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How design thinking can help your organization

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations are challenged to work collaboratively to accelerate innovation more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many organizations to adapt how they operate. Design thinking is an approach to creativity and problem solving that is utilized by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, including corporations, non-profits, universities, schools, and healthcare organizations. 

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Design thinking is a non-linear human-centered approach to creative problem solving. It can help us better understand the experiences of others, define complex problems, and develop innovative solutions. As we prototype and test solutions, design thinking can be an iterative process to build on and modify solutions. In addition, it can help redefine problems as we empathize with people. Design thinking can help us solve problems that users need and want us to solve. 

I will apply the five steps of the design thinking process as taught by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school). More information about design thinking can be found at the d.school.

Empathize

Empathy helps us understand the problem of the user by setting aside our own assumptions. Users are those we are trying to better understand. In a sense, we walk in the shoes of an individual or group of people to better understand their experiences. We can practice empathy through observation, interviewing, and empathizing with the needs of others. 

Define

Once we have spent time empathizing with the user, we begin to define the user’s problem. It is important to ask, “What problem of the user am I trying to solve?” Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” I recommend divergently exploring problem statements and then begin to narrow them down. Min Basadur recommends using the phrase “How might we…?” to define the problem as described in this Harvard Business Review article

Ideate 

We can begin to ideate on possible solutions after defining the problem. During the ideation step, we want to “think outside the box” and divergently explore solutions before we begin evaluating them or narrowing them down. Most of us are familiar with brainstorming which can be used during this step. At the end of this step, we will have a solution ready for prototyping. 

Prototype

For those who do not have experience with prototyping, this step can seem intimidating. Prototyping is the process of developing a quick and inexpensive representation of the solution. The prototype might be a physical object made out of inexpensive materials, a drawing, or an experience map. Maps can detail the steps of a customer experience when receiving a service, an employee’s journey from looking for a job to getting hired and promoted, or the experience of a student looking for a college to enrolling. This process brings the solution to life that the user can see and experience.

Test

After a prototype has been developed, we test the prototype by gathering feedback to determine its effectiveness. It is important to show the prototype to users and allow them to share whether the prototype solves their problem. This step can be an iterative process with improvements to the prototype. 

We provide workshops that allow hands-on opportunities for participants to apply the design thinking approach in their professional and personal lives. Participants will learn how empathy, ideation, and experimentation are foundational steps of the innovation process. Prototyping will be introduced and practiced as a way to experiment developing physical objects and mapping experiences and services. Participants will walk away with an enhanced understanding of design thinking and how these skills can be applied within their organization to improve products and services. If you want to learn more, please contact us.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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I’m worried about the winter

As I write this blog, I’m hoping the content will be irrelevant when winter comes. I ran across this article on CNN last month: “Americans need to ‘hunker down’ this fall and winter as Covid-19 pandemic will likely worsen, Fauci says.” Most of us in the United States have been fortunate during the pandemic to enjoy good weather during the spring and summer months that has allowed us to spend time outside. 

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For me personally, I’ve spent more time outside this spring and summer than normal. The weather has allowed me to take regular walks and responsibly socialize with people. These activities have helped relieve some of the stress and anxiety related to the pandemic. When the winter comes, there may be days, weeks, and months when that time outside will not be possible. 

As I said at the beginning, I’m hoping the content of this blog will be irrelevant when winter comes, and we will have a vaccine. In my work with scenario planning, I know that hope is not a good strategy. We need to plan for different scenarios. 

I’m concerned about people this winter. In my work as an organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant, I regularly help develop successful leaders and create plans for future success. We all know that our employees are critical to organizational success, and their personal lives impact their professional work. I encourage employers to develop a strategy to ensure you are ready for the winter. 

