What is design thinking?
Design Thinking is a methodology where a company uses empathy and experimentation to find creative solutions in order to tackle problems in a solution oriented mindset.
It can be used in any field of work and it is a user-centric way of resolving complex problems.
How does Design Thinking apply in the HR department?
The ideology of Design Thinking can be applied in most aspects of a company structure and in recent years HR has become increasingly interested in introducing Design Thinking methodology instead of a purely analytical process.
When companies find themselves in front of complex problems, Design Thinking can be an optimal approach to simplifying the problem and finding innovative and creative solutions.
Design Thinking in HR is used to better meet the needs of the customers and employees. In order to achieve an implementable and innovative solution ( as a HR manager, or in a similar position), you must enter the process with an open mind to new ideas, which might change the way things have been working up until this point.
Be acceptive, embrace original solutions and don’t punish failure. It’s all part of the process, and in many cases there is more to be learned from failure than success.
While tackling failure, you can take a entrepreneurial approach, where you try to overcome mistakes in order to reach success in environments of high uncertainty. In this case failure and innovation go hand in hand as a iteration, rather than failure being the end of the road.
Use a focused approach where instead of taking on one big project or one big problem, you divide it in smaller and more achievable projects, while keeping in mind the big picture.
Working with a smaller and more attainable tasks doesn’t end up being overwhelming and gets faster results.
Practical guide to Design Thinking in HR
Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask yourself:
Do the employees:
- feel appreciated and seen?
- feel heard and taken seriously?
- have a memorable employee experience?
- feel empowered and are passionate about their work?
Start the process by writing down questions where you merge your internal weaknesses with the goals and visions you have for the future of the company.
These questions represent the key phase in the Design Thinking process, which is EMPATHY.
Empathize with the employees, their needs and start the process by looking at things from their perspective. By actively listening to them you can create value in their work and improve both their employee experience and their human experience. Subsequently the benefits that come from this change in the company will, in time, improve ROI, create a stronger brand (through the employees that become brand ambassadors) and set an environment where people are happy and proud of their jobs.
In order to gather the necessary information whilst remaining objective you can choose a simple tool such as an organized brainstorming session with the employees, or you might choose to do other things such as interviews, a journey map or develop personas. It is up to you and your needs to decide how much time and energy you want to invest in this phase.
In cognitive thinking there are are two thinking processes. Divergent and convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking refers to the creative way where way you come up with ideas and explore different possibilities without being analytical about them.
Then comes convergent thinking which is all about analyzing the ideas, improving them and taking decisions about the applications of the idea.
The empathy phase in Design Thinking is to be tackled with a divergent thinking approach where volume is key.
Now that you have a good understanding of the needs of your employees, and have gathered a vast amount of data, you can start to think about a way to simplify their work lives by defining a core problem.
This phase can be done by analyzing and synthesizing the data with a convergent thinking approach resulting in a human centered problem statement that you can use further in this process. Aim for a problem statement that is rooted in human relations and putting people above process and monetary returns.
What to do if the results of your analysis culminate in a complex, nearly unsolvable problem?
You are precise in your statement, and if it seems like the problem is simply too complicated you break it down into smaller pieces. Take one step at a time and remember that this is an agile process where you can always come back to your data and redefine your problem statement if down the road your findings lead you in another direction.
You made it this far! You have gathered data and defined your problem in a human centered form and now it is time to free your creativity and ideate.
Think in a creative problem solving manner, allow yourself to be prolific and think outside the box and outside of traditional approaches.
Take a divergent thinking approach and you will end up having several ideas which may as well be very different and original. This is a good thing! Do not limit yourself and your imagination!
The process can be kickstarted with several techniques such as Brainstorming, Braindumping, Worst Possible Idea, SCAMPER or Gamestorming.
When you aim to think outside of the existing parameters and do it with the help of one or more of these tools you end up using both your rational mind and your imagination.
Have a diverse team working on this and let them be empowered to find solutions and be part of the organization in a proactive way.
Give room to creativity and innovation and be prepared to design the innovative system of the future. This can be accomplished by allowing creative freedom and not focusing on boundaries, the way you are used to do things and maybe the most important, not punishing failure.
You have now developed many ideas that can help you solve your problem. Think of it as
divergent approach when finding ideas and convergent when narrowing down through the multitude of choices and finding out which ones are feasible, implementable and offer an answer to your problem definition.
Now it’s time to filter the ideas until there are only a few or even one solution left on the table. When you have gathered the solutions it’s time to take action!
The solution/solutions should be implemented/tested at a small scale. This can be done in a small team, a small target group or with a small number of employees.
It works as an iterative process where the solutions are designed in order to better suit the defined users needs. Be creative and make this a fast and inexpensive process. It doesn’t have to look or work perfectly, it can simply be done with the help of rapid prototyping techniques such as paper prototyping, sketching or storyboarding.
In the final stage of Design Thinking, the testing phase, you get to test the prototipes. Here the designs are to be tested and refined until you reach a satisfactory result. Make sure to not interfere of influence the test persons, but merely observe their natural interaction with your prototype.
The test team validates or disputes the assumptions from the prototyping phase (based on your core problem) and start prioritizing the feasible solutions. The initial prototype is upgraded or perhaps mixed with other prototypes in order to make a more defined and clear solution.
Upping your game, the new HR solution should be tested on a bigger scale with a more thought and perfected prototype. Be open to constructive criticism and receive it with a mindset in which there is always room for improvement. When that happens, improve and adjust product in order to be as close to a perfect solution as possible.
A good solution will be easy to implement because if it serves as a real help for your core problem it will develop organically.
Iteration is the key word in Design Thinking.
Make sure to include the Empathy phase, which is the core of the process. Everything else is relative and depending on your needs.
Keep the process as easy as possible and remember to be proactive and fast in taking action. Move away from the more traditional approach where all the stages take a long time and effort. In the Design Thinking methodology is important that you define your problem and when you have a good idea, get creative in a fast and inexpensive way of testing your solutions.