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There’s a few questionable things that came about in the 80’s but design thinking certainly isn’t one of them. What is design thinking? In short, design thinking is a problem solving framework.

With design thinking you bring your whole-self to the process without restraint or the negative inner voice. You bring a state of mind that empathises with customers but also with your colleagues you’re working with. Once you can do this the solutions are only limited to the participants imagination and the ability to seek, understand and then act on insights.  

So how does this apply to leadership? Great leadership, not unlike design thinking, is dependent on the ability to identify a problem and make progress on a possible solution. Problems or opportunities may be within the organisation or may lie in waiting with a customer need that has not yet been met.  

Design thinking, helping leaders  

In the article ‘Design thinking should also serve as a leadership philosophy‘ Jesse Himsworth from Forbes highlights two key elements that assist leaders.  

  1. The Power of The Collective Brain 
  2. The Value of Human-Centred Design

The power of the collective brain refers to the fact that ideas stemming from a collective of people with different views and insights is strengthened to that of an individuals. When one person (normally one with the highest rank) is coming up with all the ideas no matter how ‘intelligent’ or ‘naturally skilled’ they may be, the idea still stems from one set of skills, abilities, views, biases and experiences, rather than many. Having many points of view in a room, as opposed to one that dictates, is always going to be a more robust and stronger idea that stands a better chance of success.  

“Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results” states the report from Cloverpop titled “Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making”.  

Ideas and innovation are strengthened by collaboration and there’s plenty of stats to prove it.  

The Australian Government report Competition of Collaboration used data from around 7,000 Australian small and medium enterprises and they “found a significant link between collaboration on innovation and productivity growth — the impact of collaboration on innovation increased annual productivity growth by 4.1 per cent.”

 The benefits are irrefutable. The ability to harness ideas and bring together diverse points of view increases the success rate of new ideas (innovation) but is also attributed to improving the overall sustainability of any organisation. I always like to mention the sidenote of empowering individuals and helping them to find moments of joy and purpose in what they do each day. To me this is where the magic lies.   

How diverse is your team?  

Now let’s look at the team you, as a leader, are creating. Yes, I say creating because every hire, every recruit will determine the abilities of your collective brain. Diversity is a key component of collective brain that can break through the limitations of traditional thinking and create more innovative ideas.  

The BGC Report ‘how diverse leadership teams boost innovation’ states that organisations which leverage diversity in developing their solution have an advantage of 19 percent more in their innovation revenue over those that don’t.  

The X Factor  

Now to the value of a human centred approach.  Design thinking firstly relies on empathy. So, in this case leaders who have the ability to put themselves in their teams and their customers shoes. Good to Great, author Jim Collins notes empathy and humility to be the X factor of great leadership.  

If leaders successfully embed empathy into their organisation we then get a more engaged workforce.  

The ‘Empathy Monitor Report’ makes mention of the following benefits of a workplace that embeds empathy:  

1.Retention 

  • 92 percent of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if the organisation empathised with their needs. 

2. Overheads 

  • 60 percent would be willing to take less pay if their employer showed empathy, and 78 percent would leave an employer for equal pay if the other company was empathetic. 

3. Productivity  

  • 77 percent of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer. 

So once leaders have developed a culture of empathy what’s next?  

Constant improvement, regular feedback and individuals who are open minded enough to receive and welcome feedback can be your competitive advantage. Embrace it! An organisation dedicated to innovation realises that it is a continuous pursuit that promotes failure as an opportunity for learning. 

 Let’s talk about what’s in it for them….. and what’s in it for you as a result.  

“They hear me”…. Empowerment  

Empowering teams and instilling confidence to teams can be a momentous move to improving the decision-making abilities of teams. Not to mention improving proactiveness and productivity.  

Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. (Salesforce

“What I do matters, to me!” Sense of Purpose 

If what you do each day is aligned with your own personal cause then there’s no doubt you will be happier at work as well as happier after hours. If you’re fulfilled 9-5 then homelife becomes more enjoyable and let’s face it a happier community could only eventuate. No Sunday blues, no manic Mondays.  

80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization. (IBM

“Trust me I got this!” Decisiveness 

A decisive team means less time for leaders to have to guide direction. Therefore, it allows leaders to dedicate more time to connecting with the wider industry and dedicate time to thinking about the future direction and strategies of the business rather than putting out fires and reacting to day to day challenges.  

70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element of their engagement. (SHRM

From here decide what is the biggest challenge to your business. Use empathy in your approach to break down the barriers to that challenge. Whether it be within you company or your customers.  

The design thinking approach will help you to not only address any problem that comes your way but you’ll also reap the benefits of knowing that you are contributing to a happier community and happier workforce.  

Sleep easy in knowing that when your people go home each day, they don’t dread the time they need to be back in the office and instead thrive within their home life and spread the word within their network of the positive influence of your organisation.

