Design-thinking is a methodology and school of thought that we've been admirers and practitioners of for decades.
A newer synthesis of old ideas, design thinking has really been advanced by a design firm called IDEO and Stanford's d.school. They've used design thinking to pioneer new products and services for companies like Apple but also to support nonprofits and community organizations in serving people more effectively. (For a fun interview showing some of the history and foundations of the work, check out this 60 Minutes interview with the IDEO folks.)
But it doesn't stop with IDEO, or in Silicon Valley. In fact, doctors like Bon Ku at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia are using design thinking to, as he says, "reimagine" how everything from medical education to the way the ER works.
As is laid out in the New York Times, design thinking generally has five steps, with the first two being the most fundamental:
- Empathy. This is the most important step and involves a wide-open learning about the deeper issues, from all of the people involved.
- Defining the problem or challenge. Sometimes, especially once you've had some opportunities to hear more from the people involved, the "problem" is different from what you thought it was.
- Ideate. Brainstorm, study analogs, bring in people with different perspectives to create ideas and generate solutions.
- Prototype. This final step is about creating a small, usually inexpensive version of your solution that you can test out with the original people you were learning from in Step 1.
The strategy is very much about observing what people already do, think, and value -- and creating interventions, products, or services to fit within that, rather than imposing a preexisting concept, expecting people to conform. You don't start with a technology that you're set on using and expect people to change their workflow. You don't buy expensive hardware and then make everyone on your team learn to use it. You start with empathy for the people you're serving -- and build your solution from there.
One example of how we've found this kind of thinking helpful is actually in the origins of our telemedicine program. We didn't start with a technology that we were fanatics of. We didn't start with a business with wanted to make money on. We started with empathy for the less-resourced parents in our local schools -- who were constantly having to take off work to bring their child to the pediatrician. We began to define the challenge as: how might we help nurse practitioners collaborate with local pediatricians and give parents and kids access to the care they need within the school?
We started to understand that by working within our colleagues' workflow and by using existing technology (at that time, bulky digital cameras and desktop computers) -- we could create a system that would truly solve this problem. iClickCare has evolved, of course -- it is now an intuitive, super-simple app that you can use from any smartphone. It has met the needs of providers across the continuum of care, across the country, and across organizational types.
But one thing has stayed the same -- we start with empathy for the people we serve and we build solutions from there.
To learn more about how telemedicine can fit into your organization's workflow, get a glimpse in our free ebook:
Photo used under Creative Commons rights from WOCinTechChat on Flickr.