Design Thinking For Culture Change
August 28, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

In Part 1 of this two-part series on using design thinking to transform corporate culture, we looked at the reason why culture change is more important, and more challenging than ever before.

It’s because of the volatile environment that industries across the country, and indeed the world, are facing in terms of the rapid-fire evolution of customer expectations, needs and wants. Traditional ways of doing business, no matter your industry, are being left by the side of the road, forcing companies to constantly pivot just to keep up. But it’s not just companies that are being forced to redefine themselves. Employees within those companies have to evolve as well. That’s why it’s more crucial than ever to give those employees a supportive, solid culture as they navigate through all of this change.

These pressures are forcing companies, and in particular HR, to take a hard look at their cultures. Sometimes, it requires a transformation — and that’s where design thinking can help.

At the recent HR conference TechHR2019, Parameswaran Venkataraman, Chief Design Officer at Fractal Analytics gave a presentation on how to use design thinking to transform a corporate culture.

According to Venkataraman, using design thinking to enact organizational culture transformation solves several problems at once. It stimulates creativity and harnesses it toward business issues, which in turn engages and motivates employees.

Here’s how he recommends you do it:

Define Your Current Culture

This is easier said than done. There can be a “forest for the trees” situation going on in terms of defining the culture in your own organization. Start by asking these questions:

  • What are the beliefs your company holds as a whole?

  • What’s your vision statement?

  • What are your employees currently recognized for?

  • What defines success in every individual position?

  • What is frowned upon in your organization?

  • What are the stated rules, regulations, policies and norms?

  • What are the unwritten rules?

  • What are your old traditions and “ways we’ve always done it” that haven’t changed for eons?

Identify One or Two Areas For Change

In design thinking language, this is called defining the problem. Survey employees, asking what the top two or three things that they would change about your corporate culture if they could. It’s okay to start small. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul to transform culture. Small changes that you can implement quickly can yield big results.

Ideate How That Change Might Look

Get a focus group of employees together for an ideation session about how to implement the changes in practice.

Create Any Prototypes That Are Appropriate

You may not have a physical prototype if your change is attitudinal or procedural — more casual days or half-day Fridays, for example. But imagine your desired change is to create opportunities for new types of collaboration, but you need to transform some spaces around the office to do it. Start with one and see how it works in practice. You may need to go back to the drawing board if either type of change just isn’t working.

Roll Out The Change

With employees involved every step of the way, and with their needs at the center of it all, you won’t get the pushback that commonly plagues change efforts in organizations.

Using design thinking to transform culture encourages employees to stretch, take risks and ideate their perfect workplace. It also allows you to define problem areas that need to be addressed, and creates a safe space to address those issues without fear of failure. And it creates more engaged, involved employees in the process. For business leaders wondering how their people are going to adapt to the workplace of the future, this could be the solution they were looking for.


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