The Future of Work: Design Mindset

According to Rotman Magazine there are “10 New Skills That Every Worker Needs”. Each week, I’m posting a summary of local (or online), free (or cheap), resources that are appropriate for public sector professionals to gain skills in these areas.

Photo of the cover of Rotman magazine with my name tag from CodeFest 2013.

Thumbs up for Design Mindset

Last week I presented the idea and focused on Computational Thinking. This week, let’s talk about Design Mindset. This is a topic I’ve been researching over the past three years as I’ve focused on creating policies and reducing barriers that improve the usability of government websites. I hope to extend this practice beyond the Web soon.

  • Computation Thinking
  • Design Mindset <–We are here
  • Cognitive Load Management
  • New Media Literacy
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Sense Making
  • Social Intelligence
  • Cross-cultural competency
  • Virtual Collaboration

Why is Design Mindset a skill of the future?

There’s so much talk these days about change and what is required for change, usually under the umbrella theme of innovation. Yet, how can we create new neural pathways that help us THINK DIFFERENTLY?!

Increasingly, authors, academics, entrepreneurs are proving that design is not just about making cool products. Design is about making life better for people. IDEO has been doing it for years. Roger Martin has written about ‘integrative’ thinking for solving wicked problems. Cyd Harrell issued a call to action to User Experience (UX) professionals to get involved with government in UXMag.  The UK government is doing it. Helsinki Design Lab (now closed) provides a snapshot of a strategic design practice in action.

Here in Canada, Jess McMullin specializes in using design innovation in public sector through his firm Centre for Citizen Experience because “the status quo won’t scale” to meet increasing citizen demand. The video below is his talk on Reinventing Government at TEDxPennQuarter.

What is it?

Put simply; design mindset uses design methods such as ethnography, prototyping, and co-creation techniques and design process (research, design, test, iterate) to think differently about solving problems.

Photo of flip chart with post-it notes on them. Some have writing on them; others are empty.

User research in progress: sheets on the wall during CodeFest 2013 invited developers to post their needs & wants for our products and services.

As Hilary Little said in her keynote at CodeFest ideas should start out as a hypothesis to be validated. In this way, design integrates the scientific method into a focus on people and their environment. It relies on such diverse fields as psychology and ergonomics.

Design can be applied to products, services, processes, physical locations…basically, anything that needs to be adapted to optimize it for human interaction. Design helps us be intentional about the outcomes we are most interested in. It makes room in our minds, hearts and society for new solutions to old problems.

These are two of my favorite resources on Design in the Public Sector as a starting point for learning more:

Where you can get it?

  • OCAD (Toronto) and Carleton (Ottawa) both have design programs though they both seem to focus on product design.

Exercise: hack your office!

Photo of books on a shelf

Laura’s Lending Library invites colleagues to stop by and talk about books or whatnot. Photo shared by @nellleo.

In the Rotman article, Fred Gage is quoted as saying “Change the environment, change the brain, change the behaviour.”  So, in light of this — and the fact that design thinking is something that is developed over long periods of time – I suggest starting with yourself!

Make room for design thinking in your workspace.

Prompted by Mary Beth Baker and Kevin Grignon, I removed half of the furniture from my 10 x 10 foot cubicle, covered the walls in dry erase paper and put out bowls of markers & post-its. Now I have room to stand up (preferably with a colleague or two) draw pictures that map out possible solutions to barriers. I usually have a wall full of  post-it notes that I can re-arrange in different groupings. I set up a lending library beside my cubicle to attract colleagues to stop and chat. And posted the personas of the people that our team serves along the wall.

Props to Richard Akerman and Kent Aitken for sending me resources and adding them to the GCPEDIA pages about Design.

About Laura

As a Business Analyst working for the Canadian federal government in Web usability, I have the opportunity to be a part of a growing movement of professionals implementing user-centered design principles.
This entry was posted in Service Design, Usability & User-Centred Design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Future of Work: Design Mindset

  1. Algonquin’s Graphic Design program also has lots of courses on interaction design and UX. Our 2014 curriculum is changing to include even more.

  2. Laura says:

    Great to hear Thomas! I had the pleasure of hosting a few Algonquin students and they were being introduced to user-centred design concepts in their program as well.

    Keep up the good work!

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