Here are some ways to support your employees and be ready for the winter:

Strategies for combating anxiety: My friend Dr. Jim Schroeder is a psychologist, and he recently wrote an article titled “We can do this.” He suggests three strategies for combating anxiety, and I encourage you to consider how you can foster these mindsets in your workplace. The first mindset is gratitude, and he describes how the act of being thankful has a positive impact on our health and happiness. The next tool is empathy. When we embrace empathy, it helps us focus on someone other than ourselves. He concludes by discussing the “discipline of challenge versus despair.” This mindset helps us focus on opportunities and allows us to convince ourselves that we can get through this challenging time. 

Promote physical fitness and a proper diet: There are many studies supporting the benefits of exercise and healthy eating on our mental and physical health. This might be a great time for your organization to explore ways to encourage activities that promote physical fitness and a proper diet. 

Focus on employee engagement: I’ve written about Gallup’s research on employee engagement in previous blogs, and I think this is a time to really think about engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” Leaders have an opportunity now to ensure their employees and teams are engaged. Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

As many organizations have moved to virtual work and adopted social distancing practices, I think many of these elements of employee engagement have been neglected. I encourage managers and leaders to wholeheartedly commit themselves to ensuring their employees are engaged. It could begin with a discussion or survey around these elements followed by a plan to enhance employee engagement. 

Coronavirus anxiety resources: I ran across an excellent website with resources related to virus anxiety. If you are looking for tools, I encourage you to look at this site: Care for your coronavirus anxiety.

Leaders have a tremendous opportunity now to make a difference on the lives of those around them. I hope you can apply these ideas now or create a plan for the winter. 

If you need help enhancing your organizational leadership or develop a strategy for success, please contact us. 

Reference:

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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The difference an effective leader makes

In May 2020, I wrote a blog titled “A leader’s infinite mindset inspires.” I’ve continued to reflect on the infinite mindset that is needed in organizations, and one of the most powerful quotes from Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game describes one way we can measure the long term success of an organization:

“In the Infinite Game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” (p. 9) 

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Can you imagine how different organizations world be if leaders focused on improving “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (p. 9)

It’s no secret that humans are motivated by short term outcomes. Leaders can choose to focus on short term metrics or focus on the long term. In reality, leaders set the tone and have a tremendous influence on their organizations and the individuals they are surrounded by. 

There are numerous studies that emphasize the importance of quality leadership on organizational and employee performance. In addition, many of us have anecdotally experienced how a manager’s efforts increased or decreased our motivation and job performance. 

Gallup has extensively researched team engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” When things go wrong, do leaders look at themselves 70% of the time or blame other factors?

Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

Clifton and Harter (2019) cite numerous studies related to employee engagement and improved organizational outcomes, including profitability, safety, customer satisfaction, productivity, lower employee turnover, and quality. 

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2017) is considered a classic leadership book by many. Through years of research, the authors have identified “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership”:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart (2017, p. 12-13)

According to Kouzes and Posner (2017), leaders who put these practices into action more often than other leaders:

  1. “Create higher-performing teams
  2. Generate increased sales and customer satisfaction levels
  3. Foster renewed loyalty and greater organizational commitment
  4. Enhance motivation and the willingness to work hard
  5. Facilitate high patient-satisfaction scores and more effectively meet family member needs
  6. Promote high degrees of student and teacher involvement in schools
  7. Enlarge the membership size of their religious congregations
  8. Reduce absenteeism, turnover, and dropout rates
  9. Positively influence recruitment yields” (p. 22)

These studies emphasize the behaviors and practices of leaders. How is your organization intentionally developing leaders who are focused on improving team engagement as described by Gallup, embodying the “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” identified by Posner and Kouzes, or developing “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (Sinek, p. 9)

We help organization’s develop more effective leaders through leadership and executive coaching and training workshops. What would improved leadership do for your organization? If you are looking for ways to build the leadership potential of your employees, please contact us. Virtual and in person options are available. 

References: 

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (6th Ed.). Wiley. 

Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game. Portfolio/Penguin.

Are you ready to learn how to improve leadership within your organization?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.