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Maximizing the ROI of Design Thinking: Livestream Recap

Written by 
David Chin
June 19, 2020

MURAL Imagine continued this week with another exciting livestream. Professor Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business sparked such inspiring conversations about design thinking in her last three MURAL webinars and we were thrilled to have her join us again to speak on maximizing the ROI of design thinking.

Jeanne discussed with MURAL CEO Mariano Suarez-Battan how understanding the social technology of design thinking is critical to maximizing its ROI and enhancing the value DT brings to an organization. Achieving DT’s transformational potential relies on the personal transformation of those who use it - designing for others shapes us in the process. Immersing yourself in someone else’s experience shifts your perspective, sensemaking inspires, alignment accelerates collaborative energy – all culminating in the emergence of powerful collective idea generating. In testing, visualization makes ideas comes to life and teaches us how to learn in action. But this personal journey varies across different personality profiles of innovators. Helping people to achieve their full potential requires supporting them in different ways.

She also discussed DT as a form of change management, and examined how the trust building that DT enables allows designers and their stakeholders to do their best, and most effective work.

The livestream was part of MURAL Imagine, a multi-week event in which we explore the future of imagination work and remote collaboration. If you're not already signed up, register now to get access to updates about all the upcoming content. 🪁

Below you'll find a replay of the discussion, the slides from Jeanne, and all of the resources she mentioned in her talk.

Replay the Maximizing the ROI of Design Thinking livestream 📹

Explore Jeanne's slides 🖼️

Here are some additional resources to explore 🔭

📈  Take Jeanne's survey

📜  Download Jeanne's paper: The Innovator’s Journey: How Design Shapes Us as We Shape Design

📺  Replay Jeanne's webinars on The Impact of Design Thinking in Action: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Infographic)

💥  Read Forrester's analysis of the ROI of MURAL


Mariano Suarez-Battan: Welcome to our latest live stream for MURAL Imagine with our very special guest, Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia Darden's Grad School of Business. This is our fourth discussion with Jeanne as she shares her research into innovation teams and how design thinking can help us, and how social technology changes how imagination workers understand and solve problems.

As we've done in the last three episodes, which I recommend you rewatch, we'll enjoy Jeanne's presentation, but most importantly, we spend time going through your questions. She likes controversy, so please ask along in the Q&A panel, and I'll create the best questions to ask Jeanne later. So welcome back, Jeanne.

Jeanne Liedtka: Thank you, Mariano. It is fantastic to be here. I [00:01:00] always love talking to the MURAL audience of thoughtful people who are out there in the trenches, getting the important work done. So today, I want to talk about maximizing the ROI of design thinking, which you might think would take us immediately to talking about financial measures and things.

But it doesn't because what our research tells us is that maximizing the value of design thinking is really about understanding its social technology, and in particular, understanding how it shapes those of us who use it in the process of helping us shape designs for the people we're using it for.

All right. So that's, that's going to be my focus today. I wanted to talk a little bit about our agenda. I'll move quickly through a couple of topics because as Mariano said, we've already done some presentations for the MURAL audience, really unpacking deeply how we measure the outcomes associated with design thinking.

So I'll talk quickly about [00:02:00] that. And then what I really want to zero in on is this question of understanding the way design shapes us because our belief is that the only way we reach the transformational potential of design thinking is by understanding what it has to trigger in the human beings who use it.

So that's a lot of what I'd like to talk about today. I also want to just introduce the subject of some new research we're doing, which suggests that there are some pretty pronounced differences according to personality types of how we progress through the design thinking process and achieve that real change in who we are as innovators. 

And then finally, I just want to share with you for fun, some late-breaking news that we've seen comparing our classes that we've been offering online and what that process has been experienced, versus the ones that we [00:03:00] traditionally do face-to-face.

So COVID-19, of course, has given all of us a new experiment that we didn't really plan for, but which there's a lot to learn from as we look about at how to help people be more effective virtually in the process. So let's jump into the agenda. So talking about the ROI of design, we'll just start by stating the obvious, of course.

We produce better solutions, right? And that's the reason why most of us approach design thinking in the first place. And our research suggests that the reason why we produce those better solutions is, again, the human element. It's because people are able to reframe problems; they're able to become more engaged; they're able to include input from their users, right?

They're able to do a whole set of things that, in turn, trigger our ability to come up with better ideas. An important corollary to that, though, is that not only do we come up with better ideas, we have a [00:04:00] higher likelihood of actually implementing those ideas again. So in that way, design thinking is almost a form of change management and involves them in aspects like prototyping and testing, build ownership.

They build commitment and enthusiasm. They motivate people to keep going through the hard work of iteration. And what we find is they increase the likelihood of successful implementation of these better ideas that we've come up with significantly. And that really matters. There's also a set though, a very important relationship building impacts we see from design thinking.

A lot of this has to do with building capabilities. Both locally and again, design has the power to give us tools instead of rules. What those tools allow us to do is to adapt to local conditions and take advantage of local intelligence, which then feeds into the better solutions, right? They also allow us to build common purpose [00:05:00] and collaborate more effectively with partners, which in turn allows us to pool, share and look for new resources, right?

