Outside in

A challenge aimed at most HR functions is how can we be more innovative in improving the way people experience work.    You see it regularly in the work place as new initiatives and changes are made and then there is a feeling of disappointment and frustration when they fail to live to deliver the anticipated outcomes.   We need as an industry to challenge the way we do design.   Often these processes and policies are designed from a technical perspective that lacks any engagement with how people that will actually consume it.   As HR practitioners we need to think more about how our processes and systems look like from the outside than from the inside.

Design thinking is the way forward

HR could learn a lot from the approach of Design Thinking to create a great user experience.   The approach focuses on how people feel when they experience a system or process.   The essence is to collaborate with your people and develop new ideas that can be quickly bought to life.  It brings an end to the development of new processes in dark rooms that are a million miles away from the people on the ground – who will have to consume them.

How does it work?

Design thinking is about iterating solutions and ideas quickly with a diverse set of stakeholders.    The themes I think represent some of the greatest value are these:

  • Empathy – you first look at what is the problem from a user’s perspective and through the use of personas connect with their emotions to help frame the challenge and objectives
  • Ideation – again through engaging with a diverse set of stakeholders you can crowd source potential solutions, the essence is one of exploring the art of the possible, not just getting locked into the first idea that comes to mind and going head down with that
  • Prototype – iteratively building potential solutions quickly to understand what works and what doesn’t, key here is adopting a ‘fail fast’ approach where you learn quickly from failure and refine it.

Starting points

Implementing Design Thinking doesn’t necessarily need to require wholesale changes.   You can start straight away with simple steps.    In reality I think it is more about a philosophical intent to engage with your users than to follow strict methodology when you’re making improvements.    There are a number of great tools to use (the ideas from IDEO are great).    But in essence it is about engaging stakeholders throughout the design process and implementation.    So often due to time constraints we fail to engage people in the process.  We prioritise time without considering quality or usability.     This can lead to a failure in addressing the real systemic issues.  Design thinking challenges this and if you are looking to make long-term sustainable solutions.    It’s worth spending the time to get it right, and it is more fun than being locked in a dark room on your own.

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