Scaling Design Thinking in the Enterprise. Best Practices From a 5-Year Case Study
Step 2: Converting the Organization
So how do you go from one team to scaling design thinking across an entire organization?
To spread the word, try a mix of formal and informal activities.
Formal Activities and Events
Leverage any (and all) of the existing internal systems at your company.
Look at your corporate calendar. What upcoming events could you establish a presence, give a quick 15–30 minute talk, or run a 30-minute workshop? When are employees naturally brought together? What are the communication channels at your company (Internal newsletters/Slack/Yammer/etc.)?
Here are a few successful tactics from our work at Citrix:
• Two of our designers/editors wrote brief monthly articles in the company intranet about our design thinking progress and results.
• As we exposed various employees to design thinking across different departments, I often knew who owned the agenda for team meetings and group all-hands. I’d talk to the meeting lead for 10 minutes to give an overview of design thinking, soliciting employees to sign up for training classes. Use your executive pitch deck as a template, then add a few more slides for success stories.
• I worked with our Leadership & Development team to include our “taste of design thinking” workshop in the company’s internal employee course portal (larger companies like Citrix use a Learning Management System, but posters around the office work as well). You can just as easily upload the workshop guidelines into a cloud folder for employee reference and new hire onboarding.
• We also held the “taste of design thinking” sessions at our annual sales kickoff events, our customer service annual meeting, and at Citrix customer conferences (where we invited actual customers to participate and learn).
When it comes to formal training programs, if you have a budget, it’s also great to hire a consultancy to help create training.
For our initial workshops, we partnered with the Lime Design consultancy. Other options are the Stanford d-School or LUMA Institute (UXPin customer Autodesk actually uses LUMA for all their employees). The cost was not ongoing — after our first few workshops, we knew enough to run our own workshops.
High-Level Journey Maps
Even if you don’t have a budget for an external firm, you’ll find plenty of resources and toolkits online.
Here are some of my favorites for building up your design facilitator toolkit:
- Stanford d-School Methods
- Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit
- Extreme by Design Resources
- Ideo’s Design Thinking Resources
- Coursera’s “Design Thinking for Innovation” online course
In addition to the formalized training experiences, we developed some unique informal learning events.
One of my favorite ideas was leveraging lunchtime at our cafeterias for a pop-up design studio. It’s always a challenge to find time for employees to do training (we all have day jobs, right?). So lunch is the perfect time to sneak in some learning. The tactic works for office spaces of any size.
• We created a series of short activities to engage employees in the key concepts. To tie them to an immediate project (instead of it just being a “blue-sky design activity”), we engaged our HR Corporate Citizenship team to deliver them insights for onboarding and corporate responsibility projects.
• Led by one of my colleagues, we created a pop-up design studio in the cafeteria in our US and UK offices. With some portable whiteboards and simple materials, our pop-up studio came to life.
• As employees entered the café, they walked through our interactive exercises. For example, employees at one station shared 6-word stories of how they contribute to the community while also reading about how others volunteered. At another, they brainstormed how Citrix could help with social causes (at the end, we rewarded participation with cupcakes — food always helps!).
The participants could visit as many stations as they wanted and the whole experience required less than 20 minutes. Not only did the event introduce employees to some of the key mindsets of design thinking, but we also delivered quick value to a business group (HR).
Over 150 people participated across our Santa Clara, Fort Lauderdale, and UK offices during the three pop-ups we held. Of course, if the pop-up session isn’t feasible, you can try simple lunch-and-learns. Once a week, hold a 30-minute session during lunch with one department to explain the practical value of design thinking. Use your pitch deck as a template, modifying the benefits to suit the department. Mention any inspiring products (and any relevant metrics), then ask attendees about products they enjoy and why. If you had run any side prototyping experiments, show the before and after results in the session.
Commit to a Plan and Train Other Trainers
As you teach more people about design thinking, you need a plan to scale your efforts.
Set goals for how many employees and which employee groups you want to reach each year. Which offices? What roles? Where can you start to show the greatest impact the quickest? These questions should guide your roadmap toward real business results.
At Citrix, we aimed to train around 50 employees in the first year and then scaled up to 3,000 in the second year. So how did we grow so quickly? So far, I’ve only shared examples of the work that my small team drove.
To expand the effort and grow our cadre of evangelists, we created a train-the-trainer program.
As we worked across the company, we quickly identified other passionate employees who were natural evangelists of design thinking. We added an apprentice model so they could progress from being participants in a workshop to coaching a team and then eventually leading training.
For those who wanted to become trainers, we asked that they help with one workshop a quarter (a 2–3 day commitment). Initially, there was no incentive for employees to participate. We wanted those who were genuinely motivated. Several years into our design thinking movement, our HR department added “design-driven” as one of the guiding principles for employees (eventually becoming part of their performance evaluations).
Over 3 years, we added 15 more volunteer trainers to our network.
We offered specialized courses for this select group on how to design and facilitate workshops. If the budget allows, I highly recommend Thiagi’s Interactive Training workshop. If you lack the budget, the following free resources are incredibly practical: