Design Thinking: From Theory to Application (Part 2: Application)

Problem solving - HRDQ-U

60 minutes

You’ve probably heard about Design Thinking, whether you’ve read an article or watched an online video. But then what? How do you apply the principles and make an impact? How are companies actually applying Design Thinking or what business results come from it? Design Thinking is not just a trendy buzzword, but a proven and practical method to create human-centered solutions.

During part 2 of a 2-part webinar series, Keith Keating, Senior Director of Global Learning Strategies, walks you through a detailed Design Thinking case study for an initiative he led in 2018 for a Fortune 500 company. Keith will address activities in each of the 5 phases, sharing best practices and lessons learned that helped his team uncover the Voice of the Learner and readjust their Learner Experience Strategy based on the results of the initiative. Whether you are a new to Design Thinking or an experienced practitioner, this session will benefit you as he illustrates successes that can result as well as highlighting pitfalls and challenges. Understanding case studies will help you jump-start your transformative journey from being a Design Thinking theoretical learner to a Design Thinking practitioner.

Attendees will learn

  • Best practices for preparing and conducting successful empathy interviews.
  • Best practices for a successful ideation session.
  • 5 Visual Thinking tools used to support the case study.
  • 5 lessons learned from the case study.
  • Next steps to evolve as a Design Thinking practitioner.  


Who should attend

  • Leaders and managers
  • HR and learning and development personnel
  • Anyone looking to improve their Design Thinking abilities 




Keith Keating has a career spanning over 20 years in L&D and holds a master’s degree in Leadership. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in the Chief Learning Officer program at the University of Pennsylvania. Keith has experience in a myriad of areas ranging from performance improvement, instructional design, leadership coaching, operations management, and process transformation.

More recently Keith has been leading clients on the design and execution of their global learning strategies. Regardless of the role, everything Keith does centers around problem-solving. He studied design thinking at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and found design thinking was a perfect tool to add to his problem-solving “toolkit.” Since then, Keith has been utilizing design thinking to help clients tap into understanding and resolving unmet customer and future workforce needs. 

Connect with Keith on LinkedIn.


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Design Thinking: From Theory to Application (Part 2: Application)


Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Design Thinking From Theory to Application. This is part of a two-part series, hosted by HRDQ-U. You presented your first webinar, please be sure to check out the recording on each after today’s session.


My name is Sarah, and I will moderate today’s webinar. Webinar will last around one hour. If you have questions, just type them in the question area on your GoToWebinar control panel, and we’ll answer as many as we can during today’s session.


Today’s webinar is sponsored by HRDQ Online Assessment Center and consists of more than 40 online assessments that deliver to transform your workforce assessments or formative and powerful learning tools for employees at all organizational levels with the ability to complete assessments from any location, any device at any time


Our presenter today, is Keith Keating, career spanning over 20 years an L&D. Workforce Futurist, Design Thinking Practitioner, Learning and Development Thought Meter. Cube is currently pursuing his doctorate in the Chief Learning Officer program at the University of Pennsylvania. Thank you, Keith, for joining us today.


Absolutely, My pleasure. Thank you for the introduction. Can you hear me, OK?


Yes, you sound nice and clear.


Alright, perfect. So, let’s go ahead and get started. While I give you my introductory spiel, if you don’t mind answering this question for me on a scale of 1 to 5, what’s your experience with design thinking? one, this is the first time you’re hearing about it, and five, you’re an expert. You hope that I can teach you something new today. So go ahead and type that in. Sarah, that goes into the questions area, right?


Yes, that is correct.


Perfect, OK, go ahead and type that in for me. So, again, welcome today. As Tara said, this is part two of our Design thinking series. You didn’t catch part one. That’s OK. You’re not going to be left behind, but I do recommend, especially if you’re on a scale of one, or two, or even three, for design thinking, you go back and check that out. So, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, I have a ton of content to share with you today. The bad news is, we only have 60 minutes, now, about 58 minutes left, together. So, normally, I like to build in a lot of engagement and interactivity. Sessions can be a little bit lacking in that. So, I do apologize, but we’ll let you know upfront. However, I will make up with it, with my speed, and hopefully my movements that do keep you awake at being said, there will be some engagement interactivity as we go through. But just not as much as I normally like. So, Sarah, where are we, in terms of the responses? What looks to be about the average?


Last reason it looks like the next runner, as well.


