Design Thinking for the Greater Good

New Book by Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer:  “Facing especially wicked problems, social sector organizations are searching for powerful new methods to understand and address them. Design Thinking for the Greater Good goes in depth on both the how of using new tools and the why. As a way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers, design thinking is already well established in the commercial world. Through ten stories of struggles and successes in fields such as health care, education, agriculture, transportation, social services, and security, the authors show how collaborative creativity can shake up even the most entrenched bureaucracies—and provide a practical roadmap for readers to implement these tools.

The design thinkers Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer explore how major agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Transportation and Security Administration in the United States, as well as organizations in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, have instituted principles of design thinking. In each case, these groups have used the tools of design thinking to reduce risk, manage change, use resources more effectively, bridge the communication gap between parties, and manage the competing demands of diverse stakeholders. Along the way, they have improved the quality of their products and enhanced the experiences of those they serve. These strategies are accessible to analytical and creative types alike, and their benefits extend throughout an organization. This book will help today’s leaders and thinkers implement these practices in their own pursuit of creative solutions that are both innovative and achievable….(More)”.

Government innovations and the hype cycle

Danny Buerkli at the Centre for Public Impact: “The Gartner hype cycle tracks how technologies develop from initial conception to productive use. There is much excitement around different methodologies and technologies in the “government innovation” space, but which of these is hyped and which of these is truly productive?

Last year we made some educated guesses and placed ten government innovations along the hype cycle. This year, however, we went for something bigger and better. We created an entirely non-scientific poll and asked respondents to tell us where they thought these same ten government innovations sat on the hype cycle.

The innovations we included were artificial intelligence, blockchain, design thinking, policy labs, behavioural insights, open data, e-government, agile, lean and New Public Management.

Here is what we learned.

  1. For the most part, we’re still in the early days

On average, our respondents don’t think that any of the methods have made it into truly productive use. In fact, for seven out of the ten innovations, the majority of respondents believed that these were indeed still in the “technology trigger” phase.

Assuming that these innovations will steadily make their way along the hype cycle, we should expect a lot more hype (as they enter the “peak of inflated expectations”) and a lot more disappointment (as they descend into the “trough of disillusionment)” going forward. Government innovation advocates should take heed.

  1. Policy Labs are believed to be in “peak of inflated expectations”

This innovation attracted the highest level of disagreement from respondents. While almost two out of five people believe that policy labs are in the “technology trigger” phase, one out of five see them as having already reached the “slope of enlightenment”. On average, however, respondents believe policy labs to be in the “peak of inflated expectations”….

  1. Blockchain is seen as the most nascent government innovation

Our survey respondents rather unanimously believe that blockchain is at the very early stage of the “technology trigger” phase. Given that blockchain is often characterized as a solution in search of a problem, this view may not be surprising. The survey results also indicates that blockchain will have a long way to go before it will be used productively in government, but there are several ways this can be done.

  1. Artificial intelligence inspires a lot of confidence (in some)
  1. New Public Management is – still – overhyped?… (More).

What is One Team Government?

Kit Collingwood-Richardso at Medium: “On 29th June, 186 people came together in London to talk about how we could work across disciplines to make government more effective…. Below are our current ideas on what we want it to be. We’d love your help shaping them up.

So what is One Team Government?

At its heart, it’s a community (join it here and see the bottom of this post), united and guided by a set of principles. Together, we are working to create a movement of reform through practical action.

The community is made up of people who are passionate about public sector reform (we deliberately want this to be wider than just government), with the emphasis on improving the services we offer to citizens and how we work. We believe the public sector can be brilliant, and we’re committed to making it so.

You don’t have to work for government to be in the community, nor be a public servant in the wider sense, nor indeed be in the UK; we need diverse perspectives, with people of all sectors, areas and interests helping. We think we’re unstoppable if we work together.

Our initial thinking (see below for how to help us iterate on this) is that we want the One Team Government movement to be guided by seven principles:

1. Work in the open and positively

We’re a community; everything we do will be documented and made to share. Where conversations happen that can’t be shared, the wider learning still will be. This is a reform cooperative, where we choose to be generous with knowledge. Ideas are infectious; we’ll share ours early and often….