So the resources available to move forward with ideas increases as design thinking allows us to work with a broader network of stakeholders and bring all their capabilities and resources into this situation with us. Finally, related to relationships, we see a huge impact on trust-building, right?

Here at Darden, one of my favorite colleagues who teach[es] us a lot of change management basically says, "Trust is the currency of change." We live in a world where organizations' and individuals’ ability to adapt and change quickly is absolutely critical. We do that best and most efficiently and effectively in an environment where we trust the people that we're working with.

And again, the ability of design thinking conversations to create trust [00:06:00] both within teams and between teams and their important shareholders, stakeholders is really critical. Final ROI point that I'd want to mention is we see a lot of powerful impacts of design thinking at a very personal level.

And that's really where I'm going to spend a lot of my time today. Looking at how immersion in the design thinking process shifts innovators and imagination workers, mindsets, and beliefs, as well as their skill sets. It builds their creative confidence. It offers them psychological safety. It creates an openness and a willingness to try new things.

All of which are absolutely critical in engaging as broad a group of people as we can in the challenges of adapting to this increasingly crazy world we're all living in. So what's intrigued us is how does design thinking produce all of these [00:07:00] various and multilayered outcomes? Well, our belief there is that it does this by providing a social technology.

Now let's talk about that. That seems so strange phrase at some level, social technology in our world, we've been trained to think that technology is about digitization. Right? And that really technical as the only aspect of technology. But if we go back to the actual origin and the meaning of the word technology, technologies allow us to turn knowledge into practical outcomes for design thinking.

I think it's important to add the social aspect to the technology, right? So it is a set of socially oriented tools and methods that allow us to gather knowledge and then turn that knowledge into improved outcomes for the people we're designing for. I always think it's intriguing to think of the advances we've [00:08:00] made in digital technology even over the last 10 to 20 years, right?

They are constantly telling us how many stories and how many city blocks it would have taken even 15 years ago to give us the capacity that we now hold in our hand with our iPhone. But let's ask a question about the social technology and how much that is helping us move forward. I think some of us would argue that aspects of social media —Twitter, for instance — has not helped us to advance and improve people's lives.

They've further polarized us and made it more difficult to work across different. What we urgently need is a social technology that allows us to deal with the diverse kind of wicked challenges we've got today. And that social technology has to be more than software, as wonderful as MURAL software is.

And it has to be more than simple rules like turn-taking. It has to be an entire approach that lets us [00:09:00] harness whatever it takes for human beings to have better conversations that allow them to work together to produce better outcomes. So let me look, talk a little bit again, unpack that. What does design thinking social technology consist of? 

Starting with the obvious: I mean, we all know that design thinking gives us a set of activities to do, right? So we start by gathering data using ethnographic methods. Then we mine that data for new and deeper insights. Based on those insights, we create design criteria or points of view that help us design by identifying and prioritizing what really matters to the people we're serving.

We then pull those criteria into an ideation process that allows us to generate ideas. We make those ideas concrete for prototyping, and then we take them back to our users that we've designed for, and we test them. Obvious — we all know this. What intrigues us is that underneath [00:10:00] that set of activities is a sequence of personal experiences.

That the innovator or the imagination worker is having themselves as they use the design thinking tools and activities. So for instance, while we're out there gathering data, what's happening on the personal side is we are immersing ourselves in someone else's lived experience. That is creating an emotional commitment.

It shifts our perspective. It's showing us new ways of interacting with the world, gathering data. When we identify insights, what happens is in the background, we're engaged in sense-making. That is, we're trying to make sense of this large amount of qualitative data. We're trying to look for patterns, and when we stay with it out of that sense-making process, we gain inspiration and confidence because we begin to identify a set of unmet needs that set our agenda.

[00:11:00] We, as in establishing design criteria, we have a powerful experience usually of alignment that is teams and groups of stakeholders come together to share a collective understanding of what needs to be done. And that collective understanding is what sets the stage, for what is still one of the least understood but most critical aspects of design thinking, which is this amazing phenomena of emergence where we come together with this collective understanding and we see things that we could not see before.

We see together with a diverse group of people what none of us could see individually, right? And that is powerful experience that is transformational for many people. Finally in visualizations, things begun begin to feel real to us. And that feeling real gives us something to move into learning and action.

And again, learning and action. It's a term we [00:12:00] toss around as if it were obvious and easy to do. Learning and action, I think is the last frontier of capability building, in the area of design thinking. We too often fall in love with the front end of design and the immersion pieces and the ethnography and the brainstorming and all the fun stuff, right?

And haven't really built the skillset we need to around the important work of detaching emotionally from our babies, our creations, and subjecting them to testing and really being able to listen, sunk to sometimes harsh critique for the people we're designing for. And what happens is when we have those experiences, we become someone new.

It's this cycle of doing, experiencing, becoming. That is the root of the power of design thinking. So immersion changes us into people who are more empathetic and also mere curious. Sense-making helps us become more confident, inspired alignment makes us collaborative and user-driven simultaneously in emergence, we get comfortable with co-creation and with the important work of leveraging difference to create higher-order solutions.

