Organisational Change through Design

Boon Yew Chew
7 min readAug 14, 2019

What I learnt at the final week of CIID Summer School 2019

Last week, I attended the “Change Management through Design” summer school course at CIID. The course was facilitated by Mary Wharmby and Grace Ascuasiati of Design Transformation, and formerly from Spring Studio and BBVA, where they led the design transformation change across the BBVA organisation.

Photo banner for CIID Summer School in Copenhagen in partnership with UN’s sustainable development goals — 8 July to 9 August
Hello, CIID

It was exhausting, but I got a lot of out of it. It renewed my optimism for design thinking approaches as a counterpoint to traditional top-down, management-driven initiatives, by balancing it with human-centricity, creativity and experimentation, iteration and learning.

The main takeaways for me was about maintaining focus on people, having the right attitude, making incremental impact and trusting the process. I’ve tried to document my reflections from the course here.

Design Thinking in Org Change

Design thinking has been around for awhile, and designers are no strangers to its methods and applications. This course re-emphasizes its process in non-designer hands — a phenomenon that’s been taking place across enterprises like IBM (pdf), Salesforce, and Kaiser Permenente. It transitions the designer’s role from craftsperson and facilitator to teacher and coach.

Each enterprise design thinking / org change case study has its own unique set of stories — which, in and of itself, is interesting — and it’s often hard to see past the hype to question whether it really does put people at the heart of the process (e.g. design thinking is, in many ways, a sales process). We also discussed the expansion of the problem space that designers traditionally operate in, shifting away from areas like products and services to areas like HR, accounting, and legal.

I learned about Jeanne Lietdka’s work, an extensive piece of research about the impact of design thinking within orgs. There’s an iceberg model she uses to communicate four different types of changes, which really resonates with me. It reveals the complexities of change and how design does really well in tackling the root issues below the surface of the iceberg, by focusing on people and designing solutions that address their needs and contexts. (Her webinar and reports also evidences the case…

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Boon Yew Chew

Principal UX designer at Elsevier. IxDA local leader and board alumni. Strategy. Systems. Visual thinking. Design. Has a brain in his stomach.