In a recent board meeting at a GCC-based organization, I witnessed, yet again, what happens to good people when they fail to rally important stakeholders around their vision. The board’s multiple failed attempts led them to strategize about going around the “non-cooperative” stakeholders, sideline them, and even get other influential stakeholders to pressure them to change. Politics replaced communication.
As I sat back intrigued at how I exhibit similar behaviours in some areas of my personal (and professional) life, I asked myself, what can my team and I do to ensure a win-win outcome for both parties? What can we do here to leave the world a tad bit better?
I did not have to think too long. The phrase “Design Thinking” wouldn’t leave my mind.
It is incredible how if you sit down with a human being and advise them to keep communicating with their “difficult” counterpart, they will come up with tens of reasons why they should not. The moment, however, you tell them, “we can help you run a workshop that brings all the parties together to articulate the problem statements and work towards solutions that all can stand behind”, they feel much more at ease. They recognize that the structure of a design thinking workshop and a facilitator’s presence make the conversation much easier for them.
The power of a well-executed design thinking workshop lies in three essential elements:
- Interruption of participants communication patterns
- Installation of communication patterns conducive to understanding, partnership and collaboration
- The workshop’s public nature (falsehoods and politically driven statements are quickly recognized as such and weeded out automatically)
A design thinking workshop leader’s job is to interrupt people’s habitual patterns and invite them to consider other patterns of thinking, feeling and communicating. Interestingly, when we presented this new approach to our client, there was a figurative sigh of relief. They knew deep down they didn’t want to fight. They had chosen to do so only because they did not want to give up on their vision.While one can say “design thinking” saved the day, it is the participants’ willingness, openness and generosity in engaging in such a conversation that did it.
And what happened to me is I left the workshop asking, “Now, how might I bring that kind of discipline to that specific area of my life?”