2. Take practical action

Although talking is vital, we will be defined more by the things we do than the things we say. We will create change by taking small, measured steps every day — everything from creating a new contact in a different area or discipline, sharing something we’ve written, or giving our time to contribute to others’ work — and encouraging others to do the same. We won’t create huge plans, but do things that make a real difference today, no matter how big or small. We will document what they are.

3. Experiment and iterate

We don’t think there’s one way to ‘do’ reform. We will experiment with design, and put user-focused service design thinking into everything we do, learning from and with each other. We will test, iterate and reflect. We will be humble in our approach, focusing on asking the right questions to get to the best answers.

We will embrace small failures as opportunities to learn. We won’t get everything right, and we won’t try to. We will listen, learn and improve together.

4. Be diverse and inclusive

Our approach to inclusiveness and diversity is driven by a simple desire to better represent the citizens we serve. We’ll put effort into making that so, by balancing our events, making sure our teams are reflective of society at large and by making sure we have a range of citizen and team voices in the room with us….

5. Care deeply about citizens

We work for users and other citizens affected by our work; everything we do will be guided by our impact on them. We will talk to them, early and often; we will use the best research methods to understand them better. We will be distinguished by our empathy — for users and for each other. The policy that we develop will be tested with real people as early as possible, and refined with their needs in mind.

6. Work across borders

We believe that diverse views make our outcomes and services better. We will be characterised by our work to break down boundaries between groups. …

7. Embrace technology

We are passionate about public sector reform for the internet age. We will be a technology-enabled community, using online tools to collaborate, network and share. We will put the best of digital thinking into policy and service design, using technology to make us quicker, smarter, better and more data-driven. We will help to shape a public sector we can be proud to work in in the 21st century….(More)”.

Tragic Design

Book by Cynthia Savard Saucier and Jonathan Shariat: “Bad design is everywhere, and its cost is much higher than we think. In this thought-provoking book, authors Jonathan Shariat and Cynthia Savard Saucier explain how poorly designed products can anger, sadden, exclude, and even kill people who use them. The designers responsible certainly didn’t intend harm, so what can you do to avoid making similar mistakes?

Tragic Design examines real case studies that show how certain design choices adversely affected users, and includes in-depth interviews with authorities in the design industry. Pick up this book and learn how you can be an agent of change in the design community and at your company.

You’ll explore:

  • Designs that can kill, including the bad interface that doomed a young cancer patient
  • Designs that anger, through impolite technology and dark patterns
  • How design can inadvertently cause emotional pain
  • Designs that exclude people through lack of accessibility, diversity, and justice
  • How to advocate for ethical design when it isn’t easy to do so
  • Tools and techniques that can help you avoid harmful design decisions
  • Inspiring professionals who use design to improve our world…(More)”.

Going Digital: Restoring Trust In Government In Latin American Cities

Carlos Santiso at The Rockefeller Foundation Blog: “Driven by fast-paced technological innovations, an exponential growth of smartphones, and a daily stream of big data, the “digital revolution” is changing the way we live our lives. Nowhere are the changes more sweeping than in cities. In Latin America, almost 80 percent of the population lives in cities, where massive adoption of social media is enabling new forms of digital engagement. Technology is ubiquitous in cities. The expectations of Latin American “digital citizens” have grown exponentially as a result of a rising middle class and an increasingly connected youth.

This digital transformation is recasting the relation between states and citizens. Digital citizens are asking for better services, more transparency, and meaningful participation. Their rising expectations concern the quality of the services city governments ought to provide, but also the standards of integrity, responsiveness, and fairness of the bureaucracy in their daily dealings. A recent study shows that citizens’ satisfaction with public services is not only determined by the objective quality of the service, but also their subjective expectations and how fairly they consider being treated….

New technologies and data analytics are transforming the governance of cities. Digital-intensive and data-driven innovations are changing how city governments function and deliver services, and also enabling new forms of social participation and co-creation. New technologies help improve efficiency and further transparency through new modes of open innovation. Tech-enabled and citizen-driven innovations also facilitate participation through feedback loops from citizens to local authorities to identify and resolve failures in the delivery of public services.

Three structural trends are driving the digital revolution in governments.

