Viewing entries tagged
design thinking

from elsewhere: Barbara Armstrong on design thinking

Writing on, Kahler Slater’s Barbara Armstrong posted: It’s Time To Bring Design Thinking Down From On High

I love this post. Armstrong references Tim Brown’s TED talk on design thinking.


…design thinking is a process of integrative thinking, a process rooted in the ability to examine and exploit opposing ideas and constraints to create solutions. Design thinking, says [IDEO’s Tim] Brown, “moves the design process from consumption to participation.”

…the design-thinking process has three primary attributes: it is human centered; it is collaborative and participatory; and it is driven by experimentation. And the process begins with a single query: “What is the question that we are trying to answer?” As Brown says, “Rather than thinking to build, build to think.”

Armstrong, a veteran healthcare experience and space designer, doesn’t pull any punches when she digs into healthcare.

In today’s health care industry, there is a push for evidence-based design, a human-centered approach to design aimed at increasing the quality of patient care while simultaneously decreasing costs.

Too bad healthcare leaders had to be in crisis before they put people at the center of their problem solving. So do it now at your company. Proactively, you can drive innovative business solutions with broad, human appeal.

What I love about design thinking, particularly for healthcare, is its emphasis on empathy, participation and rapid prototyping; three concepts which have a great affinity with healthcare. For instance, I’ve never seen a hospital mission which doesn’t include some variant of empathy - compassion, caring, healing, etc.

We’re also speaking more — at least starting to speak —about participation. Ideas like shared decision-making and participatory medicine.

And, clinicians are fundamentally trained in testing ideas. Its how new techniques are developed and new treatments come to market.

But, for some reason, the business side - the systems, resources, policies, and leaders —have been slow to smash the these things together. If Reese’s were a healthcare company, no one would ever get peanut better in someone else’s chocolate.

Design thinking is about bringing those core tenants of healthcare together —empathy, participation and prototyping— to surface meaningful, desirable solutions to challenges.

In healthcare we seem value having answers. People who have answers are smart, they are sharp, and they are going places. We even pay prophets from other lands big bucks to come tell us answers.

Fundamental to the process is the belief that solutions to challenges can be uncovered by a team. That’s another reason I love design thinking in healthcare.

In design thinking, we is more important than I. Value is found in asking teams —including front line employees, for ideas, not answers. There is excitement around building on each others ideas. There is a willingness to test the ideas we co-develop and find out what actually makes someone’s life better. None of that is about being the person with an answer.

Here’s Tim Brown’s TED talk:

"to feel and be felt" Ze Frank on designing for happiness

I saw a post today on Swiss Miss the great design blog, which made my day. Ze Frank is coming back! And that bit of exciting news reminded me of this gem:

In his 2010 TED talk (warning, some adult language), Ze Frank talks about his experience running a popular blog and a video series. But that doesn’t begin to describe what Ze Frank’s world was. Fans will remember his posts and videos as so much more just than a blog.

Ze Frank’s gift is one of designing for happiness.

In the TED Talk, Frank says the most fundemental thing we can do is to “feel and be felt”. In essence, all of his work was about spinning things - existing works, people’s concerns, negitive emotions - into something positive. His daily video posts were ways to rapid prototype the outcomes of his ideas. If that’s not the essence of experience design, I don’t know what is.

For some healthcare players, innovation is already a priority

Lately, I’ve been writing about innovation and design thinking in healthcare. I often make general observations about the industry like innovation is rare in the delivery of care or we need to learn how to use design thinking. While they may be present as buzz words, largely I stand by the assertion that they are rarely deeply integrated into the culture of most health systems. But there are some standout exceptions and I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the places where innovation is part of the culture.

