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19/9/2018: Design Thinking Tools: a hype worth experiencing

Why do we nowadays need to design from scratch when technology has provided facilitators and managers high-end solutions and tools? Why is it so important to incorporate this hype, while it took us years to move to a digitalised meeting environment? And why should we trust a trend, when we have seen trends fading out quickly?

Before answering the above questions, let’s think over our position regarding quality and quantity of data. We assume that managers and meetings are overloaded with data. Details, infographics, research, debriefs, numbers, evaluations, even gurus’ tweets are all there, constantly refreshing our feed. We are – regardless of our age – accustomed to the way Gen Z is comfortable in the use of the internet and social media. This provides us with that abundance of data. 

Yet, when you ask a manager whether he can make it through all this, he admits he has no clue about what to do with all this data and what the right decisions should be after evaluating so much info. He needs a map. Even if he asks for assistance, the road through so many details, numbers, and ideas is really slippery, even for the facilitator. Digital tools have given us a lot, no need to highlight it again, but, although we became significantly stronger in the content (ie too much data offered), we lost the context.  

Context is like the glass when you need to drink water. Without it you may lose a large amount of water trying to drink from the tap. Unfortunately, the best way to navigate through extended content in a specific context – without getting lost in the translation – is going back to the basics. So you need to use pens and markers again in order to re-invent the way a team works. 

Design thinking tools are not a hype. People used to work in a messy environment when brainstorming for a project, using flipcharts or boards to make shapes, lines, and figures. For the sake of transformation we left those traditional tools and moved to apps and online platforms. And now we return to the bare basics, albeit in a more sophisticated design thinking methodology. 

In a few words, design thinking is more than drawing. It is a series of toolkits and approaches to invite people in a more productive, engaging, and fruitful collaboration, an authentic interaction and a renewed work procedure. Facilitators and managers use design thinking tools to bring out the most of the participants in a group, in an apparently chaotic manner, still with one purpose: to come up with the most agile and genuine ideas possible. Design thinking tools can be used either for facilitating a process (eg a meeting, a decision making process, or a project management procedure) or for boosting customer experience toolkits and methodologies.

Now let’s get back to the initial questions a hesitant person may have. 

Undoubtedly, technology has given us a lot. We do need technology and digitalised processes at work. We also need a combination of tools and approaches, such as storytelling and design thinking, because our primitive mind works with movement, play, drawings, narration, colours, and materials. 

Furthermore, it’s ok to follow a hype or a trend as long as we know why. And as long as it suits us and fills-in a gap or provides a solution to a dead-end in communication and data exchange. Don’t be afraid of hype. Every change, every new term or buzzword can add some certain value to what we usually do and the key question is not if we have to use it, but when, why and to what extent we should use an innovation. Entrepreneurship, ownership, engagement and enablement are highly asked by CEOs and top managers. If a routine process, like a meeting, turns to be innovative, playful, different and open, this is the compelling reason for the participants to feel engaged and committed. 

In conclusion, design thinking is a tool. It goes far beyond a smart trick during a meeting to energize people. It provides people with the opportunity to feel safe in expressing themselves and commenting on each-others ideas. It is really fun and effective, and it can be seen as one of the most inclusive ways of facilitation.

We, at Optimal HR Group, can help you choose the most appropriate design thinking toolkit, plan and coordinate the elements of a certain project, and orchestrate the interaction within the team.

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