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Everything you need to know about design thinking


Less than a year from today, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam reinforced her 2017 policy address on cultivating Hong Kong’s design thinking capability and capacity across all sectors. Following in her footsteps, the Hong Kong Design Centre has launched a series of government-sponsored events from this month to March 2019.

Developed in the 1950s, design thinking is an action-oriented and human-centric problem-solving framework. It helps organisations such as IBM, Adobe and Parsons School of Design to lower risks and costs, get employee buy-in, drive growth and gain market share.

Stephen Wong, founder of Design Thinking in Action – Asia and former chief executive officer of Asia Miles, is a pioneer in the field of design thinking. He has shared his previous experience in adapting design thinking into business, along with tips for HR professionals below:

Asia Miles’ days: Design thinking in practice

A hip office, including entertainment such as table tennis tables and foosball tables are often hyped across the media. After observing his employees’ daily mood and asking them about their ideal workplace, Wong realised a hip office was not needed at all, as their office was in Tung Chung and employees often needed to catch the shuttle bus to the city centre after work. There was no need to kill time.

As an HR professional, how to implement design thinking into the workplace

A theoretical approach such as workshops is fundamental for employees to grasp the basic concept and the seven steps.

However, the key to success is to provide grounds for them to practise the mindset. HR managers can team up with employees and give them an easy quest before the workshop, even as trivial as water consumption in the office.

An additional touch is to assign a person as a coach after the workshop.

Three attributes of a design thinking person

1. Open-minded

Changing a fixed mindset can elicit uncomfortable feelings. Open-mindedness is the willingness to respect new ideas and an act of modesty.

2. Curious

Curiosity aligns with one’s empathy level which is essential in practising design thinking. Instead of looking for someone who only nods when given a task, pay attention to those who ask “Why?”

3. Selfless

An employee with a heart of gold and a mission to serve others is beneficial in the long-term.

Seven steps in succeeding with design thinking

Step 1: Empathise

Position yourself in the users’ shoes and observe their daily behaviour. Conduct interviews with users.

Step 2: Define

Create questions on the motives and values behind people’s behaviour after gathering observations and feedback from step one. Identify the stakeholders, create archetypes, map out the experience and then define the direction for possible solutions.

Step 3: Ideate

Generate as many ideas as you can, and then vote on the most interesting.

Step 4: Prototype

Realise the voted idea through storyboarding, paper prototyping, modelling and role play.

Step 5: Test

Examine the ideas with stakeholders through storytelling and concept posters.

Step 6: Evaluate

Step 7: Implement

In the 2017 Hong Kong policy address, Lam announced that design thinking should become a problem-solving capability and a new way of thinking that promotes value-adding and advocates interdisciplinary collaboration.

Founded in 2001, Hong Kong Design Centre is a non-governmental organisation and a strategic partner of the HKSAR Government in establishing Hong Kong as a centre of design. Its mission is to drive value creation of business development and improve the wellbeing of society in using design and innovation.

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