Work has been disrupted. When people are left to their own devices, they need to be able to problem-solve rapidly and independently. In a hybrid work environment, you and your team will come across challenges on your own. We can't just reach across a desk and grab someone to help us solve a problem — and there are new problems that have never existed before.
Growing methods of dealing with workplace disruption are fostering a design mindset and using design thinking methodologies. What happens when we design experiences to delight humans — to put the human at the centre of the experience? A design mindset takes this question and applies it to everything.
However, shifting an organisation from traditional ways of working in teams to putting the human at the centre of everything they do poses a major challenge for leaders.
"I see a lot of employees frustrated by people saying "Well, we've always done it that way", says Johannes Meyer, the design mindset skills coach from our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program. "That's the opposite of design thinking. Nothing is set in stone. Any process in an organisation — everything is shapable by people."
We know that organisations with a design mindset are more innovative, better able to execute ideas, work more cohesively and are able to tackle challenging problems with confidence. But where do you get started fostering a design mindset within an organisation that's never done it before?
Start with small, successful projects
When implementing change within your organisation, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. As you're building confidence, start small and grow from there.
"You need positive reinforcement through successful initiatives. If people can start to reshape small things in their own environment it gives them a lot of confidence that they're able to reshape other things."
By proving the effectiveness of a design mindset on a small scale, you can build confidence within your organisation to start implementing design thinking methods on a larger scale. An example of small-scale change could be in the onboarding process for new hires within your team, or applying design thinking tactics to the next small project you undertake.
"The rest is in the program itself — small tips and hints, how to get started even if your boss doesn't buy into the same thing, case studies, funny examples."
Schedule time outside of the regular work environment
"You have to form a cultural island where people can unlearn some of the cultural habits that they have built over the decades but are not desirable to them anymore," says Johannes.
"What we often do is build a protected lab structure in which people spend part of their work time. A few days a week, maybe a few weeks for an intense sprint. And they're able to step out of their usual work routines and into an alternative work context. That way they experience what work could also feel like. Then, when they go back, they can take some of these elements and things they find useful back into their regular jobs."
Bring new people to the table
A good start to implementing design methodologies in your organisation can be bringing new people to project sprints and meetings. Instead of thinking of customer service as something your salespeople manage, think about the entire process — what could the developers who code your back-end have to say? How does the sales experience tie into service delivery?
"I believe in teams that represent the value chain of an experience, not teams that represent one craft within an organisation," says Johannes. "When we design an experience for a customer, I think we need to have everyone at the table who represent the different steps of making that experience happen. When we only have people who represent the front-face of the organisation in the room, it's going to be much harder to have that experience cascade across the organisation."
Bringing more people to the table has benefits beyond simply adding more ideas or perspectives to the room — it also helps your organisation buy into new processes and methodologies. When more people are involved in design thinking practices, the culture can flow on across your organisation.
"People who have a design mindset don't accept things the way they are. They believe everything can be shaped by humans. They have a structured way of approaching new challenges. When something doesn't work, they think that someone made the decision to make it that way. And if it's important enough to them to change that, they believe they have the ability to — and then use structured tools of design thinking to do so."