonshot efforts where your reach exceeds your grasp.

  • Develop a learning agenda and learning path that can be shared with others, outlining the learning aims of your group in developing Design Thinking capabilities as well as the learning path that you’ve followed to-date. Make it visual, visceral and vital.

  • Celebrate your successes. Let others know where and how applying Design Thinking principles has created better outcomes for your clients and your organization.

Learning about Design Thinking is just the first step. Applying it to your day-to-day work is where you will get value that will continue to build on itself, over and over again.

These are a just a few of the ways you can kickstart a human-centered innovation culture in your team or organization and take your results to the next level.


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