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Scaling the Value of Design Thinking Across an Organization

BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States and is one of Missouri’s largest employers. In 2012-13, BJC saw the power of human-centered design in solving problems when BJC’s Center for Clinical Excellence set out to learn about innovation practices from Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and PayPal. Upon returning and applying their new insights, they began to see success, but quickly realized that in order to be effective in an organization as large and complex as BJC’s network, they would need to formalize their new practices and grow the organization’s understanding of the new techniques and approaches the team was pursuing. They needed a partner that would help them to articulate what they were trying to do, and build allies and “culture ninjas” that could be trained in design thinking and counted on to help spread interest and understanding throughout the organization.

When BJC HealthCare consulted with Mad*Pow they sought an expert in design thinking methodologies who could not only train BJC leaders on the process and principles of design thinking, but also help them pinpoint effective ways to implement their new training, and build momentum and enthusiasm around these new ideas. This BJC Center for Clinical Excellence team wanted to embrace innovation with human-centered design as its foundation.

Adam Connor, VP Organizational Design & Training, led a series of design training workshops for BJC team leaders that focused on the design thinking process and the practicalities of applying it to real world projects with consideration for collaboration and strategy.

Spread out over 4 days, the workshop first introduced participants to the foundational ideas behind design thinking and then proceeded into sequential “deep dives” into the stages of the design process. Groups participated in hands on activities that pushed them to explore and generate solutions for a problem space utilizing the techniques and tools they were learning in the process.

Day 1 focused on the first stage of design thinking: Understanding & Research. Participants were introduced to a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods including ethnography, interviews, collaging, and surveys, as well as how to select the most effective methods for a project. Hands on activities provided participant’s opportunities to gain experience in collecting information that helps direct design decisions.

Day 2 focused on the synthesis of research data for new insights and problem framing. In order to have research findings that are useful to generating ideas for a solution, Adam instructed attendees on how to synthesize research output in a way that is actionable. This session also presented the best practices to create and implement the tools that designers use to help tell an informed story about users and their existing experiences and challenges such as personas, empathy maps, and current-state experience maps.

Building on the content of days 1 and 2, day 3 looked to the future, pushing teams to establish a vision for future experiences within the problem space. If the challenges and opportunities identified through research and synthesis were addressed, what would patients’ experiences be like. Through narrative tools such as future-state experience maps and scenarios, in combination with setting business/patient goals and design principles, teams worked to describe ideal experiences. By setting up this vision, the teams learned how to provide themselves with foundational structures that would allow them to generate and focus on potential solutions.

Day 3 additionally explored the importance of collaboration and key tools and techniques for making collaboration as effective as possible. While many organizations recognize the need for collaboration, in order to be effective, and not devolve into posturing, territorialism or other detrimental behaviors, organizations need to have the ability to productively share, discuss and evaluate ideas. This portion of the workshop focused on examining the ways in which people work together and how to use important skills such as visual communication and critique to foster effective collaboration.

The final day of the workshop pushed participants to generate a wide variety of ideas based on the foundation they had built up over the first 3 days and then prototype and test their solutions. Participants learned best practices that allow them to generate large numbers of ideas and help to avoid becoming too focused or wedded to a single idea too soon. Through prototyping, teams uncovered insights that not only lead to iteration on their ideas but growth in their understanding of the problem space itself.

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BJC Healthcare
Scaling the Value of Design Thinking Across an Organization

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Adam Connor VP Organizational Design & Training   Contact Adam

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