Design Thinking Humanised

Design Thinking Humanised

Design Thinking Humanised

A Harvard Business Review article states that Design Thinking has come of age and can be a valuable tool in shaping organisational culture and people. Here’s more about global expert views on the humanising of Design Thinking.

Organisations around the world attest to an increased amount of complexity, volatility and change that impacts their organisational culture. People in the workplace have to display accelerated levels of adaptability and agility to respond to what seems like a never-ending wave of evolving customer demands. The ability to respond and innovate seems to set the successful organisations apart from the rest, proving the old “adapt or die” saying to be especially relevant in our fast-paced world.

Adapt or die does not stop at product or service level. It drills right down into the heart of the organisational culture, impacting people, teams and the organisation as a whole. The Design Thinking hat should also be worn by those who deal with people and human resources. The organisation should not only apply design thinking principles of prototyping, customer feedback, innovating and solving to their products and services, but extend this thinking and approach to their people solutions.

A stoic one-size-fits-all set-in-stone people process or program will be dead in the water, given the tidal wave of complexity, change-readiness and agility that our people face at work every day. It’s time to apply design thinking to humans. Kolko (2015) suggests that the design thinking principles of empathy with users, prototyping and the tolerance of failure should become part of the organisational culture and way of doing things. Practically, this means that the user (the employee) becomes a central stakeholder in any solutions, processes, programmes or procedures that the company initiates. Empathy with users will see organisations listening to employee needs, designing people programmes around their emotional responses and continually improving their experience by asking, adapting and improving.

Prototyping, a design thinking principle, should not only be reserved for things, but for people. Provide people with a prototype, a first draft if you will, which they can experience and provide feedback on. Just like the customer who experiences the prototyped chair, employees should experience people solutions and share their views, opinions and ideas about it.

Finally, the thick-skinned design thinking tolerance of failure should be a given in people solutions. Designers embrace risk, prototyping products that they think their customers will love. They get it right for the most, but also often fail. Failure is tolerated. What doesn’t work is replaced by what does work. Organisational culture is arguably less tolerant of failure. As a result, people are afraid to fail, people solutions are driven regardless of negative feedback and a culture of risk elimination and hunger for success stifles the creative design thinking process.

People are not unlike things in that they too need to adapt, improve, grow, change and keep up or they become stuck, old and replaceable. An organisational culture that applies design thinking to its things and its people will foster ongoing adaptability driven by empathy with the user, whether customer or employee.

Source: Kolko, J. (2015) Design Thinking Comes of Age. Harvard Business Review September 2015. Available online at:

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