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Design Thinking and Project Management \\ Strategy Execution Series

Strategy ExecutionThe latest Trends in Strategy Execution were discussed at the recent Executive Briefing hosted by TwentyEighty Strategy Execution in London. The sixth trend, Design thinking is permeating project management and beyond” highlighted how innovation and creativity can help to solve problems in a project environment.

Here’s the trend:
Design Thinking is Permeating Project Management and Beyond

Historically, IT, strategy and product development have been cast as owning innovation. Today, smart organisations encourage innovation at all levels, meaning everyone should look at what they do and ask how they can iterate and innovate, even on a small-scale. It occurs when we look for opportunities to get more feedback from customers and observe how they using products and services. Gaining insights by rapidly prototyping and testing ideas before developing extensive plans is another way to innovate, learn from mistakes and improve. Continuing to develop and foster an environment where people are allowed to question the way it always has been done and take risks has powerful implications. This is design thinking, which drives innovation.

Design thinking is all about how we can do things differently – from a project management point of view it’s not just about people thinking about waterfall, Agile or lean but what other kinds of methodologies exist outside of the project space which we might be able to employ to help us either get breakthrough ideas or finding different ways of working.

Design thinking is a methodology.

The notion behind design thinking is all about how do we take a foggy issue, put it through some kind of design process and have some kind of impact.

Typically when we try to problem solve we are looking at having a problem – trying to identify it and then jump to a solution. With design thinking it’s about doing a lot of solid data gathering to understand the problem but then go out and generate insights in order to try to look at the problem in a different way.

A lot of design thinking comes from Ethnography, where cultural anthropologists have become business anthropologists – it’s about how you get a deep understanding of the people you are designing for. For product development it’s very powerful, but how about for areas like processes in a business?

How can we get rapid insights into the current operations of a business and functions that need new designs? Rapidly iterate – like elements of Agile – and create prototypes before investing money to get to the end deliverable which people then don’t use?



Tim Wasserman talks about problem solving



There are steps in the design thinking process and at each stage there are tools available.

hasso plattner institute of designThere is something you can check out at Stanford University called the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design where they are focused on organisational design which supports the process of ideation for individuals and teams. Take a look at d.school where there is a great library of free resources and experiments that you can use to try to apply this in your work. The Virtual Crash Course is a great place to start.

The session also included a brief overview of how Citrix has used design thinking within the IT organisation. The image below, with highlighted text, shows how language also plays a part in design thinking. It is important how challenges are reframed and language becomes important to that. For example, talking about customers instead of end users and stakeholders. The Citrix example shows the shift from building something to servicing the customers – it was a mindset shift. One other important part of design thinking is creating the kind of environment that recognises failure happens and it’s OK to fail, learn from the failure and move on without repercussions.


Design Thinking - Citrix



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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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