And then as we move into testing, we learn sometimes how to let go of ideas that make sense to us and don't succeed when we test them with users and we begin to address the deeply human fear of failure that makes many of us not very good at the experimentation process. So what we want to argue is that to really get the transformational effects of design thinking.

Innovators themselves have to progress through these stages of doing, experiencing, and becoming as kind of critical to what happens. So one of the questions this raises is how much design thinking expertise is enough. [00:14:00] As people move into the experiencing and becoming, they practice a much deeper and more sophisticated version of design thinking than those of us who are nutrient.

There's been controversy for many, many years over teaching design thinking skills to non-designers, of course, with one group of people anchored on the end that says everybody should learn design thinking. Let's democratize design. Let's teach this as a basic tool kit to everyone in the world at every level of the organization to use both in their personal lives as well as in their work life.

Needless to say, as a person who makes their living teaching other people design thinking, that's pretty much where I come out on this. More design is always better, but there's been at the other end, the controversy often coming from skilled, well-trained designers to say, well, I'm not so sure about that.

A little design can be [00:15:00] a very dangerous thing. The analogy they always offer to me is, well, would you want to visit a physician who's practicing medicine without a license and without training? Right? So how do we figure out who's right here? Is it the, design is for everybody, or is it let's leave design to the experts?

Well, we've got some recent research that I'm excited to share with you, and what that research suggests is that both parties are wrong, but also a little bit right. In fact, just a little bit of design thinking. Doesn't get you very far, right? The one-day hackathons that we love for building enthusiasm and energy, if that's all you do, you're not going to see the transformation effects.

I started this presentation talking about, right, you're not going to see better ideas implemented with higher likelihood. You're not going to see relationship building. You're not going to see trust-building. You're not going to see psychological safety and creative [00:16:00] confidence, right? 

On the other hand, we find that those who argue that only trained designers do it are wrong as well. That in fact, while you need to move people from novice, as we indicate here into some kind of intermediate set of skills, you do not have to move them all away to expert status to see the effects. Our research suggests that performance improvements, associated with design thinking, come in thresholds, right? 

So as we move people from knowing design thinking, to knowing limited design thinking, we improve performance. The big kick is when we move people from having limited exposure, and training and design thinking to intermediate status, we do not find an additional kick as we move people from intermediate to expert status.

I think that's an important finding because what it [00:17:00] suggests to us is that we need to think carefully about how we equip people with design skills. The quick and dirty couple of hour workshop is simply not enough to shift day to day practice and to help them to become someone new. On the other hand, it also doesn't take four years of design school.

As part of this research, we've tried then to begin to think about what has to happen, what experience does it innovator or imagination worker have to have at these different stages of immersion and sense-making and alignment and emergence and visualization, and finally learning in action in order to get to that threshold.

That allows us to maximize the positive impact of design thinking. And here, um, again, this is a full slide. I won't spend a lot of time going in detail, but for instance. At some level. Data gathering could be as simple as going out and doing a few ethnographic [00:18:00] interviews, right? That does not trigger the kind of personal transformation we're talking about in order for immersion to help us really reap the full benefits of design thinking, it has to be of a form that builds emotional engagement with the people we're designing for.

It has to give people a deep sense and awareness of their own biases and blinders. And it has to come with an ability to listen, to understand and to recognize opportunities rather than listening specifically through the lens of identifying solutions or even worse testing a solution I've already gotten in mind.

Similarly, when we go into sense-making, that kind of pattern finding, we have to be able to get. To tacit on articulated needs, right? We have to have people who recognize the difference between something that is an observation and something that they have layered interpretation on, [00:19:00] right? And we have to get to the point that we can generate insights that are deep and fresh and actionable.

Because common obvious insights translate into common, obvious new ideas. Right? If we want to have a different idea that is novel and original, we have to first have an insight about our users that is novel and original. Um, alignment. We can talk about the need to actually achieve a shared and prioritized understanding and this kind of willingness to let go of our own perspective and be open to adopting the perspective of someone else.

Um, I think this idea of getting skilled at leveraging diversity to find higher-order solutions rather than allowing diverse viewpoints to water down our solutions to the lowest common denominator. Compromises is one of the most critical skills to develop. And what I think is one of the most important [00:20:00] things design brings to this world of ours, right?

We live in a world of increasing polarization in different. How do we talk across those differences in ways that allow us to build something better because we come together across our differences? Um, big question. And I think achieving that level of competency is critically critical. Prototyping. How do we build a truly immersive experience?

I think that's a challenge. How do we have clarity of purpose as we develop our prototypes? Because prototypes we know are not ends in and of themselves. They're provocations to test our ideas. And then finally in learning and action. Are people really equipped to invite and listen non defensively to the critique of their ideas by stakeholders?

Are they able to isolate and design experiments to test the critical make or break assumptions underneath their ideas rather than going immediately to test two to test the ideas themselves. [00:21:00] So again, this is just the beginning, I think of the next important generation of work around building design thinking skills.

How do we isolate what the activities and behaviors look like as we try and move people from novice to intermediate status and beyond in our design thinking work. Well, what's interesting to us is our latest research suggests that this journey to becoming that I've argued features so prominently in maximizing the ROI of design thinking is not a one size fits all.

Um, not surprisingly, people experienced very different journeys on the path to learning design thinking. What is interesting to us though is our research finds that there are some predictable pathways. For different personality types, and for those of us interested then in facilitating both our own journey and the journey of others, understanding the differences between individuals as they move [00:22:00] through the design process is absolutely critical to helping them become the different person that we know design thinking can help us become.

So let's, let's talk a little bit about how we've operationalized that idea in our research. We use an instrument called the DISC, which I'm sure many of you are familiar with. It's a well-loved business personality indicator in organizations, probably second only to the Myers-Briggs throughout our research.

Over 10 years, we have used the DISC because it has proven to have a very high levels of statistical significance in helping us identify the different behavior patterns. So in its purest form, we can identify four different types of people. And I'll invite you as I go through them quickly to think about where you would fit.

And where your colleagues would fit, because that's important. [00:23:00] Working across diverse types turns out to be absolutely critical, which I'll talk about in a moment, but we have our drivers, right? Our drivers are people who are dominant in the DISC type. They are forceful, they are results oriented, they are naturally confident.

And one of their key strengths in the innovation process is that they are comfortable acting with relatively little data. Right? The downside is they're kind of loners and they pretty much prefer working alone or if not working alone, being the boss and having their own way quite different are people will call the influencers.

These are the people people, right? The ones who are socially oriented, who love the human interaction part, they love the front end of design thinking. They're willing to build trust with relative strangers and they are naturally possibility driven and oriented towards trying to achieve consensus.

Supporters, on the other hand, are lower key team players. I like to joke that these are the people who bring [00:24:00] cookies to the meetings, right? They're friendly, they're supportive, they're the glue that holds team together. However, they are conflict of weight, and that can sometimes be a real downside of the design thinking process where we're trying to surface and acknowledge and work across difference, which can often be full of conflict and be uncomfortable as a result.

Finally, we have the, the fourth group, the controllers, right? The controllers are people who are rational, objective, and naturally skeptical, right? These are people who can create a lot of angst and conflict in a design team at the front end. But these are the people that are your friend when you're designing exp and executing experiments in the marketplace.

The downside, of course, is that they are almost the opposite of the driver and that they are very uncomfortable acting in the face of a scant amount of information. And often when we work with senior groups who call us in to say, can you help me? I ask my people for innovation and [00:25:00] they don't give it to me.

You look at the profile and the entire senior leadership team of a, of a company is controllers. Right? People are trying to innovate, but the people trying to innovate, never have enough data to prove to their leadership that they should be allowed to act and move into the marketplace, which is lethal.

They are the problem, not the people who work for them. So let's look just for a minute quickly and again, this is something I think that there's lots of opportunities to talk more about and in particular to make practical for facilitators. Um, but what we find then as we go back and we look at the design thinking journey across the pieces, we have dramatically different levels of comfort in that journey.

So for instance. Not surprisingly, once the design process is up and running, influencers, the people oriented people love it and remain uniformly more enthusiastic and more comfortable at every single step of the process than other [00:26:00] types. On the other hand, we can look at the controllers. People who need a lot of data to act naturally skeptical.

They tend to remain below everyone else and struggle most with the design thinking process, particularly areas like sense-making. And somewhere in the middle are drivers and supporters. So let's look at each individually for a moment, but first talk about why diversity matters. Um. We have some interesting outcomes from our research that suggests that having diverse personality profiles on an innovation team is absolutely critical to maximizing its performance.

So here we have two slides on my left. We're looking at the level of comfort of teams based on whether they have two different types, three different types, or four different times. And we can see that generally the three personality type teams are the most comfortable. And interestingly, the two personality type teams are the least comfortable.

They [00:27:00] probably don't have enough of the mediators of the third and fourth types to to reduce the conflict. When we look instead at the quality of project outcomes, though, we see a very dramatic, significant step progression. Teams that have two types within their teams do not perform as well as teams that have three types.

And teams that have three types do not perform as well as teams that have four times. For us, this ups the ante on understanding the composition of our teams, not just in terms of technical abilities and background and functions but instead understanding the terms of the personality or the, the set of profiles or preferences they bring to the design thinking process.

Well, let's look quickly at some of the drivers. What we find is the high point is often for the driver sense-making. These are people who love the challenge of finding patterns and making sense. Working with other people. They're willing to challenge other members of the [00:28:00] team to make their reasoning explicit.

They're willing to be challenged, and they really thrive on that. And since we know that digging deep into ethnographic data really. Requires a willingness of each team member to bring their own perspective and to use differences to challenge each other to go deeper. And think more and more deeply about the insights that they're trying to generate together.

What the drivers don't like so much is the startup, because they're very impatient with it. They're impatient with the team process. They're impatient with all of this notion of dwelling and the problem, right? They want to get to the solution, and so they really struggle in that early period where we hold them in the problem.

We've collected some of the, some of the phrases that people use frequently. And for us, we were always amused by the drivers who say things like, I have difficulty sticking with the pace of the team. It's just way too slow for them and I need to be more patient when people require additional time.

So patience is [00:29:00] something that we work hard to help drivers develop as part of the process. Controllers, on the other hand, love the testing part, right? They love it. When we finally get to ideas and we begin to bring data to bear on those, their low point is often that same sensemaking that the driver loved.

And why is that? Because. Controllers in their emotional detachment find it much more difficult to engage emotionally and in fact, to do the kind of level of intuiting that identifying, articulate needs really takes, and they say things like, I tend to be good at analyzing, checking, but maybe I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I'm kind of reluctant to act without complete information.

When we look, on the other hand at the influencer. Okay. For the influencer, our people person, it doesn't get any better than emerging immersion. They love ethnographic research. They love talking to people and really going deep to understand their lives. On the other [00:30:00] hand, the beginning takes them awhile to get comfortable, but once they're comfortable, they.

They loved the design thinking process. And, and here's a quote I think that often expresses what we find influencers say. While initially I felt the rigidly defined steps it designed think Rashad prescribes would be an impediment to creativity. In fact, they allowed the team to move effortlessly through many of the trickiest stages of design, such as insight generation with minimal frustration.

The supporter, our team player person. Nothing feels better than alignment when everyone is getting along together in agreement, the supporter is happy. What makes them uncomfortable is the ambiguity at the beginning of the design thinking process and the level of frustration and sometimes conflict that we see.

A supporter, say things like, I view myself as being less creative, but I've learned and witnessed that working in discussing ideas in a team, setting, harnesses, creativity, and out of every individual. So we can really see the [00:31:00] creative confidence building throughout the design thinking process with the supporter.

So that's kind of our teaser into different personality types. There's actually a lot we can say. Two people facilitating this journey, and two people making their own journey. There's a lot of power in not only being able to identify our own natural preferences, but in building more effective work habits on teams with people's who preferences are different, so that together we can really leverage that difference to produce outcomes.

The final thing that I'll just mention quickly is. We've been intrigued by. So what happens when a journey that in our classrooms at least has, with our MBA students largely been face to face moves virtual. Um, as I said, when we started,  has given us the chance to, to look at that. What we find very interestingly is even the transition from face to face to virtual is mediated.

[00:32:00] By the different personality profiles. So for instance, when we look at drivers here, um, and compare our classes last year that were face to face with our classes this year that were entirely virtual, we see that they track pretty closely except for emergence. What's interesting about drivers is in many cases, they like virtual just as much as face to face, right?

They're trying to get a job done. Hey, zoom can be very efficient. Right? But what happens is the whole emergence of new ideas, it doesn't spike for them the way it does face-to-face. So we kind of lose a big kick and enthusiasm. On the other hand, the supporters are pretty much indifferent to virtual versus face to face.

They really enjoy it. They work well in both, but now compare them to the people who are our influencer people. They have the most statistically significant difference. Virtual really hits them hard and they find it difficult not to have the face to [00:33:00] face contact at every single level of the process.

So we see that the pattern as they go through the process looks the same, but they are substantially less comfortable in virtual at every single stage of the process. And then with controllers, similarly, we see very little difference between them until we get to the emergent stage, in which they have, in fact, a positive experience, almost the opposite of the drivers in moving idea generation into the virtual space for face to face. So that's just a teaser. We've only gotten those results last week, so we haven't had a chance to really think about them and really plumb them, but we think there's a lot to work with there.

So let me just wrap up by talking about what's next, that we might do first. I have to first thank my incredible coauthors and co-researchers here: Christina, Karen, and Jessica. A lot of the work that I've presented to you today is work that they've been the inspiration [for], and in many times the major people doing.

So thank you. And I hope in future webinars, we'll get to meet them. The other thing I'd like to invite you to do is to join our research. There's a link here to the survey we use to assess those kinds of outcomes that we discussed early on in the presentation. And I'd like to invite each of you who have not taken the survey yet, perhaps weren't part of the earlier webinars that we've done from Europe to jump online.

It's quick. It should take you no more than about 15 minutes. And it will give you some interesting information and food for thought. I think about what your version of design thinking is and the tools you're using as well as whether or not you're really achieving the full range of outcomes.

For those who are interested, I'd also like to invite you to join our classes. For me as an educator, one of the most amazing things about design thinking is how well it can be taught virtually. And so we teach in a very project-based, [00:35:00] hands-on way and have a certificate program where we feel that we can really dig deep to get people to that important intermediate stage of the design thinking process, even for people who have no design training at all.

So that's where we are today. We hope you'll stay tuned for more. We hope you'll join us in our research and let us know how you're thinking and feeling. And with that, let me turn the floor back to Mariano, and hopefully we have some great questions to talk some more about. 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: Thank you so much, Jeanne.

Yeah, definitely a lot of new insights into your research. Last time we talked, you mentioned that there, there was a little bit that you're seeing around this question of like getting the beginners to become a practitioners that could play along with, again, the designers and the [00:36:00] engineers or whoever else was going to be building some stuff.

