Applying design thinking to organizational problems: a recap

Design Thinking (1)On October 12, 2017 Econsult Solutions hosted, Designing organizations: Human-centered design as a tool for organizational innovation. The event, which was part of DesignPhiladelphia 2017, focused on how an organization can use the design thinking process to not only generate innovative ideas, but change its organizational culture. Moderated by design strategist and ESI Senior Advisor Natalie Nixon, the workshop was conceived as an interactive experience.

The audience was led through an overview of the principles of design thinking, a process that transfers the problem solving process designers use, to the design of a service, an experience, a process, or a system. “Organizations are organic, dynamic, evolving systems, like human beings” said Nixon. With its multi-stepped approach to solving complex problems, the design thinking process is a helpful lens to understand organizational development.

In addition to being a catalyst for creativity and integrative approaches, design thinking challenges employees to be self-reflective in the ways that they cultivate meaningful connections to customers. Nixon’s presentation was followed by an interactive session where participants were asked to apply the basic principles of design thinking – researching and defining the problem, ideating and prototyping – to a real-life organizational challenge they currently face. design thinking workshop1

Once in groups, participants brainstormed multiple solutions using new power values (empathy, transparency, collaboration) versus old power values (authority, exclusivity, confidentiality), a key principle of design thinking. As these solutions were prototyped and then debriefed with the rest of the group, attendees were able to reach a deeper understanding of how these situations affect the people behind the organization.

Power Values

Nixon then went on to explain that the business community is really starting to embrace design thinking in a way that it never did before. To remain competitive in this changing economy, it is critical for organizations to encourage innovation and embed it more systematically in their internal practices. Becoming a design-centric organization is a major cultural shift that can be challenging to experience but is nonetheless necessary for innovation to flourish.



About Design Philadelphia: DesignPhiladelphia highlights the work of thousands of local designers, architects, and creative professionals to demonstrate Philadelphia’s reemergence as a 21st century city shaped by thoughtful design, collaborative business practices, and community engagement. Over the course of ten days each October, places such as universities, cultural institutions, civic associations, city agencies, retailers, manufacturers, and startups across the city participate in over 100 engaging events including panel discussions, fashion shows, participatory workshops, studio tours, book signings, professional development classes, design exhibitions, and imaginative celebrations.    

Clouet_Benedicte_2Bénédicte Clouet is a director at Econsult Solutions. She heads the business development and marketing department and manages the senior advisory board. She has extensive experience in project management, communication and digital marketing.

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