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FAQ: Your Questions for Abhijit Bhaduri on Design Thinking

Posted by: on 16 October 2018 in Human Capital Management, Thought Leadership

Abhijit Bhaduri, former WiPro executive, talent expert and best-selling author, recently joined ADP as part of our “Getting Paid and the Changing HR World” webinar series, to discuss Design Thinking for HR and how you can apply this methodology to all facets of HR, even payroll!

Here Abhijit answers the questions submitted by our webinar audience.

  1. Is there anything common between “Instructional Design” and “Design Thinking”?
    Absolutely – they both put the experience of the user at the forefront.   Instructional Design is specifically used for creating learning experiences, and done well, makes the learning experience more efficient and appealing for the user.  Design Thinking is a methodology that can be applied to all areas of HR – including learning and development.
  2. How would Design Thinking as a process help a recruitment firm that has fewer than 10 employees?
    The great thing about Design Thinking is that it can be used by organisations of all sizes and in some ways, smaller organisations are more agile to try out these methodologies. Say your small recruitment firm would like to review or implement an employee benefit program.  This is an excellent opportunity to engage the employees and design a benefit program that would actually motivate and excite them. What are the current pain points for your employees? Are there areas of their lives where you could give them more time back? What is feasible and viable to implement? You could use it to figure out how you can reimagine the candidate experience. That could help you create a differentiator for your business.
  3. What do you see as a key behavioural change for HR professionals when implementing design thinking? Is it empathy?
    The biggest shift for HR teams today that I see is moving away from top-down approaches to policy and process adherence to engaging with employees to create dynamic workplace cultures and engaging employee experiences.  You’re absolutely right – empathy is a big one, seeing your policies and existing processes from an employee perspective is a big one.  So is the willingness to adapt to a rapidly changing world and create the mindset of HR seeing themselves as innovators.  HR leaders tend to think of innovation is being the domain of the R&D team.   We know that employee expectations of work, and its place in their lives, is changing.
    When you think of a policy as work in progress, we get to use the design thinking mindset and innovate. Thinking of something as a final, finished product does not leave possibilities of innovation.
  4. You said the Design Thinking Process is a process which includes considering emotions, so can we say that Design Thinkers need to have a high EQ ? Or how do you relate EQ with Design Thinking?
    EQ (or emotional intelligence) is absolutely essential for the Design Thinking process, because you have to be able to imagine the perspective of another (or even multiple) people.  The hallmark of design thinking is “user first” thinking, and you need a reasonably high level of emotional intelligence to imagine the experience of another and the emotions that they could possibly experience as part of a particular process or current product experience.
  5. What are the key competencies required for the new emerging roles of Design Thinking?
    Design thinking is an iterative process and relies heavily on prototyping to build knowledge, test and validate concepts. Here are some key requirements of this methodology
      • Problem solving – structured and unstructured
      • Team working
      • Communication skills – written and verbal

    You can read more here.

  6. How do we go about having a mindset shift from the traditional way of looking at problems to this unconventional approach of Design Thinking?
    Change is slow in every organisation and like with most things – it’s easier to start small.  Identify a problem that everyone (or the majority of people on your team) can agree has so far been resistant to change using traditional methods and try to use design thinking to come up with a solution.  The nice thing about design thinking is that while educating the entire team on the methodology is helpful, it doesn’t require in-depth training or time away from the office.   When people experience success with a particular method or approach, they’re more likely to be open to adopting it.
  7. As HR professionals we deal with people of different generations in our workplaces.  How would Design thinking process work for millennials vs Generation X or Y? Should different prototypes be created?
    The answer, as always, depends on what you are trying to tackle. Design Thinking doesn’t mean that you’re going to come up with the solution that will make absolutely everyone happy, it means that you come up with the best, most feasible and viable solution, then test it out (on different generations, genders, levels of technical expertise, etc.)  And some added food for thought, this article states that empirical research tells us that millennials are not really that different from what they want from their workplaces.
  8. Can you please share an example from HR domain to differentiate between what’s feasible and what’s viable?
    A simple way to understand this is to say that feasibility is always about resource constraints needed to do this. You may discover that the ERP system you have just implemented is inadequate. But the cost of implementing a new ERP system may also have other implications besides financial demands. The alternative ERP system may not have support besides English and you need to implement it in other languages, eg Mandarin or Thai or Spanish to cater to your employees. That may limit the viability of the new system even when it is feasible.
  9. What factors will be critical for driving Design Thinking in an organisation?
    To adopt Design Thinking into an organisation you need the willingness to understand an issue from another’s perspective, the desire to adapt and grow, and patience to fail fast and try again!  These sound simple but a culture that allows some risk taking and creates psychological safety for making mistakes and “trial and error” to better understand and tackle a problem are crucial for its success.
  10. How do you measure the success of Design Thinking Process? How can ROI of design thinking based interventions be measured / differentiated from regular practices, especially when it is used to enhance the culture or brand value?
    The success of Design Thinking can be measured in multiple ways. The broad principle is that it should solve the problem we set out to solve.
    • Customer (or Employee) feedback must show improvement
    • Design thinking adoption across the organization 
    • Traditional KPIs eg financial performance, market success, and revenue outcomes
    • Reflective Measurements – questionnaires and surveys completed internally and externally by participants in design thinking processes including the practitioners, employees, and consumers

    In 2015, the Stanford D School published a paper on measuring Design Thinking effectiveness.

  11. How can Design Thinking help change the perception of the HR department as innovators?
    Design thinking is a great way to tackle issues that have been impervious to previous solutions.  If you engage in this process properly, you will engage with the people you’re trying to help and improve for, design thinking doesn’t all happen in a boardroom!  Traditional problem solving methods would have just the HR team brainstorm on the problem and think of a solution. The big missing link is often that in this methodology the HR team can only solve the problem that the employee has stated. Quite often the employees give responses that are socially desired rather than the real issues. Being able to step in to the user’s world and looking at it with a new lens can be a great experience.
    Design thinking requires you to really understand, imagine and empathize with the human beings impacted by this particular problem.  Remember in the webinar how the problem of “how do we cut down on time wasted by employees in traffic commuting to work” led to “how might we cut down on the commute time for our employees” and then became “how could we make flexible working more common in our offices, so employees can still be productive and only need to be in the office for face to face meetings”?   When you can prove that HR can be empathic and user-centric in approach, you will change the perception of HR’s place in the organisation as culture and employee champions.

Thank you, Abhijit!  Did you miss the webinar? You can still listen in on the recording, just click here.

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TAGS: Design Thinking HR innovation leadership

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