Four tips to successfully implement Design Thinking within your organization

Montreal - 2021 | 09 | 03

Though the origins of Design Thinking date all the way back to the 1960s with Herbert A. Simon’s The Sciences of the Artificial, it’s only in recent years that businesses have begun to embrace the methodology not just in their approach to product development but as an organization-wide solution. Today, corporations like Google, Adidas, PepsiCo, and GE have all integrated Design Thinking into their processes, driving new levels of innovation within their respective industries.

At its core, Design Thinking provides organizations with a framework to put user needs at the forefront and leverage their workforce’s innate sense of empathy and creativity. In the words of Brian Collins, global innovation consultant and founder of the Brainstorm Institute, “you can take all of those [design] techniques that we use and transfer them to the workplace. There’s no reason why you can’t, and it doesn’t really cost a lot of money to do that.” Of course, as with any solution founded on behavioral aptitudes, following the process alone isn’t enough. One must also foster the right environment for workers to develop their natural skills.

To that end, here are four tips to help you implement Design Thinking within your team

1. Recognize everyone’s potential for creativity


Introspection and empathy are key when implementing Design Thinking within your organization. “First, [people] need to understand what makes them tick inside,” says Collins, “you know, what makes me tick as a person creatively and innovatively, and also what makes other people tick as well.” When it comes to measuring our creative potential, the former Walt Disney Imagineer invites us to look at five different behavioral components, each core to what makes us human:


  1. Passion
  2. Intuition
  3. Inclusiveness
  4. Curiosity
  5. Emotion


If we each possess these five traits to varying degrees, it stands to reason that we all have the potential for creativity. One of SuccessFinder’s 26 key competencies, the ability to reflect creatively and intuitively may come less naturally to some than others, but it can be developed over time with the right coaching tools. As Collins puts it, “everybody has got that spark inside of them. Some people maybe need vocal coaching to help bring it out a little bit more or apply it to whatever they’re doing, but anyone can be creative.”

2. Understand the different communication styles in your team


A major aspect of creativity is self-expression, and we each have a unique way of sharing our ideas. This makes inclusive communication an integral part of Design Thinking. “That’s one thing I would definitely offer up as a tip: […] understand and learn what those different communication styles are that people have, and then learn how to adapt to them,” says Collins. As with the first tip, he recommends practicing self-reflection and empathy: “It’s understanding what your communication style is like and also, the other person sitting across the desk from you, what their communication style is like.”


Like most team-based approaches, Design Thinking requires a diversity of thoughts and voices, so it’s important to recognize and value the different communication styles of candidates when assembling your workforce. “If you’re interviewing a candidate and […] you ask them a question, sometimes you might have to pull the answer out from them a little bit more, or sometimes they may give you way more than you want,” Collins remarks. “When you have those two opposing communication styles in the same room, sometimes it can be really interesting.”

3. Create the right atmosphere


It’s no secret that a healthy workplace environment increases our productivity, job satisfaction, and commitment to innovation. “When it comes to Design Thinking, a big part of that is creating the right atmosphere so that people are comfortable in the environment that they’re working in: they have the tools and the ambience, if you will, that helps them work best,” explains Collins. According to him, the principle applies even at the recruitment stage: “If you’ve got maybe a specific conference room where you […] interview your candidates, make it warm and welcoming for them. You know, maybe add some color.”


Collins however warns against assuming that an atmosphere that works for you will necessarily work for others: “We’re all very, very different. You know, some of us can be more tactile. Some of us are more verbal. Some are more audio. Some certainly are a lot more visual.” Once again, inclusiveness is key. It’s also important to remember that creating the right atmosphere isn’t just about sprucing up the office. It’s about setting a tone that fosters positivity through actions like celebrating team members and their achievements or providing them with safe opportunities to experiment and make mistakes.

4. Keep an open mind


As Frank Zappa once said, “a mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open.” This applies at every stage of the Design Thinking process, whether you’re brainstorming a new product or interviewing candidates to grow your team. “Probably one of the biggest tips that I can give people for Design Thinking […] is make sure that you have an open mind,” says Collins. “Coming back to an HR scenario, if you ask a question [to a candidate], and someone gets back to you with an answer that maybe you didn’t think about, just be prepared to have that open mind and kind of take that in and see where it goes.”



Keep in mind that open-mindedness and inclusiveness go hand in hand. One of the reasons so many thought leaders in the business world advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion is that it brings to the table a wider range of skills and perspectives for problem-solving. “I think just being inclusive of all kinds of different people, races, points of view, all that, is so important,” Collins remarks. “People have to understand that different people have different points of view, especially when you have a challenge in front of you that you’re trying to solve.”

Maximizing results through creativity and innovation


Ultimately, the key to successfully implementing Design Thinking lies in your ability to kindle your workforce’s innate desire to explore and create. “Really, it has to do with how you apply that creativity and innovation to your workplace in order to get maximum results,” explains Collins. As such, it’s important that you truly know your staff and that you provide them with personalized guidance and support throughout their development. To quote media theorist Steven Johnson, “If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”


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Written by
Amanda Fleising