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Editorial Team
17 Apr 2019



Design Thinking: The Art of Finding Opportunity in Challenges

design thinking

Un-entangling usual problems in unusual ways with Design Thinking

What came first the chicken or the egg?

Evolutionary biology tells us that it will be the egg while giving a rather literal answer to the question. However, we the ones dealing in the metamorphic realm of this question know that it’s an elusive answer and graces only a select few.

Interestingly Itai Ben-Jacob stumbled upon a rare gem of an “Aha moment” in 2015, during his time as Proof of Concept lead, Urban Mobility at Innogy. The Eureka moment was not some revelation in the dream but the child of Design Thinking at Innogy innovation hub.

Sure-Footed First Step - Discover

Innogy was confronted with this chicken and egg question while addressing its urban mobility issues. There were not enough e-cars being produced because there were not enough charging stations. People at charging stations felt that there were not enough e-cars to charge. Itai Ben-Jacob and his colleagues took a deep breath and chanted the first Mantra of Design Thinking – Discover. They found out or let’s say discovered underutilized Innogy charging stations and linked that to the problem case. The result? In 2017, Innogy’s eCarSharing had more than 12 e-cars operating in four German communities, and it saved 1.5 tons of CO2 emission.

Since “chicken or egg” is ruling the roost here, let’s take our focus to the supply and demand conundrum of Talent Acquisition. The scant supply of skilled employees is pushing the demand of the same to its zenith. As companies resort to any means possible to lap up the available supply, the natural flow of events indicate that they are heading toward a tighter job market. Applying Design Thinking to Talent Acquisition lets you discover underutilized pathways in your organization in a similar fashion as Innogy did. Volumes have been said and written about candidate experience and firms have introduced new technologies to get in the groove with the trend. With just 2% of the companies considering Design Thinking as an intrinsic part of their organization and 79% thinks that Design Thinking is slated to be the next big trend, the classic gap of intention and implementation comes to the forefront.

Opening up to Cognition - Ideate

Design Thinking allows you to apply cognition to discover the existing but often ignored pathways that drive an efficient candidate experience which is more intrinsic to your culture and not just an outward force of change. The intriguing aspect of Design Thinking is that you may start with a particular problem case and end up finding a whole new path that does much more than solving the current issue.

Take the case of a Danish municipality that was offering subsidized food to a growing elderly population – the classic problem of many developed nations. They decided to go for Design Thinking. During the ideation phase, they came up with an ethnographic research process wherein they studied the behavior of elders to understand the food they prefer. They began with the thought that they were already providing a high-quality menu, but needed to make it user-centric and flexible; One that would reduce cost and increase efficiency. Midway during the ideation process, they found out that it was not just the elderlies who had an important role to play in creating a flexible menu, but people in the kitchen also had a major role toward creating it. They asked the kitchen staff about what feels good and created “The Good Kitchen” that provides customized meals to elders and a feel-good factor to the staff – a complete cycle of happiness.

Ideate – the next big step in design thinking and re-thinking candidate experience. Just like the Danes, companies in the natural course ignore all the stakeholders of a hiring process. Selecting a customer-centric approach has its flaws, it leaves out the stakeholders like – hiring managers and recruiters. About 80% of recruiters believe that they know the job descriptions like the back of their hands, while 61% of hiring managers believe that recruiters at their best have a low understanding of a job role. Design Thinking ideation is based on three factors:

Cognitive Factors: Includes thinking styles and knowledge base. Recruiters should understand how the hiring manager thinks and where does her expertise lie. It will help in seeing exactly the type of candidate she will require. The next part is to align recruiter’s own thought to the hiring manager’s while looking at candidates and creating a knowledge base that is parallel to her expertise.

Physical Factors: Castles, the strongest ones, are never built in thin air. Understand the environment, infrastructure and the tools you have in your hand to execute ideation. Let them be directly proportional to the cognitive alignment of the three stakeholders – candidate, hiring manager, and recruiter.

Emotional Factors: What are we without our emotions? While you humanize recruitment by bringing the customer-centric approach to ask yourself “Does this Design Thinking ideation transform recruitment from a process to an experience?” Empathize with the stakeholders and understand where each one of them comes from.

The Glorious Last Lap – Implement

Airbnb knows how to set the mood for the third and the final step of Design ¾ Thinking right. The company only recruits people who are Design Thinking savvy i.e. comfortable with the soft research methods of social sciences. You enter their San-Francisco headquarters to find life-size replicas of their most astounding host places from the world. What looks like the quirky design at first glance is actually Design Thinking that allows employees to think like their users and empathize with their ideas by gaining context.

Implementation is the last and therefore the most crucial nail that needs hammering to perfection. Create a culture of Design Thinking and think of it not just as a methodology (21% of companies think so) or a problem-solving toolbox that is individually deployed when needed (15% of companies think so). Combine Design Thinking with culture and do not limit it with a specific function. What started in Talent Acquisition should be carried forward during the entire employee life cycle.

Design thinking as a concept is gaining momentum in a broader spectrum. How ready is your Talent Acquisition for the disruption called Design Thinking?

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