And it's great to see that you wrapped it full circle and now you're introducing the idea of self-awareness and team member theory also, which I think is also very relevant and looking forward to see what's next. And by the way, everybody out there, this was a presentation. It was Jeanne sharing her findings. We are working on putting together maybe like a workshop along the context of MURAL Imagine, where some of you can also participate in this program that Jeanne and team are doing. 

So Jeanne, besides people going to the Darden online classes, what is other other advice about for accelerating the path from thinking novice people into medium practitioners?

Jeanne Liedtka: Well, I think learning on, one of the other things that we [00:37:00] find is that having the right kind of coaching can be absolutely critical, right? So we can take a group of beginners and we can put them together and they can struggle to learn, design thinking together, and often produce good outcomes, but you can dramatically accelerate that with the right kind of coaching.

So, for instance, one of the organizational practices I like best is where organizations set up support people in the design process. They build a community of designers, right? They bring in some of the expert designers, not so that the expert designers can step in and do people's work for them, right? But so that the expert designers can be a coach and a support throughout the process.

And so, I think that coaching is critical. And then I don't think there's any substitute for doing. Right? Um, I think to the extent that we think of design thinking less as an episodic thing, that when we have a big [00:38:00] project, we use design thinking on and we think of it more as a day to day practice as a way of being, um, as a set of tools that, that can be decoupled from each other and used on a day to day basis.

I think that's where we start to really increase our competency. There is a profound learning curve and things like ethnographic research, we know that. I mean, we kind of shove our students out into the real world because most people feel intimidated to have a much deeper, different kind of conversation with someone than they're used to having when they ask them to fill out a superficial survey.

Once they do it, however they love it, and they're dramatically better at their third and fourth interview than they were at their first and second. Right? So again, part of this is not being intimidated about doing it perfectly. I like to talk about moving towards goodness. Design thinking almost always moves us towards goodness.

If we get in there and we just do it, and if we're lucky enough to [00:39:00] have people to turn to who can help us do it better, it will come. Right? Because naturally, most of us are design thinkers. We've just had it beaten out of us, many of us, by our career choices and by the nature of our education. And when you free people to experience it.

Most people get excited and are pretty good at it. 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: So Jeanne, you said that these people are pretty good at it. They become you said, you mentioned we become someone new and empathetic, curious, collaborative. So Roy Shinning asked, "Do you see a long-term effect on behavior of people when they have had their experience?"

Jeanne Liedtka: Well, again, we haven't had the luxury of studying long-term effects. You know, as an academic, I always have to qualify. Any answer I give where I've got data and I don't. But I think if I look at the people that I spend most time with, which, which are my MBA [00:40:00] students, and they keep journals, right?

So I really ask them to track personally how they're experiencing learning, design thinking and what it's doing for them. And many of them are profoundly changed by it. Particularly those of us, I think, who come from very traditional business environments. I mean, I was trained as an accountant.

It is hardwired into me that numbers are more real than human beings, right? And design thinking is a profound shift in the way I have been trained to see the world. I think it's in part why I had so fallen in love with it. Many of us in business have been told that we are not creative people.

We're told that over and over again. There are creative people and those are the ones who deserve to be called imagination workers. And the rest of us — engineers, accountants, whatever — we're just here to serve those imagination people. Right? And that shift into seeing myself as a creative person [00:41:00] is probably, well, it's not only the most rewarding for an educator; it's one of the most meaningful shifts that people have.

So, I do think that we're seeing very long-term impacts, on people's behaviors and on their self image and on how they see themselves, as well as how they see other people. Can we prove that with data yet from academic research? We can't, but I still believe it.

Mariano Suarez-Battan: And by the way, everybody listening Jeanne is formerly, originally trained as an accountant. Right? Just for you guys that are not in the creative fields. Just know that we are all very creative. We're all imagination workers. We just forgot at school. But everybody can do it. So Jeanne, in that context, so I generally say that if people don't practice right, they're going to be, even though there's like that moment of aha.

They might get back from average to novice or [00:42:00] or something like that. So the beauty of the situation where we are right now, even though it's a dreadful global pandemic, is that we're all in a level playing field in a digital realm or working from home. So have you seen anything which are the parts of the same thing in process that people have had more trouble with? Let alone the personality. We're going to personality again, which are the things that you've seen your students or the companies who you pay attention to struggle the most when it comes to his activities. And in particular, there are two questions. One by Mat Freer and Marjorie Meunier.

They were asking about ethnography in particular. 

Jeanne Liedtka: I have not experienced with the people, the students that I've taught ethnography to be particularly difficult. People are afraid of ethnography. I will send students to the supermarket, for instance, just to observe and to talk to people [00:43:00] about shopping.

And I always joke that our MBAs have a lot of confidence. They kind of feel like they could graduate in the next day, run a major corporation without any trouble. But when I asked them to talk to other human beings in the supermarket, it freaks them out. Right. But once they've done it, they get better at it quite dramatically.

What I personally experience as the single most difficult place for people with design thinking is sense making, and that is identifying insights, right? We are, most of us not trained to work with large amounts of qualitative data, and so getting people. Successfully through the insights process without them feeling overwhelmed and kind of hopeless at the amount of work they've got to do is, is very critical.

