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Design thinking, a creative problem-solving approach, can be used to tackle some of government’s most thorny issues—from retaining valuable employees and predicting the impact of new policies to creating new valuable products and services.
In such tangible situations, design thinking can foster important conversations, create new innovations, and deliver impactful solutions, especially as part of a larger ecosystem of experience design strategies. Here are some common organizational problems that design thinking could help solve:
Problem 1: Employees are leaving and leaders don’t know why.
Organizations use surveys and focus groups to measure employee satisfaction and inform business decisions. These assessments are largely quantitative and work well for understanding the overall employee experience. However, they often fall short when a deeper understanding of a particular issue, like retention, is needed.
Design thinking is especially well suited to address the challenge of employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Designers conduct deep ethnographic research to build empathy and understanding for the employee experience. Through contextual inquiry, immersive interviews, and other techniques, designers build trust and may uncover issues stakeholders in the organization hadn’t thought to ask their employees about. Employees may also be asked to journal their activities and emotions during their workday—which can yield insights into the root causes of employee dissatisfaction.
Problem 2: An organization wants to modernize and reimagine a legacy system.
The traditional approach is to make fixes and add new features to address specific pain points. But that may not get to the overall user experience—or the heart of what’s really going wrong.
With design thinking, designers go beyond just examining the use of a single digital touchpoint, the legacy system in this case), and instead explore the broader context and relevancy of the application. Doing so might reveal, for example, that people aren’t frustrated by any single step, but they may need a different tool altogether to complete their work.
Problem 3: An organization finds that its policies are not effective in meeting goals and objectives.
Government organizations often wait until policies are in place before getting feedback. At that point, making changes can be difficult.
Design thinking could be used to try out various aspects of the policies. For example, citizens might participate in a service prototype, a quick-and-easy way to “mock design” a policy that enables input, iteration, and improvement. Citizens could also be presented with a visual storyboard showing the before, during, and after a policy has been implemented, and collect reactions. Early feedback would help uncover inefficiencies and other problems before policies are set in stone.
In solving these and other government problems, design thinking draws from the full range of digital innovation, including areas such as:
As part of an overall approach, design thinking can bring fresh problem-solving strategies to some of government’s most complex problems.