5 x 5 - Workshop as a Design Tool for Change, Caitlin Silverstein

Interview with Caitlin Silverstein, Senior program Director at LUMA Institute

by Thomas Brandenburg

The biggest obstacle I see when working with design movement leaders is when they underestimate the number of factors it takes to build and sustain the movement. It’s relatively simple to think about incorporating a training program, and it’s also important to consider how the organization’s culture needs to evolve to accept Design Thinking as a way of working.

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

I help organizations build internal innovation teams by empowering and equipping individuals with a common language and toolkit. This toolkit consists of Human-Centered Design (or Design Thinking) methods that can be used by individuals, with internal teams, with customers and across large groups within the organization.

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

Getting and providing context serves the experience for both facilitators and participants. Prior to the workshop, I like to find out who the audience is and what their experience is with Design Thinking. I also like to consider how to set intentional expectations for what we are there to do together ahead of time and throughout the workshop. When planning the content of the workshop, I’m noting what elements are essential, what could we let go of, and I am open to a redesign on the fly if things aren’t going the way we had planned. Having a plan B (or C or D) in my back pocket has been a relief on many occasions.

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 obstacle I see when working with design movement leaders is when they underestimate the number of factors it takes to build and sustain the movement. It’s relatively simple to think about incorporating a training program, and it’s also important to consider how the organization’s culture needs to evolve to accept Design Thinking as a way of working. This evolution includes how the organization values work, takes risks, rewards their people, interacts with their customers, and will most likely impact the day-to-day spaces and materials being used.

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

Sometimes we have folks who feel they already know how to be innovative and are skeptical of a new, or a design-driven, approach to solving problems. They may feel they are already good at identifying what needs to be solved and solving it. They may be accustomed to coming forward with not only an idea, but a fully built out execution plan they’ve done all on their own. Human-Centered Design begins with taking a step back, using specific methods to ensure we uncover what the problem really is, and then working collaboratively with colleagues to put ideas into action, focusing on the people you’re solving for along the way. Sharing ideas early and often with colleagues and customers to gather feedback and evolve the idea is not always something that comes naturally to people. We encourage everyone to try Human-Centered Design methods, in some capacity, and we find that working this way quickly changes skeptics into believers.

5. What does success look like at the end of an engagement?

For LUMA, success is when our clients are sustaining a thriving design movement and our people (we call ourselves “LUMAtics”) are no longer need to be involved in the day-to-day workings of the movement. At this point, the organization will have adopted a common language that multiple groups within the organization are using to collaborate with one another, trained instructors are training their colleagues, and Design Thinking is being cultivated within various parts of the organization. We are proud when we power our client’s successes and get them innovating on their own.

To see Caitlin Silverstein or participate in her workshop register here for the SDN US National Conference

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