Leadership psychologist Edgar Papke and I just dove deep into the intersection of innovation, design thinking and corporate culture, and published our analysis in a new book Innovation by Design.
We found that one of the aspects of leveraging design thinking at scale is the idea of open spaces – physically and mentally. This includes what physical space looks and feels, how local and virtual communities and teams use visual tools and technologies, and their effect and reinforcement of creative and collaborative behavior and open communication. The attribute of open spaces is also a means of the emotional expression that invites an open mind for creative expression and more open and meaningful dialogue. Open mental spaces enable strategic conversations.
The attribute of open spaces is to think creatively about the use of space, technology, visual tools, and eventually the application of different forms of art. In our study we expected to find the expressive handiwork in the making and use of environments and spaces that encouraged creative and open expression. This is a commonly expected attribute of highly innovative organizations and teams and the organizations lived up to our expectations. In some cases, they surprised us with the ingenuity with which they created such environments.
Moving design thinking into the boardroom
We had several interviews with AMP, the leading insurance and wealth management company in Australia and New Zealand. Munib Karavdic, Director Design & Innovation, started their design thinking program a few years ago and has trained 700 employees on human-centered design. That’s a rather impressive change for a 185 year old insurance company. Yet times are changing, and AMP does this for innovation and as a proven model to humanize their business.
Minub started their adventure into design thinking by making a shared space for innovation. As background, the company’s office space design stems around individual cubicles, small offices for managers and generic conference rooms to share, hardly a space designed for creativity and collaboration to flourish. But Minub envisioned building a culture of innovation. So he transformed his small UX design department, grew it to seven service designers, and began running design thinking workshops. Concurrently they created a tailored five-step design thinking process that aligns to their culture:
- Frame the problem
- Understand context
- Define – build concepts from insights
- Deliver – make a minimum viable proposal
- Evolve – improve
Projects kept coming in, and the team soon realized they needed a larger, open space to invite people to for collaboration workshops. All he could squeeze out of the facilities department was one of the worst rooms at headquarters. But they looked on the bright side, moved in, and transformed the space with floor to ceiling white boards, added moveable tables, chairs, and the appropriate tools for visualization and play, and began hosting design thinking sessions for more people.
They had fun. They solved wicked problems. Word spread. Within a few months the space was booked solid people collaborating, creating and solving big problems. They began training more design thinking facilitators. The CEO caught wind this new exciting initiative, and the great results it was producing, and asked if he could attend a design thinking workshop. Together, they solved some very significant problems in short order.
As a result, the CEO called the same facilities department and had his boardroom on the top floor turned into a similar open space for collaboration and creativity. He began holding his executive leadership team and board meetings in this space. The solved more problems. This quickly caught on, and within a year every floor of their 25 floor headquarters had an open innovation space. Now even their finance department requests proof of customer benefits and co-creation in order to approve department budgets for projects. Design thinking is also used in insurance risk assessment projects, something that previously relied only on scientific data.
The team at the Hunger Project creates experiences that reflect the geographic cultures of the areas of the world that their investors and financial donors can be a part of. Not only does it result in an increased emotional commitment, it also brings them into the creative and innovative thinking realm of the organization. And Visa does similar sessions in their innovation centers to provide an experience for customers to engage in the innovation process. This is simply core to design thinking at scale.
Hope you enjoy this snapshot. We cover more cases in details in our new book, Innovation by Design.