From Design Thinking to Design Doing

One of the biggest challenges when implementing the result of a service or process design event is overcoming resistance to change

One of my big concerns in assisting organizations with their innovation challenges is that we, too often, get caught up in the design thinking trap and fail to help our clients move into what I call “design doing.” If we leave our clients with the impression that design thinking ends with the creative, feel good stage, then we are failing our clients.

The reason I love being a design thinking facilitator and trainer is because it’s about helping teams achieve their mission and vision … better. It’s about the team we’re working with and what they are doing, not about us just showing them some cool new tools.

One of the biggest challenges when implementing the result of a service or process design event is overcoming resistance to the changes inherent in the new service or process. Why do people resist a process or service change that comes out of a design event?

Usually because it involves loss of some sort.

As a society, we often hear “people fear change” as the excuse for reluctance to change. But as the Harvard Kennedy School’s Adaptive Leadership framework notes, it’s not the change itself people fear – it is the real or imagined losses associated with the change. Those may include loss of personal status based on expertise that may no longer be relevant, comfort with existing processes or familiarity with current coworkers. It’s these change-associated losses, not the change itself, that most people fear.

If we gave someone $1 million, it would probably change their lives … and most (though not all) people would not “fear” that change.

However, as they contemplate the changes that money will bring, they may fear other things, such as the loss of anonymity or personal freedom or the potential loss of comfortable relationships with friends, neighbors, and peers.

So, how do we, as design thinking facilitators, help clients and partners overcome those fears and actually implement the amazing solutions the design thinking process can develop?

One of the greatest benefits of design thinking is that the process itself, when executed with a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder group, lends itself to increased buy-in because the folks who have to implement the solution are involved in its development. Additionally, they gain an understanding of the other stakeholders’ perspectives, which lends itself to both a shared desire to succeed and a sense of broader mission or purpose.

So, as you’re working with your client to identify team members, take extra care to ensure those who will be involved in implementation are also on the team going through the design thinking process – they’ll have greater commitment to the change by virtue of having seen the “wh,y” of it in the design process, and they will have already thought through some of the potential losses that could be associated with the change and come to terms with why it’s still a good approach. This deep understanding, developed by talking through several different approaches with other participants is something they will communicate to other stakeholders who may have similar fears.

Also, as part of stakeholder analysis, when you’re developing your stakeholder map (mapping who has an interest in the challenge and their impact on it), take the time to capture any potential losses they may face if the current process changes—perhaps starting the conversation with some of the examples above. Consciously take the time up-front to identify those and understand from the stakeholders’ perspectives why they or their stakeholder community might resist the change (that whole “empathy” thing, you know). This step aids significantly when assisting or advising the client on the transition from design to implementation as you may be able to address those losses in your implementation plan through a combination of remediation and communication.

Let’s help move organizations from design thinking to design doing.

Joe "Hark" Herold is the CEO of DesignThinkingDenver. He served 28 years in the United States Air Force and now works with organizations of all types to help them achieve their mission and vision … better. 

Categories: Management & Leadership