  • Kaiser’s Garfield Center for Innovation - Kaiser’s center was among the first of its kind in healthcare. The Garfield center was established out of work the health system did in collaboration with IDEO. A team of clinicians was tasked with redesigning nursing units and the processes around them. On the heels of a successful redesign, the team formed the center to become a source of new ideas for the system as well as internal consultants. Kaiser’s innovation center is profiled in Tim Brown’s Harvard Business Review case study on Design Thinking.
  • Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation - Mayo’s center builds on the Mayo brother’s early idea of patient-centered care. The Center occupies a large glass workspace in the lobby of Mayo’s Rochester location, giving it both prominence and literal transparency.
  • United Healthcare’s Innovation Team - United is a large commercial payor with roots in the provider world. United has a VP of Innovation who, along with his team, is responsible for promoting design thinking across the organization. United has also started offering innovation consulting to providers through its process improvement program.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can probably name some other health systems or industry players with innovation and design teams. We have a ways to go before empathetic design becomes widely adopted in the industry. But it is important recognize that innovation is already a priority in some organizations.

you are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic. You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic. Who hasn't been there? You move a few inches, then a sea of cascading red tail lights rolls towards you like a petroleum powered wave. You pound the steering wheel, let out a sigh and slouch back in your seat. You're stuck. If only these bozos would just mooovvveee!!! What's the hold up anyway? Don't they know you have somewhere to be?

I met a civil engineer once who specialized in traffic flow. I asked her how traffic happens. Is it one person slowing down that creates a ripple effect, is it talking on cell phones, is it bad drivers? Nope. It's us. We are the problem. There's just too many people on the roads. And the sad reality is it's not happening to us, we are the cause.

Last week, Bob Anderson from The Leadership Circle spoke to a group of our leaders at work. He shared an anecdote about his own career. He was positioned as a change agent in his organization and convinced that his inability to produce results was surely the fault of the culture, senior leadership, buy in, resources... anything but his work. He was an expert in change, after all.

Bob's realization was simple, he wasn't leading his own team the way he was coaching others. He was highly effective at getting others to understand and work through change, but he wasn't practicing what he peached. When he retooled his thinking. He began to work as a change agent for himself and his team. The end result? Things started moving in the fast lane.

I can relate to Bob's story. The role of a change agent can be a difficult one. Remember that great conversation about empathy I posted about a few weeks ago? We also talked about affecting change in cultures and organizations. It probably doesn't come as a surprise there's a high rate of burn out among innovators and people who promote change. Sometimes the organization has accepted or implemented all they have a capacity for, at a given time. Sometimes the agent them self has given all they can; taken the group or project as far as they can. Hopefully that timeline coincides with success, and a successful transition.

I think a lot about change. I work in a role all about innovation. We look at new ideas and trends and practices and think about design and process and user experience. How do all these parts fit together? Is there something we can do with widget A and process Z and team N?  Usually, success comes when a team or group picks up the threads and the shell you've created and makes it their own. It goes from conceptual and testing to operationalized.

But for one area in particular, that hasn't been the case for me lately. I've been stuck. Red taillights as far as the eye can see. It's goto to be some idiot 2 miles up the road talking on their phone, fiddling with their GPS...if only they'd move faster, this traffic would clear.

Then it hit me: I'm not stuck in traffic. I am traffic.

How am I going to take my foot off the break and open up the throttle? It starts with Bob Anderson's realization - We've got practice what we preach. If I was trying to coach another group through a similar challenge, where would we start? I'd ask questions:

  • Have we identified the challenge?
  • Do we understand the goal, barriers, stakeholders?
  • Have we put ourselves into an empathic mindset about the end user of this process? What do they really want?

In short, I need to take myself and team through the same design process I'd work with others on.

To be fair, it wasn't exactly a a lightbulb moment. I can be pretty dense about autodidactic growth. A few friends and big thinkers helped me think through the problem and how to design through it. How'd they get through my daft brain? They asked questions. What are you challenges? Do you know where you want to go? Have you though about doing XYZ, would people react differently if it did? See what I mean, smart people.

And, in fairness, it also helps to be married to an awesome OD expert in change management.

These friends are on twitter and you should follow them. The following example tweets from them are apropos of nothing in this post: