Design Thinking for HR

We are in a moment of rapidly accelerating complexity. In the midst of trying to solve a massive global public health crisis riddled with uncertainty and risk, we’re also called to collectively address the entrenched, multi-layered, deeply complicated problem of systemic inequality. As HR professionals, we often find ourselves right in the middle of these crises—frequently without all the tools we need in our toolbox.

Solving complex problems like these takes massive amounts of creative energy, learning, time, and a willingness to try and fail. Additionally, because everything in our field has to do with people, even “simpler” problems can quickly become quite knotty and multifaceted. We need tools, mindsets, and actions that can help us be effective in untangling both big and small problems and discovering impactful solutions.

The world of design offers ample inspiration for doing just that. Over centuries, designers have found revolutionary solutions to massive problems and changed the way we live our lives each day. In recent years, their methods have been loosely codified into what’s now called “design thinking.”

Design thinking is meant to unlock creativity and allow us to tap into ideas or solutions we might not otherwise access. While the framework can sometimes appear prescriptive and orderly, when we extract its mindsets, techniques, and tools from their narrower design application, it can help anyone solve problems in revolutionary ways.

The Design Thinking for HR Workshop draws on these principles to create a practical framework HR professionals can immediately apply to solve complex problems. Because it’s a workshop, you’ll get your hands dirty right away, identifying a real-world problem at the start. You’ll then work in collaboration with other learners in the Workshop to find a solution and participate in their problem-solving processes. Through this practical, hands-on approach, you’ll develop a core set of design thinking abilities that will change how you address complex problems in the future.

  • ApproachOnline social learning, teams of 30-50

  • Learning Time4-6 Hours

  • Duration5 weeks. Next starting: February 8, 2023
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Key Questions You’ll Explore in this Program

What complex problems do we need to solve and what will it take to solve them?

What are the core abilities and tools in the design thinking process?

What can we learn from designers of yesterday and today about solving complex problems today?

When does it make sense to apply a full design thinking process and when does it work to apply a design mindset instead?

Why does design thinking work particularly well when thinking about large complicated problems?

Field Manuals

The Design Thinking for HR Workshop is made up of 6 Field Manuals (our version of an online module). Each one contains a variety of types of content and social exercises culminating in a mini-project, reflection, or debate. Each Field Manual will take you between 30-45 minutes to complete but you can jump on and off at your own pace, as often as you’d like. The deeper learning happens in the discussions with your fellow learners so be sure to check in on the conversations regularly.

Design in Context

This Field Manual looks at how to apply design thinking to solve complex problems. It offers suggestions for how to undo our habitual approach to problem-solving, urging us to look at problems within the broader context in which they arise.

Framing the Problem

The answer to a given problem is influenced by the way we pose our questions. If we’re framing the problem with a limited viewpoint––or assuming a certain outcome––we’re unlikely to come away with an optimal solution. This Field Manual looks at how we can learn to reimagine a problem to discover more innovative answers.

Observing Reality

When we approach a problem, we often overestimate our understanding of the conditions that brought it about. This Field Manual looks at a crucial step in the process: gathering real-world data. We’ll explore good interviewing techniques, ways to develop an ethnographic mindset, and––particularly key for HR professionals––how to bring empathy into our problem-solving.

Sparking Imagination

Once we understand the problems we’re solving for, we need to generate ideas. This Field Manual explores a step in the design-thinking process that’s often rushed or even forgotten: how to create the conditions for ideas to flourish. It also explores how (and when) to balance big ideas with constraints.

Testing Ideas

The problems we face today are too complex and too unpredictable to be solved in the comfort of a conference room. Once we have good ideas, we have to experiment: testing ideas in their real-world context, carefully measuring what works for our people and our organizations, and gradually perfecting our thinking. This Field Manual offers insights into how to test, when to test, and what to look for at an experiment’s end.

Making Decisions

Problem solving processes are iterative. We frame, learn, ideate, and test, over and over. Throughout the process, we make decisions that, ideally, move us forward. This Field Manual looks at the factors wrapping around our choices and how to use them to move closer and closer to an impactful solution.

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