And it requires a great deal of structure. So the cognitive complexity of looking for insights, the layering of a deeper and deeper insight, um, just requires, I think, a different. A different [00:44:00] level of facilitation than almost every other aspect of design thinking does in our work. The other piece I think is very hard for people, even though it's kind of surprising that should be, is the design of experiments.

We toss out this notion of designing experiments as though that was obvious and easy and we could all do it. In fact, most of us have not trained to be, have not been trained to be hypothesis driven. And until you learn how to be hypothesis driven, it is very difficult to design good experiments and the entire design thinking process, credibility falls apart without experimentation.

Right? The reason why those small ends and all that qualitative ethnographic research was okay in the beginning was because we were using it to inspire better ideas. But we still need to test those ideas before we scale them, right? And I see a lot of organizations falling in love with the front end of design thinking and then kind of, Hey, I've got my ideas.

I'm ready to run with them [00:45:00] and implement them. I'm not going to bother testing them. And again, I think that is a mistake. And teaching people to design good tests, it requires as much creativity as having a great idea. And I don't think we acknowledge that. 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: Thank you. And there's a lot of questions around color used MURAL, how you say this and that.

More practical questions from the audience. Guys, remember that MURAL Imagine is a series of events, some of which will be more practical. This one in particular is more around Jeanne's research.  So go to and stay tuned. And of course we do weekly events where we show people live action from MURAL in like a Twitch for meetings.

So Jeanne, other people commenting on this  but I've done this, but I'm a little bit of all of the personalities or this works doesn't [00:46:00] work. What can you tell people that maybe are not so fans of personality tests or, or disbelievers in those? 

Jeanne Liedtka: Yeah. Well, I mean. It always interests me. You know, I'm trained as an accountant and a strategist.

I'm not a psychologist. So when I, for instance, take the DISC, I'm always baffled by how answering that set of questions actually provides the window into issues, issues like level of comfort with uncertainty. But it does. I mean, all I can say is for 10 years we found statistically significant predictions based on DISC type. 

So for instance, when we go out and we look at people who are naturally good at leading organic growth in large organizations, right? Our original work in design thinking was all around studying growth leaders in large, mature organization. With a high level of statistically [00:47:00] a statistical significance.

They are the DI's in the DISC profile. They are a combination of dominance and influence, right? Dominance tends to drive too hard to be successful in kind of large corporate settings, but influence doesn't drive hard enough. And when you bring those two together. There's really no question. So, so, you know, I'm not a psychologist.

I can't explain why these instruments do allow us to predict. All I can say is our research demonstrates that they do predict the DISC does. We have no research. That suggests, for instance, the Myers Briggs actually predicts, but. You know, we have 10 years of data using the DISC. We, we know it predicts. So, you know, because I'm not a test creator, I can't really say how, but somehow it detects some of these fundamental aspects, like how we deal with uncertainty, how we feel about difference, how inclined we are to dialogue versus [00:48:00] debate, right?

It picks up these underlying preferences we have,right? Which are not, they're not immutable. Right. What we know with all of these tests is that we can be different than our personality profile, but only if we are aware of it and make a conscious choice to be different. If we aren't consciously aware of our profile, we just think it's the way we are and the way everybody is, and so we just go with the flow.

Right. With all of these personality tests, the value is in building an awareness. Both of my own proclivities and the way I, which I get in my own way, and accepting others not as wrong or damaged because they're different than I am, but as bringing a different perspective and set of skills. 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: Well, I mean, at our company we were using a product called Prelude.

So similar to this in a lot of senses. I think [00:49:00] something that is interesting besides the result is also, as you mentioned, that once you go through a design thinking. The six steps or the six parts of it, at least you're aware of it, right? So you're aware that there's different personalities, you're aware of that, at least based on the replies that these people in this moment in time replied, and at least it's something that you can use to calibrate your conversation.

And something that I always like about your presentation is that you mentioned that the human factors change of all the same thinking, and you mentioned, you said quote unquote, eh, better conversations to have better outcomes. Right. And every, everything and anything that we can do to build trust, to build better conversations should lead to at least more happiness in solving the problem.

We have probably time for two more questions. And eh, everybody in the audience, please accept my apology because we've had like, literally [00:50:00] more than a hundred, it's really hard for us. I got a team behind me sorting through this, but the, the, the, the other one I wanted to ask is about team composition.

So you mentioned four personality types. How have you seen anything around the team sizes or anything else besides the type of people involved in this project? Any recommendation for that?

Jeanne Liedtka: We've really only studied it from the perspective of personality types. I don't really have data on anything else.

I mean, you know, we have preferences of team size. I mean, my preference for teams is always four to five because I just think you get free riders otherwise. To me, one of the great strengths of the design thinking process is you can have small, intact work teams that then reach out to other stakeholders at strategic points in the process.

Like, you know, design, creating design criteria and use tools like the gallery walk to [00:51:00] invite a broad group of stakeholders into the conversation. So. I tend to think of this idea of team as kind of permeable you've, you've got a small core team. And I think the reality of it is if the team gets too big, people skip meetings and then you never get anywhere because you explain what everyone missed at the last meeting in the new meeting.

