How to Use Design Thinking to Enable Innovation in Your Workplace

Explanation of design thinking and applying it to libraries.

Talk by:
Kim Silk Data Librarian, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Jeffrey Veffer, Partner, Brandsential

What is Design Thinking?
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO basically came up with this concept. Think like a designer–think about problems in a different way. Resist the urget to jump to the solution right away. Look at the problem in front of you and the solution will present itself.

Design Thinking and Innovation
Creativity: The process of having orignial ideas that have value
Innovation: Applied creativity!
by Sir Ken Robinson (great speaker–can see his talks on TED)

Need an innovative approach to looking at problems.

Designer Personality Profile: empathy, integrative thinking (hold opposing ideas in mind at same time), optimism (even when things are looking dire), experimentalism (willing to try something new and try multiple avenues), collaboration.

Kim thinks that the personality profile of a designer is very similar to personality profile of information professionals/librarians.

Design is not a linear process–it is more cyclical and rambling (kind of like Doctor Who’s explanation of time).

Design Thinking in Business and Libraries
“Roger Martin has been leading the charge to apply Design Thinking in the business world.” Design is about the entire experience. Good example is Apple: people buy experiences, not just products.

In libraries, design thinking= focusing on the user experience. Need to have great spaces, great services, and great products. Need to rethink the design of spaces; spaces affect how we feel in the space.
Also need to think about design online. Example: creating online browsing of materials, using book covers and titles so users can have the experience “looking through the stacks.”

Think: Design + Creativity
Use exercises to “trick the brain” into thinking creativity. Ex. random word associations
Exercise: How can we improve services to Millenials?

  1. Words: Umbrella, rain, shade, overarching, lost, collapse, cover, colorful
  2. Associations: now have to find associations with the words. Ex. Overarching is about caring/everything together
  3. Bring it back to the problem: How can we provide caring, one-to-one relationships with Millenials? Get feedback and then it could develop on an organic basis.

Worry less about content; provide an awesome user experience. Create an environment where we are welcoming, enjoy our work, and are innovative.

It’s not about the library, it’s about the librarians and the participants.


Other exercises?
Concept extraction: What makes Lexus a great car company? Figure out a concept and then figure out how you can apply that concept to your problem. Could also read the book, Innovation Games.

How do I introduce these approaches without seeming gimicky?
“Stealth design thinking”: Do it yourself! You don’t need to take it to a meeting to present; try to open your own mind to new ways of thinking and then you can spread it once your ideas take hold. You must be gentle when introducting design thinking because it goes against the grain (i.e. lots of people don’t like change so you have to be stealthy about introducing new concepts).

We are all designers. It’s a good time to think more about creating fabulous user experiences and less about content.

One thought on “How to Use Design Thinking to Enable Innovation in Your Workplace

  1. Thank you for the reference to Innovation Games®. You’re quite right – there are a number of games that could help in designing better libraries. I invite you to check out the games Product Box, Spider Web, and most especially Start Your Day. I believe that these games would provide great insights.


    Luke Hohmann
    CEO, The Innovation Games® Company
    821 W. El Camino Real
    Mountain View, CA 94040
    m: +1-408-529-0319 The seriously fun way to do serious work — seriously.
    Follow me on twitter at lukehohmann

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