Article: Design Thinking Masterclass: How do you become a culture designer?


Design Thinking Masterclass: How do you become a culture designer?

Use the concept of design thinking to plan and drive cultural change in your organization.
Design Thinking Masterclass: How do you become a culture designer?

The velocity of changes emerging in the corporate climate is paving way for numerous opportunities for people, processes, and businesses at large. In fact, today’s innovation climate is quite different from what it had been in earlier times. From a business perspective, radical changes are evident in business models. The traditional ways of generating value for customers is being constantly challenged. From employee perspective, every aspect of workplace behavior is seen being transformed, especially when it comes to values, and beliefs and the way one works in a workplace setting. It’s a well-known fact that business growth and sustainability has always been intrinsically linked to culture, hence it becomes a strategic priority for every leader to support the change or co-create a culture that helps its stakeholders to flourish in such a volatile ecosystem.  

Parameswaran Venkataraman, the Chief Design Officer from Fractal Analytics very finely took the participants of Tech HRIN in the journey of creating culture designers. He emphasized the best way to adopt the concept of design thinking when it comes to planning and driving cultural changes in an organization. The insightful session began with a primer into design thinking concepts at a generic level to help the audience know the basics. Proclaiming ‘Design thinking’ as a problem-solving approach for bringing in innovating products and services, its need has been seen widely being accepted for improving business productivity in recent times. Design thinking, indeed, has the ability to allow an organization to integrate and iterate progressively and intentionally. And one must know the basic four attributes that it is well known for:

Building empathy with users - It is about experiencing the journey of the users by getting into their shoes. And this really needs discarding current presumptions and assumptions that generally are the hindrances. Paying attention to the tiny little things matters the most when it comes to the first attribute of design thinking.

Re-framing the problem - This attribute points out how to re-frame from a user's perspective.  It is recommended to be willing to discard the solutions, if solutions may be solving a different need altogether. The focus must be on the real solution that matters the most to the users. 

Being optimistic,  Explore ‘what if’ approaches -  This refers to being optimistic with the three kinds of thinking pattern - inductive thinking, deductive thinking, and abductive thinking.   Inductive thinking is based on directly observable facts. Deductive thinking refers to logic and analysis that’s based on past evidence. Abductive thinking is more about what could be possible with no references to existing reality, a logical inference to find the simplest explanation for what the viewer sees.

Rapid prototyping,  Build to think and not test - Building prototype allows to think about the solutions in a different way and helps to fail quickly for avoiding costly mistakes. Hence, less time and money is invested in an idea that turns out to be a bad one. 

How do you design a culture?

Design thinking is a useful approach to organizational culture change and talent development. Adopting this helps to stimulate creativity in solving business issues thereby fostering engagement and motivation. In fact, changing employee behaviors are seen as a great side effect of implementing design thinking in an organization. However, one must use the following steps when it comes to integrating design thinking for bringing in a change in the organizational culture.

Define your current culture! The first step is to diagnose the beliefs that comprise your existing culture. Try finding answers on what your employees are appreciated for and how often does this happen. Or perhaps answers related to when your employees are reprimanded or made feel unwanted. Also, seek answers to questions like what the organization has not changed for a prolonged period of time. This helps in understanding your cultural strengths and weaknesses.

After getting the answers to the above questions, synthesize it together and identify just on one area of change that you would want to bring in. 

After picking one attribute that you would like to change in the culture for a better future for all, paint a picture of this new attribute. Visualize what exactly you are striving for. It is a must to know the exact need to have it keeping all factors in mind.

Finally, do design for tangibility as the final stage. Use rituals, tools, measures, and incentives for making sure that the right planned culture is being translated into reality.

In short, applying design thinking to bring in changes in culture solves many challenges. It cultivates curiosity through abductive reasoning. It encourages individuals and teams to go beyond their comfort zones by embracing risk and seeing failure as a positive step. It helps to define the problem clearly, and the most significant advantage lies in its involvement to let employees co-create the change. Finally, this leads to higher engagement and better change management in the process of cultural transformational.


(The article is based on a Design Thinking Masterclass: How do you become a culture designer? by Parameswaran Venkataraman, the Chief Design Officer from Fractal Analytics at TechHR 2019.)

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Topics: Culture, #TechHRIN

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