Design Thinking Culture-Generating the Buy-In from Leadership

Change is hard, especially in large enterprises when many departments are impacted by how an organization operates. A popular question when I talk to people about design thinking is how they can get buy-in for it while in an enterprise environment. Below are a few considerations that may help you evangelize design thinking to your leaders.Buy-In Design Thinking

The biggest misconception is that design thinking requires more resources to get the same work done. You need to emphasize that design thinking actually will save time and money over time. The shift is in how resources are spent that are different for an organization.

With any kind of shift or change, there is some failure along the way because there is a learning curve, but failure can actually optimize learning. For those organizations who are uncomfortable with the word “failure” because of the potential cost, speak instead of “learning fast.” How you frame something when you seek buy-in makes a difference.

If your leadership team is willing to consider design thinking, recruit some leaders to get involved in a hands-on experience on a small-scale. Educate them on design thinking principles and use a specific tool or principle with this group. It lets people see firsthand how this mindset is beneficial without a full-scale change which makes people nervous.

One design thinking tool that you can use without an organizational wide change or an increase in time is to introduce the How Might We (HMW) statement. The next time you’re in a team meeting and already discussing current issues or crafting a vision statement, teach participants how using a HMW statement helps people thinking about things differently. You have a captive audience who may be very receptive to a new way of tackling problems.

When a team is ready to tackle a specific, but small problem, a practical one for many organizations is getting expense reports in on time. This is a sore spot for a lot of managers – and the people who process the paperwork – so it’s something that they can relate to. It’s a smaller issue that is fixable.

Start with a HMW question like “How might we help employees submit their expenses before the deadline?” Phrasing it this way frames the problem as an opportunity to help your customers which in this case are your employees. This is action-oriented and something that people want to solve so this could be a good start. It may also feel like less of a risk for leaders because it is internal and won’t change brand perception externally to customers and prospects.

Even though there are clear tools and action steps, you should stress to leadership that design thinking isn’t a prescriptive process. It’s more of a philosophy. It’s about taking a human-centered view of your customers in what you offer to improve the products and services that people use. If your leadership team is heavily focused on the customer experience, design thinking might be an easy sell because it’s rooted in the same principle.

A full-scale shift in your organizational culture is tough for anyone. If you test a design thinking tool with a small project and get some initial buy-in, later you can focus on an organizational wide change. Any small fixes such as getting expense reports on time can demonstrate the usefulness of human centered design. We build on these principles and concepts in our Design Thinking Boot Camp.

All businesses want to increase revenue and cut costs. If you use design thinking experiments in ways that are meaningful specifically in your organization, you are on the path to getting buy-in.

Design Thinking Boot Camp

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Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi