Design Thinking for Good Governance

Back in grad school, I wrote an National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal called Policy as Design. It was an extension of my work with the Research as Design team, intending to apply design thinking principles with policy makers to iteratively improve policymaking.

My rationale was that regardless of context, when we are dealing with people, in this case policymakers, it’s important to tap into their inner motivations, such as the need to feel competent, challenged, in control, and to make a difference by doing the right thing. Humans are driven by intrinsic motivators like these, and design thinking, when combined with behavioral sciences, can leverage this motivation into time-efficient and creative solution finding.

Needless to say, the response I received from the NSF indicated that my proposal was deemed too “out there” to gain any traction. However, as I look around, I see design thinking now being applied in government, academia, and the corporate world. It’s exciting to see change happening quickly. Let’s look at some notable examples of how design thinking is taking root:

The FUSE Corps partners with local governments to infuse leadership and governance processes with creative leadership that includes design thinking. FUSE fellows are paired with local government departments across the U.S. and apply their leadership skills to create innovative frameworks for solutions in many arenas, including equity, technology, and civic engagement.

In academia, design thinking is used to empower business leaders through executive education, and academics through projects like Research as Design at Stanford, and for a wide variety of other careers through the d.school. Beyond Stanford, the burgeoning design schools around the world is signal the importance of design thinking.

The Design Value Index (DVI), developed by Jeneanne Rae, founder of Motiv Strategies, serves as a catalyst that is helping companies understand and quantify the importance of design thinking. The DVI tracks selected company stocks, often showing a 200% increase in returns compared to the Standard & Poor’s 500.

I’ll leave you with Rae’s inspiring words, that affirm an integrated leadership approach that should include design thinking:

…the widespread use of design as a strategic capability is unlikely to go away anytime soon. In fact, there may be more non-traditional organizations – services, non-profit, management consulting firms, and governments – trying to build design capabilities today than ever before…

design thinking and co-creation isn’t a fad, but rather a new way for all problem solvers to put the user at the center of a problem to develop solutions from the outside in rather than the inside out. As a result, we see design not as a pure factor that makes our DVI companies’ stocks perform better on the stock market, but rather as a highly integrated and influential force that enables the organization to achieve outsized results. — Jeneanne Rae

How do you practice design thinking in your work? If you don’t yet, share with me how you and your team plan to start.

Design thinking is rapidly being accepted and applied beyond academia in governance and corporate settings. Photo Credit: Wiiliam Iven on Unsplash.

Design thinking is rapidly being accepted and applied beyond academia and product design, such as in various governance and corporate settings. Photo Credit: Wiiliam Iven on Unsplash.

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