Design Thinking for the Digital Workplace #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Title and Description: Design Thinking for the Digital Workplace

“Design” is a powerful word in modern business and a key element of a successful digital workplace (intranet). Design ensures that the right solutions are delivered and that they work in a simple and delightful way. “Design thinking” provides a toolbox of techniques for understanding needs, designing systems, and prototyping. This session explores these techniques and shows how they can be applied to the future of work.

Speaker: Rebecca Rodgers, Principal Consultant, Step Two

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Four streams of the digital workplace.  
    • Technology
    • Business
    • Design
    • People
  • Start with a deep understanding of the people you are serving. You can’t deliver effective solutions to people you haven’t actually met. You need to understand what they need, not just what they want.
  • How to research the people you are serving.
    • “retro” research methods don’t work
      • surveys
      • focus groups
    • modern field research does work:
      • one-on-one interviews: talking to them (at length)
        • ask them to tell you their stories – what is hard, what is easy, etc.
      • workplace observation: spending time with them as they work
      • co-designing with them
  • Emotions are critical. Explore the emotions that are behind the behaviors and actions of the people you seek to serve.
  • Be open. Channel your inner four-year-old — don’t start with judgment, start with inquiry.  Ask why, then ask why (many times) again.
  • Look for patterns. Expand your inquiry, look for confirming and conflicting data points from similarly situated people.
  • Capture what you learn. Document what they say, do, think and feel.
    • use quotations
    • use photographs
    • document their stories
  • Address the Fundamentals of Good User Experience.
    • Empathize — Start with needs
    • Define the problem
    • Card sorting — to understand how users group and label information
    • Create architecture using that card sorting, then test that architecture with more users. Can they navigate easily?
    • Ideate using all the rich research you have done — preferably put the results of that research on your walls — surround yourself with inspiration from your research.
    • Prototype – this is a manual process so get out from behind your computer, use your hands, use physical objects.
      • prototype with the user in mind
      • each prototype should answer a specific question
    • Test — repeatedly
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Why Your Firm Does Not Innovate

barrier roadsign-30907_640What is holding your law firm back?

You hear about exciting things happening in other industries. You hear about exciting things happening in other law firms. Meanwhile you and your colleagues are told to keep your heads down and just work harder. Do what is expected. Don’t rock the boat.

Innovation is not on the menu.

What is keeping innovation off your firm’s menu? In 2008 I wrote about Claudia Kotchka, an extraordinary business executive who helped lead the revitalization of Procter & Gamble. She did it by using design principles to understand better how P&G’s customers lived their lives and how P&G’s products could make those lives better. In my earlier post, Why KM Needs Good Design, I borrowed from Kotchka’s work to suggest ways in which law firm knowledge management professionals could use design thinking to improve their products and services.

Clearly my focus was too circumscribed. In fact, not just KM departments, but also the businesses that house them can benefit from this approach to innovation. None of this is news. So why don’t more firms try it?

In Kotchka’s view, there are three major barriers to innovation:

  • Complacency. Success makes a company very resistant to trying new things;

  • Risk-aversion. Many big companies have what Roger Martin calls a tension between validity and reliability. The punch line is that companies are very reluctant to take any risks that would upset the profit that flows from reliably making a high quality product that lots of people want to buy; and

  • Functional silos. Kotchka observes that when required to work in cross-functional teams, different functions — such as marketing, finance, and manufacturing — look at problems only from their functional perspectives. However, she noticed that when those team members take off their functional hats and take responsibility for solving the business problem — as start-up teams do – the results are much better.

Chances are you will find at least one of these (or, more likely, all three of them) in your law firm. That is why your firm does not innovate.

Which leaves me with one question: what will you do about this?

[Photo Credit: Nemo]

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