How to Get Naysayers On Board in Your Design Thinking Initiative
May 17, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

How to Get Naysayers On Board in Your Design Thinking InitiativeThere’s a naysayer in every group, a burr under every saddle. So, what do you do when you’ve gotten buy-in from higher-ups to use design thinking to tackle a human-centered design challenge in your department, and in the midst of it one person on your team just won’t get with the program?

You know the type. It’s the know-it-all in the next cube, the person who has seen it all and done it all better than you. Maybe it’s a longtime employee who is sorely resistant to change. Maybe it’s the person who can’t stop “yes, butting” every idea – who says “Yes, I can see the value in that, but…” in response to every idea, then proceeds to list five reasons why it can’t work instead of opening his or her mind to possibilities this idea might spark.

That kind of closed-minded negativity, however inadvertent, can kill the design thinking mojo that your team has going. Design thinking is all about dreaming up pie-in-the-sky ideas borne from careful empathy for your end user whoever they may be, and distilling those ideas down into a perfect solution that drives an amazing customer experience.

Negativity and resistance is not part of this process. Here are some tactics for dealing with a team member who just won’t play nice:

Look within first. Did you train your team properly to approach the design thinking process? It could be that your naysayer isn’t throwing cold water on your ideas on purpose. Maybe he or she is just at the “testing” phase too soon. Before starting the process to solve a big, complex human-centered design challenge, everyone on the team needs to be properly trained. If you’ve jumped in without it, it’s worth thinking about stopping the process for a quick retraining and even doing a mock project to show people how it works.

Gently redirect. If your team is trained in design thinking, and you’ve still got someone who is bogging down the process with negativity, redirect the team and remind everyone that, when you’re in the ideation phase, no idea is a bad idea.

Empathize with why this person might not be getting on board. Is there a hidden reason this team member wants to stall this process? Have a one-to-one conversation with them so you can empathize and ask them questions to specifically understand their frame and potential hesitations.

Consider replacing the team member. If, after trying all of those things, the person continues to throw wrenches into each phase, reassign him or her to another project. Leaving a naysayer on the team can bring everyone down, and throw cold water on the entire design thinking process.

One bad apple doesn’t need to ruin your project. With these strategies, you can stamp out the negativity and put your team back on the path to success with your initiative — whether it’s innovation, transformation or culture change.


Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.

KickStart Innovation