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Begin As You Mean To Go On



Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to present at a Design Thinking for HR Conference. We began with pre-conference workshops. A variety of professionals including but not limited to HR, Organizational Change Leaders, Educators, Design Thinkers, and topics created a bustling, energetic environment – with all eager to share their experiences and expertise and interest in or passion for human-centered design and design thinking.


I led a pre-conference workshop in which I related how human-centered design and design thinking create a foundation for a new change leadership style. We began by sharing our trials and tribulations with conventional organizational change approaches. From there, participants learned about human-centered design and its useful applications along with case studies. They had the chance to practice with an organizational change design challenge similar to one they might face in the present day. 


On the next day, which was the first day of the conference, I delivered a 101 on mapping employee experiences. We deconstructed experiences and journey/experience maps, discussed the inherent value of the concepts to understand employee experience properly, and practiced mapping experiences. My objective for this session was to emphasize the importance of journey mapping as part of defining and solving the problem and to clarify that a journey map is NOT a deliverable - and alone not the aim of human-centered design. Instead, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding of employees and their needs (or more likely unmeet needs). To gain insight into how to improve and with what to innovate meaningful experiences as well.


While traveling home, I reflected on my time in Chicago. What did I learn? What can my experience teach me?


Well, to say the least, I'm really excited that the movement to educate HR or deepen current understanding was in process. I sensed such a strong desire to learn and apply. With that said, the one notion that stuck with me and gave me great pause when standing in front of this mostly HR community (listening to understand more than their questions) was...


Don't underestimate the importance of the revision in thinking and approach required to embrace a human-centered design mindset in practice truly.


There were many moments during the sessions I led in which I politely reminded the audience that this was not about HR or the organization firstly. It was about the humans they serve - their customers, their stakeholders. Designing meaningful experiences necessitates keeping people at the center of the design process and the design itself - the solutions. It is about seeing the world as they see it - no judgments, no assumptions. It's about how we can make the portion of employees' lives spent working less frustrating, more fulfilling, more valuable to them. Once you master (or come close to) the mindset, a new path can emerge from which you can more positively impact employees' experiences and ultimately, the organization and the business.


Key Takeaway?

If you are in the early stage of learning human-centered design or design thinking with the aim of employee experience, start by reframing your mindset. Don't overburden yourself with learning about the design process or the double diamond, mechanics of journey mapping, and design methods and tools. Instead, begin with genuinely understanding what it means to be human-centric and to engage in outside-in thinking. Practice that until it becomes natural. It will make all the difference as you embark on employee experience.

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making work better by design through design

An experience design and innovation firm specializing in transforming experiences of work and of workplaces.

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