  1. The digital transformation of the machinery of government. National and city governments in the region are developing digital strategies to increase connectivity, improve services, and enhance accountability. According to a recent report, 75 percent of the 23 countries surveyed have developed comprehensive digital strategies, such as Uruguay Digital, Colombia’s Vive Digital or Mexico’s Agenda Digital, that include legally recognized digital identification mechanisms. “Smart cities” are intensifying the use of modern technologies and improve the interoperability of government systems, the backbone of government, to ensure that public services are inter-connected and thus avoid having citizens provide the same information to different entities. An important driver of this transformation is citizens’ demands for greater transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. Sixteen countries in the region have developed open government strategies, and cities such as Buenos Aires in Argentina, La Libertad in Peru, and Sao Paolo in Brazil have also committed to opening up government to public scrutiny and new forms of social participation. This second wave of active transparency reforms follows a first, more passive wave that focused on facilitating access to information.
  1. The digital transformation of the interface with citizens. Sixty percent of the countries surveyed by the aforementioned report have established integrated service portals through which citizens can access online public services. Online portals allow for a single point of access to public services. Cities, such as Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, are developing their own online service platforms to access municipal services. These innovations improve access to public services and contribute to simplifying bureaucratic processes and cutting red-tape, as a recent study shows. Governments are resorting to crowdsourcing solutions, open intelligence initiatives, and digital apps to encourage active citizen participation in the improvement of public services and the prevention of corruption. Colombia’s Transparency Secretariat has developed an app that allows citizens to report “white elephants” — incomplete or overbilled public works. By the end of 2015, it identified 83 such white elephants, mainly in the capital Bogotá, for a total value of almost $500 million, which led to the initiation of criminal proceedings by law enforcement authorities. While many of these initiatives emerge from civic initiatives, local governments are increasingly encouraging them and adopting their own open innovation models to rethink public services.
  1. The gradual mainstreaming of social innovation in local government. Governments are increasingly resorting to public innovation labs to tackle difficult problems for citizens and businesses. Governments innovation labs are helping address “wicked problems” by combining design thinking, crowdsourcing techniques, and data analytics tools. Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Uruguay, have developed such social innovation labs within government structures. As a recent report notes, these mechanisms come in different forms and shapes. Large cities, such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, and Montevideo, are at the forefront of testing such laboratory mechanisms and institutionalizing tech-driven and citizen-centered approaches through innovation labs. For example, in 2013, Mexico City created its Laboratorio para la Ciudad, as a hub for civic innovation and urban creativity, relying on small-case experiments and interventions to improve specific government services and make local government more transparent, responsive, and receptive. It spearheaded an open government law for the city that encourages residents to participate in the design of public policies and requires city agencies to consider those suggestions…..(More)”.

Design thinking and health communication: learning from failure

Priyanka Dutt at BBC Media Action: “Anyone working in international development will attest that human-centred design (HCD) has been a ‘trending topic’ in recent years. Design thinking has been applied to a range of challenges, from supporting democratic transition in Libya to building an all-terrain wheelchair for under $200. Melinda Gates even hailed HCD as the innovation changing the most lives in the developing world.

But what exactly is design thinking? It involves bringing together multi-disciplinary teams – think creative writers working alongside ICT specialists – to address challenges through rapid prototyping and repeated testing. At the core of HCD is building empathy with the people you’re designing for with the overarching aim of producing something genuinely valuable to them.

Marrying these principles with our own core value of putting audiences at the heart of everything we do, we decided to set up a ‘laboratory’ in Bihar, in northern India, which aimed to improve child and maternal health through communication. We saw Bihar as a great site for HCD-style innovation because it offered us the scope to test and fine tune new ways of using communication to promote healthy behaviours for women and children alike.

Bihar is home to 29 million women of reproductive age, who give birth 3 million times every year. And although Bihar’s maternal mortality rate has declined in recent years to 93 per 100,000 live births, it is still well above the Sustainable Development Goals target of 70. As for the communication challenges, less than a fifth of these women watch TV and only 12% listen to the radio.

Yet the lab’s early creations achieved a great deal. Over 50,000 people have graduated from our Mobile Academy training course, which is delivered through mobile phone audio messages. The course teaches health workers how to communicate more effectively to persuade families to lead healthier lives.

