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Part 2: So you want to build a team of designers to drive innovation?

Understand the design mindset

In Part 1, I discussed the existing mindset of your organisation and how this understanding is important to situate the value of the design mindset. This blog talks about the design mindset that we have grown and nurtured ourselves and in many public organisations. The main point to take away is that this is about achieving collective design mindset, not just a select few.

What do I mean by the design mindset? 

In my research, the qualities of the design mindset are based on asking a series of questions:

a. Find out what motivates people? A design mindset, in the public sector, is driven by motivators such as to:

  • make a difference
  • realise public value
  • address a real issue for people
  • do public good
  • make better use of taxpayers' money
  • contribute to something larger than the organisation, an outcome a big result
  • change today to be better for people and society

b. What are some characteristics of people with a design mindset? There is a combination of qualities, we look for at ThinkPlace when we hire people such as:

  1. Learner - open to new ideas, intent to learn from others, willing to see things in a new way, not reliant on past knowledge
  2. Inquisitive - constantly interested in understanding why and how can we? Prepared to work in areas that they are unfamiliar and their inquisitiveness gives them confidence.
  3. Optimistic - able to see the upside when things get tough, willing to ask the question ‘how can we..?’ to achieve what is needed, despite hurdles and constraints.
  4. Comfortable with ambiguity - uncertainty and unclear directions are embraced and used a fuel to act. The notion of not knowing is part of the confidence that comes with the design mindset.
  5. Nobleness and humility - this is a balance of knowing they have the skills and talents to do good and a quietness that respects and moderates the ego to ensure they are open to listening to the world views of others and countenance their own
  6. Maker - the propensity to materialise and turn ideas into concepts and communicate through action.

What is it in practice?

The design mindset in practice is not in one person. It is a group of people that come together driven by the same motivators and collectively give effect to the range of design mindset characteristics. The idea of the design mindset as collective practice is key to successfully turning on a design and innovation capability. There are degrees of enacting the design mindset - find people whose everyday role is to do design, then create environments where people from the organisation and outside the organisation can participate in design. To help with the latter, we have made a tool at ThinkPlace to define the type of design profiles. The tool is called Design ProfileTM This tool is a first in its class to appreciate there is no one right way to be a designer, and all design styles have their strengths. Everyone has a natural style of how they relate, think and work.  It’s diversity that makes a strong design team. You can take the test today.

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Nina Terrey

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