5 x 5 - Workshop: A Tool For Change, Twisha Shah-Brandenburg

Interview with Twisha Shah-Brandenburg, Manager of Design Planning & Research at RTC

by Thomas Brandenburg

Even cross functional and successful workshops often loses momentum because they are one off efforts and don’t become part of the process in how an organization solves problems.

1. What is the simplest way that you can describe what you do to an audience that isn’t familiar with it?

I work with people (usually in organizations) to help them adopt a mindset that is focused around solving problems that are steeped in understanding the context within their larger ecosystem.

2. What are some key lessons you have learned facilitating and planning design thinking workshops since you started?

Just because you make it mandatory that people put their computers away doesn’t necessarily equate to everyone participating and being present.

Workshop activities require team work, this only works well when people truly collaborate. However, not everyone feels comfortable participating and voicing their opinion or knows how to contribute in meaningful ways.

As a design planner and facilitator I always make sure that I have at least one individual activity at the very beginning. This helps the shy / new / subordinate or introverted members get comfortable with the idea of contributing and having their opinion matter. It also gives them time to reflect and get warmed up to the idea of working in a group setting.

3. What are the biggest obstacles a leader may face then trying to establish or advance a design movement within their own organization? What might be some approaches to overcome them?

The biggest obstacles that organizations face while changing to a design thinking approach is the lack of endurance in strong advocate(s). It’s easy for groups leading the design thinking effort to do a couple workshops on unicorn projects and check it off their list but in reality what an organization needs is slow but steady change in mindset.

Even cross functional and successful workshops often loses momentum because they are one off efforts and don’t become part of the process in how an organization solves problems.

People within organizations usually have efficiency based models for how they measure employee productivity and therefore changing outputs or affecting deliverables can be daunting.

In wanting to get a behemoth organization to move slowly towards a more design thinking approach I have found that if you can apply design thinking methods to  regularly scheduled activities and can continue to demonstrate results first hand at all levels then slowly but surely you can gain traction.

The thing to keep in mind if you want any long term change is that it isn’t about buzzwords but it’s about demonstrating small successes and being persistent. Once you can change organizational habits in how people approach problem solving you can change an organization.

4. What habit or pattern of behaviors may be important to unlearn for participants as they go through your workshops?

Building on the analogy I used earlier the best habits are when you adopt them and make them your own and add them to your routine so that it becomes effortless.

Think about something as simple as brushing your teeth. It’s what you do in the morning before you leave the house and among the last things you do before you go to bed. Nobody stops every day to calculate the long term benefits of how it impacts your overall health. If you did it would take too long and you would probably ditch it for something quicker causing an overall adverse impact to your health.

Adopting a design thinking approach to problem solving is similar in its effects on the long term health of an organization. It can’t always be measured by short term engagements.

Participants, especially high level executives who all are eager to adopt design thinking into their organizations need to know that there are no shortcut walking in. Just because you have done something once or allowed your employees to participate in training doesn’t mean that your organization changes overnight. Just like brushing you have to continue using it every day.

5. What does success look like?

Success is when people around an organization start using design thinking tools without any facilitation or expert present. It is no longer a thing to be adopted but becomes part of a routine.

Check out other 5 x 5s at the SDN US National Conference Blog