Design thinking is a process of understanding the problems and producing some innovative and compelling solutions (Sniukas, Lee & Morasky, 2016). The issues that the design thinkers face have come to be known as “wicked” in the literature. Design thinking is often considered to be the key of improving organisational culture. The concept of design thinking is many a times perceived as the steps that are to be followed in order to solve an issue (Bardach & Patashnik, 2015). It is often considered to be a customer centric and human centred process that leads to creative and profitable solutions. However, this report will elaborate on providing an example of how design thinking helps in addressing issues. The example taken for this approach is of an issue of gender discrimination or gender biases, which is related to organisational culture. It shall shed light on how design thinking tools, techniques and mind set develop the ideas for addressing this issue and the steps to launch innovative solution. Furthermore, it shall also present the challenges faced in the process of implementation of design thinking.
Although the world has changed a lot today and men and women in today’s society are experiencing equality in each and everything, still there are some women who face hidden obstacles in their workplace that takes place from what the psychologists refer to as implicit biases. It is to note that the implicit biases refers to the biases which prevails beneath the surface and have the potential to influence the process of decision making without any conscious knowledge (Jones, 2016). The discrimination that arise from implicit biases and that are unconscious in nature could be very difficult for identifying and even more difficult for counteracting (Kruglanski & Gigerenzer, 2018). Such problem could be compounded when there is a shortage of diversity within the top-most teams of leadership. This leaves the resolution and recognition of the implicit biases to the ones who have possibly not experienced them.
How design thinking tools, techniques and mind-set develop ideas to address the identified problem
The integration or implementation of design thinking in an organisation is fairly simple. It does not need big reforms and budgets. It is in the nature of changing and questioning the mind-set for a very fresh outlook (Liedtka, 2015). By means of introducing several different methods of solving the problem and for discovering what the people truly need, the concept of design thinking helps every organisations to change their prevailing culture in order to become more collaborative in nature and more customer-centric. While most of the companies are different, there are different useful metrics that could be utilised in order to assess the influence of design thinking and they include- cultural measures like integral engagement, efficiency and level of employee satisfaction; financial measures like productivity and sales; and product quality measures like the level of customer satisfaction (Moorman & Day, 2016).
It is also to note that for harnessing the ability of design thinking as well as to help in tackling with the implicit gender biases in the workplace, the organisational leaders could take the following measures:
- Engage different perspective from the very beginning: It is an evident that even in small companies, the women are not regarded to be a homogeneous group which share the same opinions and experiences (Bowen, 2015). While building up of a team and soliciting the participation in the workplace, the organisational leaders should involve the women and must ensure that they belong from several different levels, perspectives and backgrounds at every stage.
- Give the people a safer way of sharing sensitive information and data: The fear of retaliation might make the people hesitant from sharing their opinions and experiences with the implicit bias and to identify any negative working environment (Mennincke et al., 2018). While collecting the transparent and real feedback is a very tall order, the organisations could create secure and intimate environments like informal and small focus groups and discussions with the trusted facilitators in order to start collecting the information in a manner which makes the people feel heard and supported.
- Collecting and monitoring gender-disaggregated data and information: Obtaining data on the significant indicators that are disaggregated by the gender is very important. The metrics for examining could comprise of the level or proportion of men and women employee satisfaction and their rate of promotion, the rate of attrition, the rate of performance evaluation, their salaries and other related compensation (Henry et al., 2017). They should measure the gaps in between the male and female in these metrics and monitor how the new design solution is influencing them.
- Being transparent with the outcomes and communicate the change: Communication with the employees about the progress and initiatives that are made for decreasing and mitigating the implicit gender discrimination in the workplace should also be ensured (Skewes, Fine & Haslam, 2018). They must spread the awareness over the organisation regarding the important issues linked with the implicit bias and how they could tackle and acknowledge them. With the same, they should also make people know about the efforts that the organisation is making for addressing them.
Steps to launch innovative solution
Figure 1: Steps of solution for innovation
The process of implementation of design thinking begins with asking questions as well as understanding the mind-set of the employees and their expectation and then designing innovative solutions for the implementation process (Geissdoerfer, Bocken & Hultink, 2016). However, in order to counteract the implicit gender biases which might be holding the females back, the organisations could apply the five steps design thinking for engaging the employees as well as iteratively redesign the facets of working environment which might be acting as the barriers for females.
- Explore- Organisations conduct exploratory or the “need finding” research upon the user experience and gather information and other details directly from the users (the women) and the others who are involved in the very situation at hand (the other employees as well as the perspectives from all over the organisation). Making use of the methods like interviews, observation, data analytics and focus groups, the team gathers and analyses the information with an aim of unearthing the new insights regarding the female employees and their experiences along with the possible biases which influence their journey (Mohr & Rawlings, 2015).
