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The root of design thinking
Imagine this: You’re tasked with buying a birthday present for someone you’ve never met. You’re in good shape, though, because you know that the stranger asked for a piece of exercise equipment that allows them to work out from home, something that is transportable, and something that will accomplish both cardio and strength training. What do you buy?
Some of you might have said an exercise bike. Some might have gone with resistance bands and weights. Others likely considered an exercise DVD, and still others may have defaulted to designing something that the world has never seen before! At the end of the day, they all fit the requirements you were given, so it stands to reason that this stranger would have been happy with any of the choices. Right?
Wrong! All they really wanted was a stand for their mountain bike so they could use it like an exercise bike. (If that was your chosen gift, A+ work!)
Where did we go wrong? Most of you might have guessed it—we didn’t know the person we were purchasing a gift for. If we had, we might have known that they already have a mountain bike that they love, they don’t have room for anything large in their home, and they don’t own a TV. With those additional pieces of intel, we likely could have gotten close to a great gift.
Technology builds are not much different than buying a gift for a stranger. We have a general sense of what our end users need, and we know quite a bit about the tool that we are using as a solution. However, time and time again, end users are dissatisfied with the product that is delivered. They don’t like the look of it, the degree of process change that accompanies its launch, or that it doesn’t satisfy all their needs.
So, where does that leave us? You guessed it! We must get to know our end users before designing and delivering a tool for them. And that’s where design thinking comes in.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is the center of the human, budget, and technology triangle. Its goal is to deliver a tool that responds to its users’ needs, wants, and preferences that is technologically feasible and within budget.
The process of design thinking is a simple one: get to know users and their pain points, uncover the root of their problems, design creative fixes for the problems at hand, then test and iterate until a near-perfect solution is created.
To put it even more simply, design thinking puts humans before the technology. In a standard technology implementation, the technical capabilities and budget are considered right from the beginning. We purchase a tool, uncover its possibilities, figure out how much it will cost, then conduct discovery with users to weave their needs into requirements.
Design thinking flips that paradigm on its head. In an ideal situation, end-user discovery would occur even before a platform is purchased! In any case, this strategy forces its participants to fall in love with the end users’ problems; to get so entrenched in the root of the issue that the only way out is to find a great solution.
Only after the users are understood and solved for should the true tech work begin. I know what you might be thinking, “All that work with no tangible gains toward delivering a solution?! That’s a hard pill to swallow.”
But think of it this way—we now have all the pieces of the puzzle to design and deliver a solution that is so in tune with their needs that our users won’t be able to help but adopt it. The tremendous efforts we undergo before the build even begins will pay off the minute we begin user acceptance training (UAT) sessions and will double in value when we deliver the solution and see no dips in production, no resistance, and no immediate issues to fix.
How does design thinking fit with change management?
The answer to the question, “How does design thinking fit with change management?” is an easy one, because the two practices fit so seamlessly together, it’s almost like they were made for one another!
Both design thinking and change management are laser-focused on adoption. The difference lies in their timing—design thinking kicks a project off, and change management closes it out. If the project timeline is running smoothly, a designer can expect to pass the adoption baton to a change manager somewhere in the testing timeframe.
Because the goal of design thinking is to deliver a tool that meets end users’ needs, a change manager will likely find that their discovery time is drastically reduced, their constituents are already prepared for change, and that the risk of non-adoption is almost nonexistent.
To streamline matters even further, the skillset required in both roles is very similar. So similar, in fact, that ramping a change manager up in design thinking practices (or vice versa) is a low-effort, high-impact endeavor. Allowing one team member to play both roles also solves the age-old conundrum of when exactly to bring a change manager into a project… Because they’ve been there from the very beginning.
Why should you consider implementing design thinking?
The above benefits aside, research has shown that employing design thinking methodologies can increase the return on investment of a technology implementation by up to 106% (Forbes.com). In addition, companies who use design thinking strategies report increased client and team member satisfaction, increased efficiency in delivering projects, and a more productive workforce.
Less tangibly, but very importantly, design thinking is reported to facilitate a more creative working environment. Though a “creative working environment” is hard to quantify, workplaces that are labeled “creative” are more likely to be industry leaders, innovate rapidly, and attract and retain top talent in their field.
So rather than asking, “Why should we consider implementing design thinking?” you should be asking, “Why haven’t we implemented design thinking yet?”
Attain Partners—Experts in design thinking and change management
From streamlining and optimizing workflows to developing change management strategies and strategic plans, we help identify and solve the challenges that stand in the way of growth and progress. Our professionals can help you strategically transform and manage people, processes, and technology to move your organization forward and make an impact that lasts. Explore our strategy services here.
About the Author
Jen Best is a change practitioner from the suburbs of Detroit. She has overseen changes ranging from business process redesigns to enterprise technology implementations. When she’s not managing changes, she’s working with teams to ensure that the end user is kept top of mind by leveraging design thinking tools.