The second session at the ICON Melbourne Forum covered design thinking, with a talk by Juliana Proserpio, Co Founder of Echos – Innovation Lab, which works with businesses to implement design thinking strategies. She was joined by Neil Cook, Head of Legal Operations at Woolworths Group, and Libby Jarvis, Head of Legal Project Management at Herbert Smith Freehills. Libby and Neil have participated in Juliana’s design thinking courses and shared some of their insights.
The panellists offered three key takeaways:
1. Redesign the way you see design thinking
Design thinking is often considered a process that significantly changes how firms are run, but it can start simpler than that. It is about changing perspectives, which can often be difficult to initiate. “You’re promoting change, everyone wants change, but no one wants to put in the hard work. For change to happen, you need to be brave,” said Juliana. To gather momentum, Neil suggested starting small. “Find someone who might be interested and then give it a go. It’s experimental, you’ve got to do it over multiple sessions and experiences.”
Juliana said she worked with a major bank that renamed its entire program to avoid using the words ‘design thinking’ after a similar approached failed. “Apparently, they didn’t want me to use the words because of the stigma,” said Juliana. She presented a program with a different name and it was hugely successful. Libby commented, “It’s a hidden lever that you’ve got. We need to do less of the ‘lingo bingo’ and do more of the weird and wonderful stuff. You can bring it into anything you do.”
2. Design thinking is useful in business
Design thinking is a customer-centric approach to business. “A big thing was the mindset shift away from thinking about yourself and thinking about putting yourself in the shoes of the client. It sounds easy but achieving that mindset is a very difficult thing,” said Neil. Taking an empathetic approach allows businesses to market products based on need. Providing clients with solutions that improve their business adds value and generates revenue. This involves reconsidering current business approaches and starting again, which can be daunting. “It’s about being vulnerable and not thinking you’ve got the answers,” he added.
3. Implement design thinking in your workplace
The panellists revealed how they introduce design thinking to businesses. “We set them a challenge that doesn’t relate to work; for example, how to improve the pedestrian experience … and it immediately gets people in a more neutral mindset,” said Libby. The panellists noted how difficult it is to switch mindset if a problem is work related. By using an unrelated topic, they are able to let participants express their creativity. They can understand the root of the problem without immediately coming up with a solution.
The panellists all commented on a changed workplace atmosphere that grew out of the valuable lessons learned by workshop participants. Design thinking is about shifting perspectives so that businesses can become more client focused – improving the customer experience and allowing employees to achieve more and benefit from being in a better workplace.