What do you get if you take 9 people, a box of lego, 6 pots of play dough, some pipe cleaners, a load of post its and then add beer?

Er – this…

As I said in the video we basically remixed the Stanford d school gift giving experience.
This was a dual purpose event. We wanted to actually try running a session where people got to try out the design thinking process and we were really interested in finding better ways to run conferences. Not necessarily because we want to run one, but because of the reaction we received when we suggested it might be worthwhile.  It’s clear that a significant  and vocal minority are bored of the standard conference experience. But it’s also clear that less experienced L&D folk aren’t getting the best out of it either. We’ll be doing some more in depth analysis of the responses we received over the past month and you can be sure we will share our findings very soon.

So back to the event itself. We were really excited by just how well it worked, everyone who went through the exercise recognised that there was something different about it compared to how they normally worked. If you look at the constituent parts of the design thinking process it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not really that different to things you already know about. But as the recent chat2lrn illustrated, to me at least, it actually holds answers to many recurring problems that L&D fail to solve.

  • By focusing on empathy first we can make more effort to understand the people we’re trying to help.
  • By analysing the findings from this we can define the correct problem to address, rather than the one the SME has identified.
  • By co-creating solutions during ideation we can get broader perspectives and better ideas.  Not just courses or eLearning. Design thinking encourages you to create multi-disciplinary teams – not just the L&D consultant and the SME.
  • By having a bias towards action you prototype early and get users trying out rough versions of your designs much sooner in the process and because you aren’t spending days getting the graphics just right and the drop shadows all designery, you focus on the user experience instead.
So what next?

I’ve been using versions of this exercise in my day job over the past two weeks. We ran some lunch and learn sessions as part of the Love Learning campaign and got the people who turned up to interview each other to find out in what areas they wanted to develop themselves  They only got as far as defining the problem for their partner, but just by asking them to talk to each other and focus on their partner’s needs instead of their own, it appeared to get some good conversations going if nothing else. It may even have helped them gain some insight into their own needs. We also got some good ideas about what they are interested in which will help to guide the campaign over the next couple of months.

We ran it four times over two days for groups of managers and non-managers, in total about 40 people. We also used it during some focus groups we ran for new joiners. We’re redesigning the “onboarding” experience, from first contact during recruitment, all the way to being competent in their role and this was a helpful way to get their input.

We think this could be turned into a useful toolkit for managers to facilitate conversations about development. Managers could get their teams to interview each other to identify development needs. Sure, managers should be doing this themselves, but in reality they have other pressures that mean they can’t always devote enough time to this. So why not find another way?

We will be running an ideation session for the onboarding project towards the end of this month where we plan to share all the findings with a group of HR, L&D, senior managers and new employees to get their help to co-create some solutions to improve the experience. Then we’ll test them out in the field.
So that’s just a few of the ways I’m using design thinking. It’s not rocket science and it’s not some weird sort of cult. It’s just a bunch of sensible stuff linked together by a process. I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but I’m getting a massive buzz out of working this way and it’s catching on very quickly and easily in an environment that doesn’t normally take kindly to change.

Next month weeLearning Glos returns on the 25th April. Full details of location and speakers will be out next week. See you there.

Post by: Sam Burrough (39 Posts)