Make advocacy and an engaged and empowered workforce your strongest competitive advantage.  

Olivia O’Connor, Liv By Design

The numbers and research don’t lie, most of our meetings suck. According to research by Gallup senior executives spend two days or more a week in meetings despite the fact that 67% of meetings are considered to be “failures”. I’d dare say that time would have significantly spiked in the last couple of weeks for most execs.

Anything that requires us to turn up and zone out is not just a waste of time but a waste of our creative potential, a waste of an opportunity to truly connect and collaborate.

You can’t write an article on improving meetings without quoting some scary stats. Steven Rolberg’s research states that…

62% of participants said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

Poor meeting structures lead to low engagement and poor culture. If you want a more productive team who creates big ideas and gets stuck into creative problem solving, then you need to dedicate time to connection and heightening collaboration. The way to do that is to ensure you allocate time in your meeting to focus on culture, create an interactive experience and tie the jobs to be done back to the overall higher purpose and vision for the team.

Allocate time

In my experience this works best in the opening of the meeting. Dedicate 15 minutes at the beginning of your next team meeting and use this time to seek input from everyone who attends. This will help you stop your team feeling like passive participants and make them feel more like active contributors and idea makers.

Interactive experience

In a time like this where things are so uncertain, and people are experiencing high levels of change and stress

Some think of focusing on culture and engagement as nice things to do or the icing on the cake. We need to make the cake first sell it then we’ll think about ourselves later. Wrong. Instead, think of engagement and your culture as the cake tin. It’s what enables you to make the cake in the first place. Want a better cake? Then fix the holes in your tin.

So here’s 3 activities to get you started…

Method 1.

BRING YOUR VALUES TO LIFE.

Grab your list of values. Select one each week or each meeting and ask the team to each come prepared with one or two ideas as to how that value can be represented in your next online meeting.

Collate the ideas, discuss and pick some nice easy ways that you all agree as a team you want to uphold over the next few weeks.

Use the next meeting to summarise what was agreed to and at the end of the meetings to a value check in. Take 2 mins to write down how you think it went. Keep experimenting and tweaking as you go.

Benefits: This activity requires everyone to do some pre-work before the meeting so they are already in the mindset that they will be required to contribute.

It helps your team focus on agreed to goals and decision making. There’s not one individual who makes the call but a group who are working together. Essentially you are working out your collaboration and team cohesion muscles.

Method 2.

GET VISUAL.

Get participants to get and A4 piece of paper and a sharpie. Ask them to draw a picture 5 mins before they’re due to dial in that represents how they have been feeling that morning or day. You can have fun with this but just make sure the image is visible to everyone online. (Hence the sharpie instead of a pen). If the kids are at home grab a crayon if you have to. Then ask everyone to show their picture. If there is anyone who wants to share why they drew that picture. You’ll find some people are feeling great and some who might be feeling a little challenged that day could perhaps do with a phone call from someone who has some energy to give that day to support them. We’re all going through a lot so morning you might be on top of the world and afternoon you might need a pick me up.

Benefits: How many emails do you send each day? How many drawings do you do each day? By drawing an image, you are instantly activating new pathways in your brain. By opening new pathways, it allows you to interpret information differently and allow more critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Method 3.

GIVE A SHOUT OUT.

Tell a story that represents someone demonstrating the values either within your organisations or serving a client.

Give recognition to someone who has helped deliver on a project or task. Then go a step further and ask them to explain how they managed to get all the work done or how they prioritised this job with everything else they had going on.

The more you can get other to recognise positive behaviours and not just outcomes the more you help them to realise that they too can deliver on their seemingly endless tasks and major projects.

Benefits: This builds trust within your team and it helps people feel valued for the work they do. Trusting one another is one of the most valuable commodities we possess, and it is vital to cohesive teamwork. By going the one step further and asking the recognised team member to explain ‘how’ they achieved what they did or how they prioritised means that others in the team can then see how they themselves can follow positive behaviours and processes for the same outcomes. This step also fosters transparency and avoids the ‘hold your cards close to your chest’ behaviour which fractures teams. Success breeds success.

Don’t forget that your workplace culture is your own. Develop your own rituals. You can adopt some of the above or go out on your own and create something unique to your organisation that can create a sense of comradery and belonging.

Experiment and improve. Question the outcome, structure, behaviours and necessity of every meeting. Was it necessary to all jump online? Did everyone need to be there. Could the same be achieved by simply heading onto a teams chat or slack. If it’s an important announcement does everyone need to login at that point in time or could you simply send a video Prime Minister style give everyone a chance to digest then come into an online meeting to discuss peoples thoughts and questions.

If you’d like more tips on how to bring your culture online get in touch. No pressure, no pitch.

Stay creative! Cheers, Liv