We also produced a set of cards and audio messages delivered via mobile phone – called Mobile Kunji – for health workers to use during their visits with families. The evidence shows that families subsequently asked health workers more questions and were more likely to follow advice on preparing for birth, family planning and how to feed babies.

Rethinking strategy: learning from failure

High on our early successes, we set about developing Kilkari (a baby’s gurgle in Hindi). This programme sends weekly audio messages about pregnancy, child birth, and child care, directly to families’ mobile phones, from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old. The aim was that Kilkari would be listened to across Bihar, by the most vulnerable families, with the greatest need and least access to information and services.

Drawing on lessons from two similar services from around the world, Mobile Midwife and BabyCenter, in addition to our own prior experience in Bihar, we were confident Kilkari would be a success. Just to be certain, we ran some tests before rollout and found that we had failed in our vision – and spectacularly so. We weren’t getting through to our main audience, women, as we weren’t using the right channels and language.

In the end, we went back to the drawing board on Kilkari four times, simplifying and stripping down the content time and again, until we got it right. Through repeated prototype-test-redesign cycles, we made the vitally important discovery that our basic assumptions about our audiences were wrong. So we went back to basics and asked ourselves the following questions to push us to rethink our strategy:

1. Is the content relevant and easy to understand?

2. Are we getting through to our target audience?

3. Can we do more to keep our target audience engaged?…(More)”

From Servants to Stewards: Design-led Innovation in the Public Sector

Adam Hasler: “For years, and very acutely the last few months, citizens of the United States and in many other parts of the world have been pitched into an often uncomfortable morass of debate and discussion about the direction of their country. Problems exist, and persist, which government at all levels has tried to address or currently addresses, and government’s efficacy at addressing problems affects all of us in some way. At such an historical moment like the one in which we live, in which a competing visions of government excite or frighten so many, we remember how much government matters to us.

A very powerful anecdote told to a crowd of listeners at Harvard recently recounted how, during a United States Digital Service project, the prototype for a project delivered to a decision maker and her team didn’t include a feature that was very clearly dictated to them in the requirements. The head of the United States Digital Service team that facilitated the project received an angry call summoning her to the director’s office. There, the policy maker who had added the requirement asked for an explanation why the prototype didn’t meet requirements. “We described to her that we actually took this prototype to a school, and had people use it. It wasn’t a feature they wanted or used, so it didn’t make sense to build it.” The simple common sense of the logic of design-thinking immediately resonated with the policy maker. “Yeah, we shouldn’t build it if they don’t need it.” She stopped for a moment, and continued, “Oh my gosh, this is great, we should do everything like this, we should make policy like this!”

“Yeah, we shouldn’t build it if they don’t need it.” She stopped for a moment, and continued, “Oh my gosh, this is great! We should do everything like this! We should make policy like this!”

This story demonstrates how a growing movement within governments around the world has begun improve the public sector through design-led innovation. This article, presented in four parts, explores various aspects of that movement. To get right to it, the “design” in design-led innovation refers in this work specifically to design thinking, or the idea that design is a process, rather than a domain of outputs. You’ll see that I advocate strongly for a particular design process known as human-centered design, commonly referred to as HCD. HCD is a process made up of alternating divergence and convergence by which an individual or team starts by empathetically understanding a problem through close interaction with the people that experience it. The team then extends that co-creation to the solution phase, and experiments with ideas originating from both the team the humans who have the problem. It relies heavily on prototyping and small-scale releases of potential solutions to facilitate multiple iterations and get as close as possible to a solution whose effectiveness the team measures relative to its ability to solve the original problem. This may represent a bit of a switch to some: rather than become enamored of and advocate for a favored genius idea, many of today’s best designers fall in love with the problem, and don’t rest until a solution, originating from anywhere, gets it closer to solved.

I define innovation here as the process of developing and cultivating new ideas, often from individuals throughout an organization and even outside of it, thereby maximizing the potential of all of the resources at an organization’s disposal and often breaking down organizational silos. The marriage of innovation and design thinking suggests a strategy in which innovation encourages new ideas and helps an organization adapt to ever-changing conditions, and a transparent process that helps to develop a deep understanding of a problem, decreases cost and mitigates the risk of releasing something that doesn’t solve the problem, and provides a mechanism for questioning the system itself.