OK, good to know. So everyone will learn something today. The intention of today is to share with you a detailed case study that I have led with General Motors on how Design thinking works. So I’ve been practicing and studying design thinking for about 4 or 5 years. Now. I’ve studied at MIT, Stanford, IDEO, and one of the biggest gaps that I see in the industry is no one’s really talking about how it actually works. It’s very easy to go out and find out the theory of it and kinda fluffy, nice examples that are out there. But I just haven’t seen the, the, the nuts and the bolts and the mechanics behind how it really works for each phase. What are some of the challenges that you have, and how do you overcome those challenges? And what does success look like from the end of these types of scenarios? So that’s what today is going to be focused on, but I’ll walk you through a detailed case study with General Motors and go through each one of those phases.


Now, the reason I asked about the rating scale was to figure out where I needed to start with today, and I do want to just take a few minutes and talk about the baseline of design thinking so that everyone has a fundamental understanding of what it is we’re talking about today. So, what is design thinking? It’s a set of principles for creative problem solving. It’s a methodology that asks us to take a step back from the problem that’s in front of us Before we jump to that conclusion Before we jump to solving that problem, to figure out what it is that we’re actually solving for, and the human behind that to understand them better. Design thinking helps us lead to Human Centered Services, products, and internal processes, and it helps unlock the needs and the problems of our users, even when they don’t know necessarily what they are, or they’re not able to articulate it. And that’s what we deal with a lot in the L&D industry and the HR industry.


We didn’t have business partners come to us with these solutions almost, and they want us to execute them. Design thinking gives us the framework to step back and to figure out what our learners actually need and helps us understand them. So if you take away, what does design thinking is focus on people?


So really quickly, there are five phases of design thinking. Empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And I’m gonna go through all these in much greater detail in a few moments with you can just setting the foundation for today. And two last points.


Design thinking is a non-linear process. So, when people look at the phase, they think, OK, I have to do this first, and this, and this. And this Lot of times, these phases are happening at the same time, or interchangeably, or in different orders. Foundation of design thinking is empathy. Empathy comes first, and it remains in the existence of our entire initiative. And we should really be taking empathy behind, just design thinking and doing it in everything that we do from now on the perspective or just the human perspective.


So, it’s a non-linear iterative process who can use design thinking, any book, sorry, fasten the slides here, who can use design thinking? Anyone? Everyone in any industry, any line of business.


Number of examples of Fortune 500 companies that are using it, Bank of America, Procter and Gamble, Nike’s, Samsung. Pepsi. It in their culture ingrained then General Motors. And that’s what we’re going to be focusing on today.


With General Motors, there are multiple business units and psi G And the one that I’m focusing on right now is the Center of Learning. So the Center of Learning, we deliver all of the training and development for dealerships across the globe. I’m going to focus today on just the US, which is where our focus was for this specific design thinking initiative. In the US, we have 150,000 retail employees across 4300 dealerships. So in the context of what is this project, what does this initiative about.


It was about Upskilling training and developing the dealership personnel, and I’ll drill down to that in more detail. So when I started with the General Motors team about four years ago, we started with two questions.


And my questions were, how are we doing as a team? And the answer was, we’re doing great.


Our Level one surveys say that we’re doing good feedback from the dealership says that they like our trainers were doing really good, OK. Good. That’s great.


Second question.


Could we be better, this is a question that all of us should always be asking. one of the best use cases for design thinking is continuous improvement. And we’ll hear about it formulated that way, often, usually at the product, design and development. For me, I like to use it from a continuous improvement standpoint. Could we be better? And I believe that our role in learning and development, and HR, talent development, is all about being trusted advisors. And to do that, we need to always be striving to be better, so even in this case, a GM, the answer was, well, loved ones, surveys are great, Feedback is great. We’re great. Perfect. Could we be better? And I find that clients, or business partners, or my team, will often frowned a little bit when you ask that question at first.


Because, the assumption is, well, you’re saying that we’re not doing something good.


No, that’s not worse than at all.


What we’re saying is let’s always strive to be even better, our learners of all technology, as well as business evolves, we need to evolve the learning and development industry and the way that we do that is by asking, could we be better. And so that’s the question we posed to the team. Not, just take a little bit of coaxing to get the team to accept that this isn’t a bad thing.


If we explore and do a bit of research to find out, could we better? Here’s the worst-case scenario.


You find out that you’re just validating what you already know, and then you are doing good, and that the learners don’t need anything else. The best-case scenario is that you find out that the learners do need something else, and you’re able to drive performance support and performance improvement that much better that much sooner, that much quicker. So, these are questions we should always be. So, that was the question we started with. Could we be better?


So, with our question in mind, and if you remember from design thinking, we don’t always know that there’s a problem, and this is a prime example. In fact, the data was telling us that there was no problem. And that’s why I love using design thinking from a continuous improvement standpoint.


So, we looked at, could we be better. And what’s the lens that we need to be focusing on? We need to be focusing on our learner Experience, So, could we improve our learner Experience?


