Can Design Thinking Deliver the Ultimate Digital Workplace?

author Carol Mentis, June 23, 2017

Intranet Design | Claromentis

When Steve Jobs said: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” he wasn’t thinking about the digital workplace. However, design thinking is increasingly used to deliver solutions that drive an organisation forward. This is equally true of the challenges of negotiating the move to a digital future.

What is design thinking?

Basically, design thinking is a way of problem solving through the creation of bold and innovative ideas. It takes a human-centred inside-out look at the ways people, businesses and technology can best be integrated.

Design thinking has most often been used to create customer focused solutions, but its principles are equally relevant to delivering a digital workplace that puts employee experience at the centre of the social intranet. By creating solutions from the inside out we can leverage the power and expertise of multidisciplinary teams and create integrated solutions that genuinely stack up.

Moving your digital workplace forward

Design thinking doesn’t have to be applied to a new concept – in fact, it often works best when it’s applied to an existing framework that needs to be reinvented, like your social intranet. Do your research and then ideate, developing multiple iterations to generate the winning idea. Develop your prototype and don’t be afraid to fail, but fail quickly. Be prepared to collaborate across silos and leverage that expertise and develop your agility as an organisation.

A great digital workplace is one that uses a coherent and holistic set of tools to enhance productivity. By focusing on design and people rather than business and technology, you can better understand the needs and issues of employees. Without that understanding, you can’t create and deliver the kinds of effective solutions that can be applied as you migrate to the digital workplace.

The key role of empathy in digital transformation

For digital transformation to succeed a profound understanding of, and empathy with, employees’ emotions is crucial. You’ll need to explore the emotions and feelings that underpin people’s behaviour while understanding that conventional research methods like focus groups and surveys no longer work. Instead conversation, narrative and observation are the key to co-designing research methods that let you key into those critical emotions.

By empathising with employees and understanding their issues, experiences and motivations you’re better placed to use design thinking to create an effective digital transformation.

Defining the fundamentals of good user experience

This is the stage where, instead of defining the needs of your digital workplace through the needs of the company, you begin to define what are the fundamentals of a good user experience for employees. This is when collaborative teams, including HR and IT, working across silos can begin to offer ideas for functionality that will allow social intranet users to resolve problems themselves and begin to engage fully with the move towards the digital workplace.

Fail often, fail fast, succeed

In 2015, it was discovered there was a strong link between companies that perform strongly digitally, and a risk taking culture that understands that failing often and failing fast can be a powerful learning tool. Design thinking therefore becomes the perfect tool for ideation and iteration that creates a culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration. By defining the right problem to solve, design thinking also uncovers a clear path towards executing a successful solution, in this case a collaborative, cohesive and agile digital workplace.

During this ideation phase, it’s important therefore to draw upon all the research and inspiration you uncovered at the start of the design thinking process.

Develop and test your prototype

This is your opportunity to design and refine your solution, taking every opportunity, however small, to improve the user experience. And your social intranet offers the perfect space for effective design thinking, allowing you to work through the key stages of design thinking in a safe and collaborative environment:

• It’s easy to access other users and develop dialogue and empathy with them
• For many employees the intranet is the only option for getting a task done, however inefficiently. Capture that frustration and encourage fellow users to develop and learn new practices.
• Ideas and solutions can innovate and iterate in a relatively low risk environment, away from the prying eyes of the media, the public and your rivals. Staff already engaged with the social intranet will also be agile enough to be resilient.
• Not only can you have a big impact with your innovation, but it’s an impact that is directly measurable.
• If you’re working within a current ineffective social intranet, then the ideas you have innovated can now be easily and effectively implemented directly in the digital workplace. If you can leverage your colleagues or employees current dissatisfaction with the intranet for an effective transition to the digital workplace, you’ll have created a design thinking led solution that drives real engagement.


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