How to Lead Design Thinking Projects

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How to Lead Design Thinking Projects
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Design Thinking efforts typically are human-centered and require a deep, personal understanding of users' conditions, situations and needs. To gather such deep understanding, they
  1. Focus on connection and even intimacy with users.
  2. Rely on divergent thinking.
  3. Use iterative prototyping and testing.
However these 3 characteristics are often perceived by non-designers as:
  1. Subjective and non-rational.
  2. Lacking clear direction and not efficient.
  3. Producing a lot of mistakes and failures.
That's why it's important that senior leaders provide guidance and support to the regular employees to channel their understandable but non-helpful reactions. Bason and Austin report 3 best practices to successfully accomplish this:
  1. LEVERAGING EMPATHY: Push employees to open up, be supportive about how they feel, avoid they act defensive, help them see things as opportunities for improvement. Act like a coach.
  2. ENCOURAGING DIVERGENCE AND NAVIGATING AMBIGUITY: Make space and time for diverse ideas to emerge while also maintaining an overall sense of direction and purpose.
  3. REHEARSING NEW FEATURES: Provide time and resources for various tryouts/prototypes and address any skepticism about "failed" ones.
Source: Christian Bason and Robert D. Austin, "The Right Way to Lead Design Thinking", HBR Mar-Apr 2019, pp. 82-91. 12-8-2019

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