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Taking an Inside Out Approach to Capitalise on Design Thinking

Taking an Inside Out Approach to Capitalise on Design Thinking

The interest in design thinking has grown considerably over the past few years, as companies recognise its potential to achieve competitive advantage. Yet, many organisations appear to be struggling to develop the capability to meet businesses’ need for people to think differently. It goes without saying that Human Resources is tasked with profiling, attracting and developing the talent required for organisations to build creative capital, yet many HR departments do not have a robust and integrated talent strategy that supports the business strategy.  There are various reasons for this ranging from the HR Executive that do not have a voice at the EXCO table to HR not being able to add substantially to the value chain. So the burning question emerges: Is HR succeeding, and if not what needs to change so that it can?

Recent research by Deloitte published in the 2016 Human Capital Trends Report highlights the need for organisations to “relieve the overwhelmed employee and develop applications that can help manage complexity”. To this end HR could look to adopt design thinking.  


Why design thinking matters?  

  • Digital disruption in almost every sector will force HR to re assess the use of digital and big data to analyse HR trends and to add value to clients;
  • Exponential technologies offers an array of new opportunities for HR to add value to clients; and
  • HR systems have reached new levels of complexity and operate on a global scale.


By adopting systems thinking into human capital practices, HR could shift the focus “beyond building programs and processes to a new goal: designing a productive and meaningful employee experience through solutions that are compelling, simple “… and most importantly… engaging. For this to manifest, HR needs to reinvent itself. Most of us are only too aware of the discouraging statistics for employee engagement levels worldwide since Gallup’s first survey in 2000. While marginal improvements have been evident, this does not let HR off the hook. What HR is missing most is creating an environment that fosters a sense of purpose for why people work.

Human Resources and Human Capital professionals seem to lack the knowledge and skills to support businesses to build organisations that are geared to deliver an employee centred experience. As the Deloitte report cites “HR departments should upgrade their skills to incorporate key design thinking concepts such as digital design, mobile applications design, user experience design, and behavioural economics.” Much can be drawn from Organisational Development. As OD professionals, we are already involved in designing structures and processes that involves design thinking. Directing some of HR’s energies to designing organisational systems and environments that foster opportunities for a greater collaborative and collective way of working, would indeed support innovating the employee experience.

Customers expect better services at lower costs and employees expect improved ways to deliver this service.

We all agree that when we have the opportunity to work in groups or teams with colleagues and peers who motivate and challenge us, we are more excited about work.

Involving employees in redesigning the organisation and delivering a more conducive work experience will empower people and give them a sense of ownership. Bringing OD practitioners and designers together to facilitate work teams will bring bring analytical and creative thinking approaches to the mix in creating new solutions to address organisational design challenges.

Redesigning the work experience from the inside out requires bold leadership and an investment in time and resources outside conventional HR’s remit. Globally, pockets of brave new thinking are starting to emerge resulting in radical disruption of the workplace and a more empowering work experience. Nonetheless, a paradigm shift at executive HR level is still needed to translate creative intelligence into organisational capability that meets the needs of innovation on a global scale.




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