Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Live from FEI 2015: A Panel on Human-Centered Design Thinking

The session started out with trying to define design thinking, which led directly to the most interesting aspect of this panel: each of the three panelists contextualized the construct differently, and then they played off each other's conceptions.

Pfizer's Anthony Lambrou focused on the importance of prototyping, highlighting the need for small wins to show that innovation endeavors are on the right track and that it is important to use failures as opportunities to learn and adapt.

Procter & Gamble's Daniel Sims agreed with the emphasis on rapid iteration, but zoomed in on the human-centered applications of design thinking, particularly noting the importance of understanding a diverse group of end users.

A Better View's John Gleason mentioned both prototyping and empathizing with users, but mainly describe the importance of a company's leadership understanding the value and role of design thinking as a problem solving tool.

Lambrou later picked up on this latter theme, as well, noting how crucial it is for leadership to endorse spending time away from one's day-to-day work to do some design-related problem solving, especially by walking that talk. Another key point regarding the leadership is that they need to invest in new opportunities, even if they may not pay off right away (or at all!), just to signal to the company that it is acceptable to take some chances.

As Gleason pointed out, there is often a culture of "don't mess [the brand] up" that can take root in companies, especially when Wall St. and related analysts are playing Big Brother. To break out of that, it becomes necessary to take some risks and get the talent thinking about new possibilities. The crux of the matter is that this typically involves breaking barriers, and may involve employing a degree of cultural force (which can be catalyzed by consultants, as necessary), because the inertia really can become so entrenched as to be fatal to a company.

Both "innovate or die" and "design thinking" may be cliches, but perhaps that's because their importance cannot be overstated...especially in light of the fact that leadership still tends to give little more than lip service to these truths.



About the author
Orin C. Davis is a self-actualization engineer who enables people to do and be their best. His consulting focuses on making workplaces great places to work, and his research is on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory, the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, a science advisor at Happify, and an advisor at FutureIdeas. Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. He writes and speaks avidly about human capital, creativity and innovation, and positive psychology. (@DrOrinDavis)



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