If there was a method we could use to uncover the voice of employees, improve the learner experience, and drive business results, we’d use it. Right? Well, that method is design thinking, but most of us working in learning and development (L&D) aren’t fully adopting or embracing it. Why not?
Lack of Leadership Buy-InFirst, the term “design thinking" has become a popular buzzword, which means it’s rather ambiguous, overused, and misapplied. As a result, leaders tend to question its integrity and viability. In addition, because of its origins, others assume design thinking is for creatives or product development. Most do not really understand what it is, why they should use it, or how to fully adopt and implement it.
Solution: Educate, Communicate, Share
The only way to transform the mindset of leaders is to demonstrate how design thinking can be applied in the context of L&D. Share use cases and success stories or highlight real-world examples of how design thinking can solve performance issues. You may ask yourself: What if I don’t have any case studies or success stories? Join a design thinking community of practice (or create one) to learn from other industry professionals. Better yet, try it out yourself with a small use case. Then, you’ll have your own story to share.
Here are some problem statements that you can ideate and prototype with your organization to get you started:
- How might we give employees experiential ways to learn on their own?
- How might we create a culture of curiosity and learning among professional workers?
- How might we embed learning for an hourly workforce?
- How might we provide training that doesn't take sales associates away from their job?
Stops at TheoryMost L&D professionals have at least read an article or watched a video on design thinking. The five phases of design thinking (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test) are straightforward, and to some degree, we’ve applied aspects of it to our work, such as conducted an audience analysis or attended a brainstorm session. Therefore, while we understand and have even implemented the basics, we really aren’t adopting the full method from end to end.
Solution: Get Out There and Practice
Assemble a workgroup and tackle something small. Instead of focusing on your learner population, try to focus on your team. Think low stakes. Go through some empathizing activities (such as create a persona or two), define an issue you want to address, and start ideating. You can get this far in a half-day meeting. Prototype some solutions and test away! Your goal at this point is to get through each of the five phases without stalling.
Recently, a design team identified an issue they were experiencing: how to improve internal collaboration. After ideating together and prototyping, they ended up creating a Yammer group that they post to each week to share one great idea. And guess what? It worked!
After you have finished your first application, try it again. But this time, go a little bigger. Include more people in your workgroup and go for an even tougher challenge—maybe one that includes learners.