Maybe. So, that was the beginning of the design thinking initiatives.


one thing that I don’t hear enough about in the industry is all the planning that needs to happen beforehand, So I’m going to take you through the nuts and the bolts of the planning associated with this.


The first is, you do not have to have an experienced team for Design Thinking. In this case. I had a team of 10 people, and it was myself that had experience plus one other, and the rest of the team did not have experience.


And that’s OK, because we start first with upskilling them, just giving them the foundations of design thinking. I’ll talk more about that in a minute so, we start, start, start first with planning.


For me, it begins with the five was a very easy concept.


We’re all familiar with who, what, where, when, and why?


The who.


So, who is it that we’re going to be focusing on? Who are the people that are involved in our initiatives? So we first start by identifying our design thinking team.


So, we did, as I said, we had 10 people to who had experience, eight, who did not have experience. Next, we need to identify who are the users? Who are the learners, who are our customers? In this case, it was dealership, personnel.


Then, we identify, well, we have lots of people, the dealerships, who are the roles that we want to focus on, we identified five key role that we wanted to focus on, so now we have our team. We have an understanding of the who of the people, at least from a role perspective. Now, we need to figure out, how do we narrow that down. To know who we’re gonna go talk to. So, this is where we turn to data. So what we decided was, we wanted to talk to people who had a breadth of diversity.


So, meaning that, we wanted people who use technology who use the LMS, which is where we kept majority of the training. We wanted a mix of new employees, veteran employees. We want to dealerships that had multiple brands. We wanted dealerships that were performing at a top-level dealerships that were performing at a bottom level, so you have to determine, what are the criteria of people that you’re looking to talk to? So, for us, we were able to use data to help uncover the dealerships that met our key criteria.


So, we literally ran exports from all of our technology system, all of our reports to narrow down who these people were once we identified the dealerships around the globe. Because you do want to keep in mind where people are located, and I’ll talk more about that in a minute. We actually started just reaching out to them. one of the biggest gaps that I see when people are conducting empathy research, whether it’s design thinking or not, is they forget to include leadership. And leadership is critical, because if you walk into a business or an office, and you’re talking to somebody may be interviewing them, and their manager walks by, wonders, what are you doing? And they walk in, and they ask you, and turns out that you’re interviewing and you’re conducting research with their employees, well, why didn’t I know, I want to be a part of it? I’m talking given to that data. We’ve gotta get their buy in first.


So, the first thing I did was contact the leadership area of those dealerships to make sure that they were OK with us coming in and talking to their employees, and this is really important that you set that, that initial communication up, right, because what I learned quickly was, because I was from corporate.


If I just set it up as I’m coming in, to interview your people, there was a wall they put up.


It’s all about how we act as a trusted advisor.


And so what I quickly learned was, not going, I’m going into necessarily interview their people and bring that information back to corporate headquarters to find out what the dealership is doing bad. The truth is, my only goal, our teams only goal was to help the performance of those dealerships. We want everybody to sell more vehicles. And so we tweaked the position a little bit and we talked to the leadership. We said, our goal is to help you sell more vehicles in order to do that. We want to talk to your employees, talk to your team, and figure out what can we do better to help them sell more vehicles? How can we be of service?


Once we positioned that way, the doors flung open, and people were glad to have come in, and they didn’t ask to be a part of the interviews. That the key points. I’ll come back to in a few minutes, so, we talk about the Who’s our team? Who are we wanting to go and conduct research with? Then, we have the What.


What do we want to learn? What do we want to uncover? What do we want to understand? And so, for this specific initiative, we wanted to understand what motivates our learners? Why do they want to learn, or do they want to learn? Are the tech savvy and what type of technology do they use? Because what I was team was, our team wanted to develop nothing but technology solutions. Well, that’s an assumption, and a bias from our perspective, that everyone likes Tech, left uncover, do things like tech, do they use tech, then what is currently getting in their way of learning? So, this is kind of the core concept of what it is that we want it to uncover.


Then, of course, you have the where, so where are the users pretty self-explanatory and that you just have to identify where they are. one key points.


You want to make sure that you’re getting a broad, diverse population, so you don’t want to just have empathy research in one location, because the way the east coast operates might be different in the west coast, and North, and the south, and the center. All of that do you have to take all that into consideration?


Then we have the whip, very easily when are we doing it?


So it’s a way for us to figure out, OK, when do we want to try and have that accomplished? When are we going out to conduct the research that we can work backwards from a timeline perspective? And then we have the why. Why are we even doing this? This? the question that I find a lot of people don’t ask enough, it’s important to be asking, because it helps frame up the position. Why were we doing this? We wanted to improve the learner experience. We wanted to understand our learners deeper. We wanted to identify champions. If you remember that when you’re conducting empathy research, you’re building a relationship with that individual, that’s a relationship that can stay, in my opinion, should stay past just that empathy research. And so for us, I wanted to develop champions in the region so that when we needed somebody to call on to figure out, hey, this learning initiative working, it’s not working. What do you think about this?


