In an era where companies are expected to rapidly adapt to consumers’ ever-changing demands, being able to innovate, and creatively problem-solve is paramount to success. Many executives find that teaching employees how to use design thinking, or human-centred design, can be the leverage they need to stay ahead of the competition.
While it takes time and training to infuse design thinking into the way a company operates, there are steps teams leaders can take today that will start to make a difference.
The design thinker’s toolkit is full of methods and tools to shift the way we think, but there a few fundamental habits that can immediately help nudge work in a more creative direction. At this year’s CLO Symposium I had the opportunity to host a 20-minute webinar and a 90-minute workshop on some of the fundamentals of applying design thinking. Here is one of the highlights to get you started with design thinking.
Focus on The Problem Not The Solution
Design thinking is often deservingly touted as a way to help companies solve big picture problems, like what new product to launch, or a new market to enter. But it’s equally valuable for the smaller initiatives. And the best way to integrate a design thinking framework into the way employees problem solve is to start with day-to-day decisions.
One of the biggest obstacles employees face when problem solving is that they begin with a solution and build a business case around it. Whether they’ve decided they need a new piece of software, or they have come up with a product that they are sure customers will love, this back-end approach prevents better ideas from bubbling up.
To shift the company toward design thinking, when an employee brings a solution to the table, team leaders should redirect the conversation back to the problem at hand, then ask questions that get at the heart of what is really needed. Is there something wrong with the existing IT system? Are customers uninspired by the current product line up? Are call center calls on the rise?
The advantage of moving from solution to problem is that it allows the discovery process to find unanticipated needs and solutions, which is often where the big breakthroughs happen.
The Three Most Important Questions to Ask
Once you know the problem, asking the right questions can uncover new opportunities and inspiration. Start this process with the big three:
These three questions create a framework for design thinking. They ensure ideas stay focused on meeting the needs of end users while allowing the team to look beyond the obvious answers for better solutions. For example, ExperiencePoint recently hosted a workshop for a client whose people were struggling with how their teams communicated. They assumed the solution was communication training, but in the workshop, we helped them to reframe their solution to the broader question: “How might we help our teams have more productive dialogs?”
This helped them look beyond just training as a solution, to come up with other ways that teams could engage and interact on a more positive basis. This led them to the idea of hosting daily huddles to keep everyone abreast of project progress and share concerns — a simple but highly effective communications process to introduce.
These may seem like small steps, but when a company applies them consistently in every decision-making environment, it can transform the way employees problem solve and drive more creativity into the way they work.
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VP of Transformation at ExperiencePoint. Andrew leverages over 15 years of experience designing and delivering working models, design sprints, change interventions and training programs to develop and apply user-centric problem solving approaches and solutions. Andrew has worked with global organizations including Walmart, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, MetLife and Microsoft. He has also taught executives at leading universities, including Harvard Business School and IMD.