In the previous blog post, we introduced the role designing thinking can play in proving ROI. It starts with defining outcomes.

With the desired results clearly defined, all of the stakeholders involved are focusing their efforts on achieving business results. This simply involves eight steps to design for the needed business results.

  1. Start with why. Align programs with the business. The why becomes the business need and the proposed program is aligned to the specific business measure.
  2. Make it feasible. Select the right solution. The right solution will drive the business measure.
  3. Expect success. Design for results. The success of learning is now defined as “business results.” Objectives are set to push accountability to the business impact level. With reaction, learning, application, and impact objectives, designers, developers, facilitators, participants and managers of participants know what they must do to deliver business results.
  4. Make it matter. Design for Input, Reaction, and Learning. This ensures that the right people are involved at the right time and that the content is important, meaningful, and actionable, setting the stage to drive business results.
  5. Make it stick. Design for Application and Impact. This ensures that a participant is actually using the learning (Application) and that it has an impact. Results are measured at both Application and Impact Levels. Barriers must be removed or minimized and enablers are enhanced to drive desired business results.
  6. Make it credible. Measure results and calculate ROI. With impact data in hand, the results must be credible. The first action is to isolate the effects of the program on the impact data. If ROI is planned, the next action is to convert data to money. Then the monetary benefits are compared to the cost of the program in an ROI calculation. This builds two sets of data that sponsors will appreciate: business impact connected directly to the program and the financial ROI, which is calculated the same way that a CFO would calculate a capital investment. (For more details, see Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think About Learning Investments.)
  7. Tell the story. Communicate results to key stakeholders—Reaction, Learning, Application, Impact, and perhaps even ROI data form the basis for a powerful story. Storytelling is critical and it’s a much better story when you have business impact data.
  8. Optimize results: Use black box thinking to increase funding. Designing for results usually drives the needed results, but there’s always an opportunity to make the results even better. This involves improving the program so that the ROI increases in the future. Increased ROI makes a great case for more funds. When funders (executives) see that the program has a positive return on investment, it will be repeated, retained, and supported.

With this approach, each person does their part to produce the business results, not relying so much on measurement to see if the results are there. Using this process almost guarantees the business results, because you have designed for it. That’s the big difference and it makes life easier for everyone. But there is more, and that is the last blog post.

In the meantime, for a deeper dive on how to use design thinking to deliver business results and increase the investment in talent development, check out our new book, The Business Case for Learning.