Q: I see a growing interest of HR departments in design thinking. Do you think there is value in design thinking as a tool/ method/ mindset for developing a set of incentives & KPI's to drive behavioural change?

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Hello Arne,

I see the same interest on my side. I led a service design project in healthcare and the sponsor was the HR manager. Make employees participate to improve the services is a great empowerment!


Hi Carl,

Thanks for adding to this discussion!

I agree, Employees are always part of the value co-creation, but making this explicit and involving them in the service design is the only way to go. However, thinking short-term,  this is not the easiest way to go. There are many obstacles.

One of the biggest problems to change behaviour are the incentives (e.g. KPI's, bonuses) which are geared towards linear, short term and risk-averse behaviour.

To make change in behaviour sustainable these incentives have to change to support and nurture a new culture within organizations.

I think HR has a big role to play. What do you think?

Did you talk about this wit HR in your project?

Arne, reading this feels like I am hearing an echo...

I am constantly having to deal with two levels of discourse whether in training courses or facilitating design-led innovation sessions.

1. How can design thinking help me design a better product-service  or experience?

The answer to this has always been by connecting to customers, doing research and uncovering these latent needs. So by bringing a diverse team to the table and adopting  design principles and connecting to those needs we can design better systems that produce desirable outcomes for PEOPLE. I have realised recently that customers sometimes aren't viewed by companies as people....

It is when companies line managers staff realize this that they start to understand that there is a need to improve the levels of trust and autonomy within the organisation. But they still have to deliver, right, on products and services that have already been set-up and put to market.

2. Adapting for the future (when the future is already here)

So the challenge for HR is to help build a model that helps line manaagers continue to support their staff on delivery of current products and services (if they are in house) and prepare teams for new product-service-experience combinations that are coming.

It is a fine line and I think that HR should be prepared to lend a helping hand to line managers to help them with balancing job descriptions, competencies, KPI's and targets to meet a changing market.

Adapting for the new while servicing the old. Microsoft stopped supporting XP eventually, but had to support it for quite some time even with new products on the market.

Sony failed to build an equivalent of the IPOD and lost massive market share.

These are real challenges and case studies that could help HR support business units on how to keep servicing current product-service combinations while building and then launching the next wave and not becoming schizophrenic and/or too big and costly to meet market and profitability targets. "Preparing to be agile - and becoming agile" should be one of the mantras that comes out HR.

I am seeing it as a challenge for companies with small innovation units.That is:

How to keep external staff  to the innovation team involved who still have "KPIs" and who have to deliver in the innovation process when there is pressure to deliver on current products?

Eventually these innovation and agile capabilities could be built into line teams, but a very careful structure needs to be considered while organizations try to change the culture and capabilities...and deliver value at the same time.



Hello Arne,

hopefully it is never late to join a thought-provoking question about Design Thinking. 

By sharing my practical experience at Croydon Council in London, I will underpin the disruptive importance of Design Thinking as transformative change in HR.

Recently I conducted an action research for 6 months working alongside the Organizational Development team at Croydon Council during their Leadership Development Program. My role as change management advisor was unfolding through observation, ethnography and applying human-centred design approach.

Later I adopted qualitative interviews with their leaders  to equip the HR department with fresh insights, given the current voiceless tools such as 360,MBTI and Appraisal System. As result of the interviews a workshop was designed for the interviewees to participate in a different approach to engagement. The workshop’s objective was to test the qualitative research findings. It was also planned to challenge the participants through exercises that could generate a behavioural change.  

My perception of the HR - considering this specific scenario - is to reshuffle the making decision process, as a consequence of the clear need of new tools for three centerpieces in their activity: lack of understanding, fear of failure, co-creation. I believe Design Thinking can be a precious sliding door of opportunities to facilitate any organisational cultural change. 

Being aware of other multiple aspects linked up with this topic I felt to share with you my experience, belief and passion about this direction. I would be  happy to hear your views.

I recently launched my new blog about Design Thinking and Social Entrepreneurship. Here it is: www.changetheriver.org

Thank you





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