Ensuring successful outcomes through design thinking – A quick guide for remote work

April 12, 2021 at 6:30 PM
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Design thinking can have transformative effects on remote work. Even as the US rushes to get its people vaccinated, reports indicate that perhaps things are not going as expected. Across parts of the US, there are signs that COVID-19 is on the surge, this time even affecting the younger population, who have not been vaccinated. Once again, it looks like the pandemic is taking a swing at our very social fabric.

But there is a silver lining.

And it comes in the form of being better prepared.

As companies actively adopt newer and alternative business models to survive the next wave of the pandemic, remote work has bolstered its position among its workforce. Although work-from-home, even in the best-case scenario, can be challenging on several fronts, companies and employees are discovering ways to make it work more efficiently. They have realized how finding structured ways to collaborate and share ideas is one of the key requirements to making remote work, work. In a physical environment, group meetings served the purpose of defining goals, assigning responsibilities, and tracking progress. But online meetings? Well, they are a different ballgame. This is where design thinking in its infinite wisdom comes to play.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking, in essence, represents a revolutionary way of working. It involves viewing things from a designer’s lens and applying those perspectives to the real-world problems we face.

· How do we adapt to the changes happening in the rapid world?

· How do we come up with a product that takes care of the needs of the organization as well as its employees?

· How do we navigate the disruptive forces around us to stay productive?

These are some of the questions and hurdles that design thinking can answer and enable us to overcome. Design thinking calls for the use of creativity to build trust and promote collaboration. But it just doesn’t recommend these activities, it enables individuals to solve problems while eliminating human biases, like analysis paralysis and personal agendas.

Design thinking is a decision-making framework developed by IDEO and Stanford Design School to combat the high-stakes situations of our time. Using the pillars of Empathize, Ideate, Define, Test, and Prototype, it tries to eliminate mundane or complex issues that plague production teams. But design thinking is not just an idea in vogue. It unravels new ways to approach problems and arrive at solutions that are most beneficial for everyone involved. It is proven that companies that practice design thinking have improved efficiency than those that don’t, hence the definite need to adopt it.

Virtual meeting practices inspired by design thinking

There are many fields of work where design thinking can be adopted to deliver astounding results. Here are a few design thinking practices you can implement in your remote environment, especially virtual interactions, that will help your team stay focused on the end goal and deliver results.

1. Adopt empathy: Once you have clearly defined the problem in a meaningful and definitive manner, you need to actively encourage employees to empathize with each other. Doing so allows the team to analyze the problems they are going through collectively and understand hidden patterns. It also helps you, as a leader, understand things from the perspective of your employees.

2. Empower everyone around you: Many businesses think of their meetings as a one-way street. They fail to realize that pointing out problems or presenting ideas top-down is not always the best approach, especially in a remote setting. Teams must spend time collecting each other’s perspectives and be empowered to come up with their own solutions. This not only promotes problem-solving, but also helps create a positive working environment where radical ideas are not only encouraged, but also applauded.

3. Stay focused on results: As work-from-home involves a complete virtual set-up, it requires some extra commitment to get to the outcomes. For any activity, engagement, or exercise, it is important to understand and define expectations, be structured and deliberate, and set achievable goals to ensure success. One of the key requirements of design thinking exercises is that they involve capable facilitators or mediators. The facilitator must have the confidence as well as the skills to keep the team focused on the schedule and outcomes.

Design thinking has come a long way since its roots as a framework for product designers to develop ground-breaking innovations. In today’s competitive marketplace, design thinking is best suited for companies that want to rapidly innovate, as it can mean the difference between winning or being decimated. With the pandemic showing no end in sight, businesses that are operating in the new normal can put a design thinking framework in practice to mobilize and motivate their remote workforce, keeping energy levels high and creative juices flowing.

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