Driving government transformation through design thinking

Michael McHugh at Federal Times: “According to Gartner, “Design thinking is a multidisciplinary process that builds solutions for complex, intractable problems in a technically feasible, commercially sustainable and emotionally meaningful way.”

Design thinking as an approach puts the focus on people — their likes, dislikes, desires and experience — for designing new services and products. It encourages a free flow of ideas within a team to build and test prototypes by setting a high tolerance for failure. The approach is more holistic, as it considers both human and technological aspects to cater to mission-critical needs. Due to its innovative and agile problem-solving technique, design thinking inspires teams to collaborate and contribute towards driving mission goals.

How Can Design Thinking Help Agencies?

Whether it is problem solving, streamlining a process or increasing the adoption rate of a new service, design thinking calls for agencies to be empathetic towards people’s needs while being open to continuous learning and a willingness to fail — fast. A fail-fast model enables agencies to detect errors during the course of finding a solution, in which they learn from the possible mistakes and then proceed to develop a more suitable solution that is likely to add value to the user.

Consider an example of a federal agency whose legacy inspection application was affecting the productivity of its inspectors. By leveraging an agile approach, the agency built a mobile inspection solution to streamline and automate the inspection process. The methodology involved multiple iterations based on observations and findings from inspector actions. Here is a step-by-step synopsis of this methodology:

  • Problem presentation: Identifying the problems faced by inspectors.
  • Empathize with users: Understanding the needs and challenges of inspectors.
  • Define the problem: Redefining the problem based on input from inspectors.
  • Team collaboration: Brainstorming and discussing multiple solutions.
  • Prototype creation: Determining and building viable design solutions.
  • Testing with constituents: Releasing the prototype and testing it with inspectors.
  • Collection of feedback: Incorporating feedback from pilot testing and making required changes.

The insights drawn from each step helped the agency to design a secure platform in the form of a mobile inspection tool, optimized for tablets with a smartphone companion app for enhanced mobility. Packed with features like rich media capture with video, speech-to-text and photographs, the mobile inspection tool dramatically reduces manual labor and speeds up the on-site inspection process. It delivers significant efficiencies by improving processes, increasing productivity and enhancing the visibility of information. Additionally, its integration with legacy systems helps leverage existing investments, therefore justifying the innovation, which is based on a tightly defined test and learn cycle….(More)”