This work culminates an introductory research project for me. At the heart of the work is the question, “How can design thinking and innovation improve public sector effectiveness, provide more opportunities for rewarding political participation, and facilitate the pursuit of ambitious, shared goals that move us into the future?…(More)”

Design Thinking for Educators

IDEO: “The Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit gives teachers the tools and methods they need to apply design thinking—discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution—in real-world scenarios….

Why design thinking? Hear firsthand stories about how design thinking can apply to education.

Included in the toolkit are the Designer’s Workbook, workshops and an ongoing free five-week virtual class to help hone skills and empower teachers to create desirable solutions.

The effort is helping teachers become agents of change within their schools, driving new small- and large-scale innovations. Visit the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators site for stories, case studies, process outlines, engagement opportunities, and more….(More)

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)”

Foreign Policy has lost its creativity. Design thinking is the answer.

Elizabeth Radziszewski at The Wilson Quaterly: “Although the landscape of threats has changed in recent years, U.S. strategies bear striking resemblance to the ways policymakers dealt with crises in the past. Whether it involves diplomatic overtures, sanctions, bombing campaigns, or the use of special ops and covert operations, the range of responses suffers from innovation deficit. Even the use of drones, while a new tool of warfare, is still part of the limited categories of responses that focus mainly on whether or not to kill, cooperate, or do nothing. To meet the evolving nature of threats posed by nonstate actors such as ISIS, the United States needs a strategy makeover — a creative lift, so to speak.

Sanctions, diplomacy, bombing campaigns, special ops, covert operations — the range of our foreign policy responses suffers from an innovation deficit.

Enter the business world. Today’s top companies face an increasingly competitive marketplace where innovative approaches to product and service development are a necessity. Just as the market has changed for companies since the forces of globalization and the digital economy took over, so has the security landscape evolved for the world’s leading hegemon. Yet the responses of top businesses to these changes stand in stark contrast to the United States’ stagnant approaches to current national security threats. Many of today’s thriving businesses have embraced design thinking (DT), an innovative process that identifies consumer needs through immersive ethnographic experiences that are melded with creative brainstorming and quick prototyping.

What would happen if U.S. policymakers took cues from the business world and applied DT in policy development? Could the United States prevent the threats from metastasizing with more proactive rather than reactive strategies — by discovering, for example, how ideas from biology, engineering, and other fields could help analysts inject fresh perspective into tired solutions? Put simply, if U.S. policymakers want to succeed in managing future threats, then they need to start thinking more like business innovators who integrate human needs with technology and economic feasibility.

In his 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial, Herbert Simon made the first connection between design and a way of thinking. But it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that Stanford scientists began to see the benefits of design practices used by industrial designers as a method for creative thinking. At the core of DT is the idea that solving a challenge requires a deeper understanding of the problem’s true nature and the processes and people involved. This approach contrasts greatly with more standard innovation styles, where a policy solution is developed and then resources are used to fit the solution to the problem. DT reverses the order.

DT encourages divergent thinking, the process of generating many ideas before converging to select the most feasible ones, including making connections between different-yet-related worlds. Finally, the top ideas are quickly prototyped and tested so that early solutions can be modified without investing many resources and risking the biggest obstacle to real innovation: the impulse to try fitting an idea, product, policy to the people, rather of the other way around…

If DT has reenergized the innovative process in the business and nonprofit sector, a systematic application of its methodology could just as well revitalize U.S. national security policies. Innovation in security and foreign policy is often framed around the idea of technological breakthroughs. Thanks toDefense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense has been credited with such groundbreaking inventions as GPS, the Internet, and stealth fighters — all of which have created rich opportunities to explore new military strategies. Reflecting this infatuation with technology, but with a new edge, is Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s unveiling of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, an initiative to scout for new technologies, improve outreach to startups, and form deeper relationships between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley. The new DIUE effort signals what businesses have already noticed: the need to be more flexible in establishing linkages with people outside of the government in search for new ideas.

Yet because the primary objective of DIUE remains technological prowess, the effort alone is unlikely to drastically improve the management of national security. Technology is not a substitute for an innovative process. When new invention is prized as the sole focus of innovation, it can, paradoxically, paralyze innovation. Once an invention is adopted, it is all too tempting to mold subsequent policy development around emergent technology, even if other solutions could be more appropriate….(More)”