- Identify- The team works along with a diverse group of important users (women) in order to draw on the exploratory research as well as for identifying the organisational drivers of the gender bias. They employ creative and collaborative methods for understanding the new challenges that the women would experience in the process of retention, recruitment as well as in the process of advancement because if the implicit bias (Mirvis & Googins, 2018). With the same, they would also identify the potential drivers along with the desired outcomes in such areas.
- Ideate- In the process of collaboration with the important users and the other inclusive perspectives, the whole team brainstorms a wide range of possible yet effective solutions for decreasing the identified challenges like the potentially biased programs, decision process and policies. A new set of solutions is then chosen for the initial testing and prototyping.
- Test- The solutions are tested and are prototyped by making use of pilot programs with an inclusive employee participation and feedback (Mihailidis et al., 2016). The pilots depicts how every solution works or would work in order to mitigate the bias in the real life situations.
- Evaluate- The team then gathers feedback from the employees in order to assess if the tested solution are actually mitigating the bias and how they are doing so. They also assess whether or not the tested solutions are enabling the other benefits that are deriving from the minimised implicit bias with the organisation. Depending on these feedbacks, the solutions are then repeatedly improved and rejected, with the teams turning into the earlier stages for gathering more details and information, ideating more solutions as well as improving the earlier tested solutions as required.
Challenges of implementing design thinking
As per the various literatures on mitigating the issue of gender discrimination within a company by making use of design thinking process, the only challenge that one might face while implementing design thinking approach within the organisation for resolving any issue is that of adoption (Hanseth & Lytinen, 2016). Design thinking is slightly different from most of the approaches. Initially, most of the people finds it foreign but gradually they start to get charge of it. Adoption of design thinking is really a tough challenge.
Design thinking is all about creating a compelling yet meaningful individual experiences. It is about thinking differently in order to make a significant impact in order to empower the employees for using their potential and talent to the maximum. The application of design thinking to the issue of gender bias or discrimination in the workplace is a very novel approach to a deep-seated issue. It has the potential to de-bias and redesign the environments and it could be a very strong way to address as well as to unearth the earlier unhidden obstacle to the process of recruitment, advancement and retention of the women, hence, driving the growth and development of a comprehensive workplace culture which empowers and supports every employees
Bardach, E. & Patashnik, E.M., (2015). A practical guide for policy analysis: The eightfold path to more effective problem solving. CQ press.
Bowen, S., (2015). The relationship between Engaged scholarship, knowledge translation and participatory research. Participatory qualitative research methodologies in health. London: Sage, pp.183-99.
Geissdoerfer, M., Bocken, N.M. & Hultink, E.J., (2016). Design thinking to enhance the sustainable business modelling process–A workshop based on a value mapping process. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, pp.1218-1232.
Hanseth, O. & Lyytinen, K., (2016). Design theory for dynamic complexity in information infrastructures: the case of building internet. In Enacting Research Methods in Information Systems (pp. 104-142). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Henry, S.K., Sandler, J., Passerini, L. & Darmstadt, G.L., (2017). Taking on the gender challenge in organisations: what does it take?. Global public health, 12(7), pp.846-857.
Jones, A.L., (2016). Implicit Bias as Social Framework Evidence in Employment Discrimination. U. Pa. L. Rev., 165, p.1221.
Kruglanski, A.W. & Gigerenzer, G., (2018). Intuitive and deliberate judgments are based on common principles. In The Motivated Mind (pp. 112-136).
Liedtka, J., (2015). Perspective: Linking design thinking with innovation outcomes through cognitive bias reduction. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 32(6), pp.925-938.
Mennicke, A., Gromer, J., Oehme, K. & MacConnie, L., (2018). Workplace experiences of gay and lesbian criminal justice officers in the United States: a qualitative investigation of officers attending a LGBT law enforcement conference. Policing and Society, 28(6), pp.712-729.
Mihailidis, A., Melonis, M., Keyfitz, R., Lanning, M., Van Vuuren, S. & Bodine, C., (2016). A nonlinear contextually aware prompting system (N-CAPS) to assist workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities to perform factory assembly tasks: system overview and pilot testing. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 11(7), pp.604-612.
Mirvis, P. & Googins, B., (2018). Engaging Employees as Social Innovators. California Management Review, p.0008125618779062.
Mohr, J.W. & Rawlings, C., (2015). Formal Methods of Cultural Analysis. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 12(3), pp.501-512.
Moorman, C. & Day, G.S., (2016). Organizing for marketing excellence. Journal of Marketing, 80(6), pp.6-35.
Skewes, L., Fine, C. & Haslam, N., (2018). Beyond Mars and Venus: The role of gender essentialism in support for gender inequality and backlash. PloS one, 13(7), p.e0200921.
Sniukas, M., Lee, P. & Morasky, M., (2016). The Art of Opportunity: How to build growth and ventures through strategic innovation and visual thinking. John Wiley & Sons.