Right? So, so you need a team, small enough of people who are committed enough to give the time to do the time intensive work of activities like ethnographic research. But then design thinking really allows permeable boundaries. So you can invite lots of other people. And we have insight sessions with that.

We invite a hundred people to write, we divide them into 20 different teams, and we tour galleries with them. And then at the end we have 20 flip charts across there. And we look for similarities, right? So the whole notion of team and who's on it and who's off it, I think, can really be [00:52:00] challenged by design thinking into thinking about who's having what conversation at what point in time, right, and who do we need in the conversation to make sure that we are able to achieve the outcomes we care about.

Mariano Suarez-Battan: So two or three on that team is four or five and there's at least 4% of the times. It's really hard to get to that diversity at the team level. Right. So probably worth paying attention to that. And the other interesting thing that you mentioned, they are introducing more people around the team is you mentioned that one of the, the impact of the same thing is around the likelihood of project getting to the outcome, right?

Because people get like enthusiastic and cheering back. Right? You shared this in the last episode. And it's something that I, I always go with with that. 

I don't have any particular [00:53:00] questions, Jeanne. So what's next for you in your research? Tell me about your book that you're writing. What's going on there? 

Jeanne Liedtka: So I think what, what myself and my, my co-authors are really excited about now is it a very practical level. How do we help people move through this, doing, experiencing, becoming cycle? What has to happen, for instance, in immersion to move someone from a novice in, into someone who's emotionally engaged, listening differently, all of the kinds of things that have to happen.

So I think the next stage for us is we've been gathering a lot of data over a long period of time and we've begun to develop. Advice for people and for facilitators to help them move. Cause I think one of the challenges in design thinking is we just talk about design thinking. I mean even the term, it's a bundle [00:54:00] of different activities that are dramatically different from each other.

Right? So not only, we don't even unpack the big term design thinking much less unpack, for instance, at the sense making. Stage of design thinking, the insight finding, what are the critical set of behaviors that we need to get people good at in order to believe that they're truly competent and can truly maximize that, that building.

So I think the next stage of work is practical for us. It's really mining what we're learning about how these different personality types, you're going through the process in order to understand. How to better achieve success suite. Because I think one of the things I worry about with design thinking, and I'm sure it's something we all worry about, is that organizations think the one day hackathon is all you need to do.

People aren't properly trained, they go off and do it. They don't do it well, and everyone says, see, I could've told you that design thinking [00:55:00] wouldn't work. Look at it. You know, I mean, the next it makes me scream when I read articles about how design thinking doesn't work. And then you look at the level of training they gave people and it was a couple of hour workshop.

I mean, what did people really expect? Right? I mean, if we look at things like that. Total quality management. I mean, in the days when TQM was starting up, I mean, they had very strict guidelines about how you ramp people up to competency levels. We have lacked that in design thinking, and I think that's the next stage of work we have to do because if we don't do that, the superficial work will make it more difficult for people doing quality, deep design work to make a compelling case for why they need to do more of it in their organizations 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: We will look forward to that one. You mentioned facilitators and facilitation. I believe it's a core competency for designers and leaders to work on. I wonder if there's any correlation between [00:56:00] personalities of facilitators in these groups or not.

We'll see another episode. But the other things that we're seeing in our clients, people being hired us full time facilitators in, in large companies like USAA for example, they have a role. They do a little project management too, but facilitator, the same thing. Facilitators. I'm very curious to see there.

And by the way, everybody still listening, we're introducing a feature in one week or two, maybe three, called Celebration. You'll be able to celebrate inside a MURAL with your team, which again, it's one of the things that maybe it's not listening or parts of discoloration Jeanne, which is. It is fun and it's a moment of celebration when you come up with something new, when you solve someone's problem.

And of course, when you get the business or organizations outcome out of that, right? So, eh, very glad to, to [00:57:00] see more customer centric, more user centric design. Coming into more people out there, eh, and of course, as we get better at this, also the next layer, which is facilitation and systems thinking and so on, right? 

So, thank you so much, Jeanne, for spending the time with us today, sharing your research. Always a pleasure to listen to you and I, I mean, I've been using your phrase this as the same thing as a social technology. So apologies for, for stealing, but eh... 

Jeanne Liedtka: Steal it all you want, Mariano, I approve of that kind of theft.

Mariano Suarez-Battan: And everybody else, if you want to follow Jeanne, you know where to find her. And don't worry, we'll be following up with a recording for you guys to share with everyone else in your teams and your companies. And as I said before, I recommend you rewind in time a little bit and see how, how Jeanne has progressed her understanding the last couple of years of [00:58:00] the social technology that we all love and go care about. Thank you so much, and see you next time.

Jeanne Liedtka: Right. Thank you, Mariano. Goodbye everybody. 

Mariano Suarez-Battan: Bye-bye.

About the author

About the authors

David Chin

Creative Lead
Creative Lead at MURAL // Moving beyond the pixels to connect intuition, reason, and opportunity.