Blog Post

Design Thinking Process for Facilitators: Some Reflections

Published: Saturday, December 28, 2019
Updated: Sunday, December 29, 2019

The beauty of facilitation or delivery of learning programs today is that it is mostly blended and multi-modal that can enable every learner to imbibe the knowledge, experiment what has been learned and then put to practice the knowledge gained.

Design Thinking helps Facilitators to bring forth the best techniques to a wide variety of audience. These are my reflections on how Facilitators can use Design Thinking when conducting workshops or even delivering programs.

The five phases of Design Thinking are: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.


A facilitator needs to understand the learners before imparting the knowledge, process or skills to enable them to learn in an agile manner and apply what has been learnt. Empathy helps in assessing the current level of knowledge and what needs to be done to bridge the gap towards the desired levels. Here is what a facilitator can do to understand and empathize with the learners:

  1. Get to know the learners beforehand, if possible: If there is a way to know more about the background of your learners, knowing their profiles, speaking to them as a group or in person, that helps to understand what their expectations and mindsets are before the program. Knowing this will help to even prepare better for the delivery of the programs.
  2. Understand the problem being addressed from various lens: While the program / workshop will be a solution to addressing a learning need and is bound to have some aspects clearly defined as need, it is also important to understand the problem being addressed from various lens – For example, Senior Leadership, Immediate Managers, Peers, Team Members and perhaps other stakeholders involved. This gives a clarity in how each stakeholder perceives the problem and to enable the learner to address the problem keeping in mind all angles.
  3. Take time during Introductions of the session to gather relevant information you need: If the step 1 and 2 is not possible, then make sure you have relevant questions ready during introductory session to enable you get the details you are looking for and help you in improvising during the facilitations.
  4. Make notes during the Introductions: Ensure you make note of some of the aspects being shared which will help you connect the topic to those thoughts / experiences or mindsets. It helps in relating better and learning better.
  5. What motivates the learner: Through the expectation setting understand the motivation of the learners which can be increased through the session.

The outcome of this phase is clearly the understanding of the problem without any biases. Every possible perspective only supports in the direction of providing solution to the right problem.

While the blueprint of the program may be created after getting outcome from the initial learning needs and analysis phase, it is always good to partner with the instructional designer and create the detail content which will address the various learning styles. Some aspects the facilitator can keep in mind are:


  1. Always keep in mind the important messages or take away from the session: These messages should be iterated multiple times and emphasized.
  2. Explain how the session will be delivered and what the learners are expected to do: this helps the learners to understand why something is being done in a specific manner and link every activity they do to learn better.
  3. Ensure there are various exercises along with back-up exercises ready: Learners come from various backgrounds – some of the exercises planned may have already been known by some learners in other contexts. Having backup exercises, or techniques to involve those who already know what is being done are help in better engagements.
  4. Ensure there are various activities that will support the different learning styles: Role-plays, Case studies, Group Discussions, Singular and Group activities etc. help in imbibing the concepts better.
  5. Tools and Action Learning Projects: Providing tools for concepts to be applied supports better usage and applicability for learners. If the program duration is long, then an Action Learning Project after the learning interventions are done will support in applying the concepts learnt.


Ideation helps in evolving the program to the satisfaction and high engagement of the learners. This is something a facilitator can do before and after.

If you know the type of audience you have, it is good to speak with some of the similar age group to understand what will be expected during the session. What works well and what may not work. If the audience is a mixed generation, it is very important to bring in activities that are appreciated by both. During a focus group discussion or an interview that may take place before, it is possible to understand how they would like to learn. This gives an opportunity to build the curriculum and the delivery of session accordingly.

During the session, it is important to observe the response from the learners. Observing their reactions or responses, will enable the facilitator to improvise the session on the spot. For example, rather than an individual exercise, if you find the learners are more inclined to discuss and share their point of views, then case study-presentation will be a good method to engage everyone.

After a session is over, it is very important to reflect on what went well and what could have been better. While audience may vary for another session, some lessons learned help in better preparation. One question to ask is “If I had an opportunity to re-do the session with the same group of learners, then what will I change in my delivery style?” – This question personally has helped me evolve a lot.


One good practice for a facilitator is to document what are the outcomes they expect from learners after the session is over. It is good to take a feedback on specific queries to see if this is achieved. As a facilitator, there may be expectations of some outcomes and responses that you expect. See if those are met at the end of the session. These lessons learned and reflections helps a facilitator to make specific changes or finetuning on aspects of delivery. These can be tried on other audiences as they deliver the same topic.

While delivering the topic to different audience, the notes made earlier becomes handy to see how the delivery can be enhanced further.


Every stage or step can be tested, and the result or outcome used for upgrading the process of delivery. Feedback is a true blessing to improve the way facilitation can be done to achieve the best outcome. Design Thinking is an on-going process and it helps to evolve overall productivity and outcome by improving the process.

About the Author

I am a versatile thought leader, a trusted advisor & partner in Organizational Learning, Quality & Process Improvement and Knowledge Management functions with 27+ years of track record of successful strategic and tactical leadership within IT / ITES/ Finance Industry. My first career as a faculty has helped in creating a strong foundation in understanding needs of participants, content development and also in delivery mechanisms. Twelve years into process quality, knowledge management and implementing people capability models added my adeptness in supporting leaders, harness knowledge & information as business assets; help improve effectiveness & efficiency, through cross-boundary collaboration and partnering. It also helped me demonstrate quick transformation & managing of organizational change to achieve maximum results. Personal belief and motto - “committed to make a positive difference in everything I do”

I am known for looking at possibilities to bring value-add. My collaborative style and ability to drive results helps me to keep focus and ensure completion of all activities on time and delight the customers. I am passionate about learning and growing. I am also passionate about bringing out the potential of my colleagues and providing support in their development through workshops, assessment tools, mentoring and coaching. It’s important to me for being creative, exploring ways to provide value add to my customers.

Specializes in:
• Coaching and Mentoring (MBTi, EQi 20., EQ 360 and TESI Practitioner)
• Help improve effectiveness & efficiency, through collaboration and partnering.
• Transformation & managing of organizational change to achieve maximum results.
• Facilitating workshops and sessions on leadership
• Supporting leaders harness knowledge and information as business assets.
• Developing capabilities and center of knowledge excellence
• Bring value-added transformations within organizations

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.