We know who we can go to, and then, of course, lastly, we’re doing this just for general, continuous improvement from our team, who, what, where, when, and why. So we’ve got all of that established at this point. Now, we’re comfortable. I would say that that initial planning stage took about a week.


What’s, what’s important to understand is we didn’t have a full-time team dedicated to this, because many of us don’t have that luxury. We’re doing our normal jobs, while trying to also do a design thinking initiative. So, the entire team had an actual full-time job on top in the top of this work. So, that’s why it’s just that planning, discussion, data analysis. What are we doing? Where are we going? Why took about a week?




So now we’ll move into the empathy phase. Empathy is where we learn about our audience, and so as a quick recap of empathy, it’s the capacity to understand or feel what another person may be experiencing. It helps you uncover the voice of the customer, and it helps you remove your own bias in the process.


Within design thinking, there are three ways that we tend to approach empathy.


If it’s a product, we tend to try it out and just experienced it like a user would like a customer would not, necessarily as easy in the L and D space, are often used. So, we tend to focus on the, second and third. So observing are looking for asking and engaging, having that dialog discussion with your learners. So, looking and observing that’s where you’re a fly on the wall. You’re just standing back, seeing what’s happening here at a grocery store. You’re watching how the customers move down the aisles for us at the dealership active. Observation was extremely important to see how the employees interacted with each other. For example, when I walk into the dealership, somebody there to greet me when the phone is ringing, if somebody’s answering it, did, I feel welcomed, was there a huddle between teams? Or is everybody very siloed and more competitive, and then of course, asking and engaging, this is a really critical one. I’m going to drill down to this in great detail in just a moment.


Empathy research is not about or not as simple as just coming up with questions and going and asking those questions.


You are committing to building that relationship and to listen to them. Our job during empathy research is just to listen and ask more questions, to get as much data as we can. So again, we focused on number two and number three in this aspect.


So I want to share with you best practices for preparing for the interview.


As I might have said, I can’t remember at this point, of empathy is the foundation of design thinking. It is also, the most important phase, in my opinion, and the phase that takes the most amount of research, and preparation for this is when you’re conducting empathy, research that says, not as simple as just asking questions. So here are the best practices that I recommend for preparing for the interviews. So, we have our team identified now, he’s got a group of 10. The first thing was, I wanted to know what questions everybody wanted to ask. So, we brainstorm questions individually. Then, we bring those questions together, and I look at all the questions in general. What I see immediately with those questions are leading questions. I see biased questions. I see validation questions, some of the biggest ones where the team wanted to go out and learn about the LMS.


Because they wanted to find out, you do like the LMS. That right, there is a biased question, because you’re assuming that someone uses it, and that they like it.


So these are all the things that we had looked at, was, do we have these types of questions? And we had to remove those questions, because we want open questions. You don’t want yes or no. You don’t want leading questions and you don’t want validation questions because we’re going just to understand from a learner’s perspective. So, now we’ve weeded out the questions that don’t work. Then we identify themes within our questions, because you want to have a logical flow. When you’re having that dialog, a discussion with them, you don’t want to be jumping all over the place, which can be confusing. So, then, we refined our questions.


Then, we created an interview protocol, because you want to make sure that, in our case, we had 10 people, who are going to be going out doing this research. We wanted to make sure that they all have the same story. They all have the same way that they’re opening the conversation, framing it up, asking the questions, and then closing it. So that way, there’s consistency between all of our interviews. There’s going to be some differences, Of course, with the answers, and maybe with the second and third level questions, that come up. But we wanted to make sure we had a general flow. So what we did was we created a guide post, like you’re seeing here.


And this was sort of a template that we used, now, What I recommend strong, best practice, the research, the empathy interviews. So we got our guideposts.


We literally printed it out at the time. We were, of course, all in offices. And so everyone randomly went out in the office and they conducted mock interviews with these questions with random people. It could have been colleagues, friends, family, whatever. And this is such a valuable component. It’s important to make sure that when you are conducting empathy research, that this is your own vocabulary, that you’re comfortable with the questions that you’re asking. It can be, just be very transparent. It can be very nerve wracking the first time that you’re doing this.


It feels almost like you’re performing. It feels like you’re having an interview, which is essentially what it is.


And your purpose, one of your purpose is to make sure that you’re making the other person comfortable. That’s a safe space for them to be sharing information with you. And so if you’re uncomfortable, your, you know, reading from your questions, and you’re treating it like a 2020 style interview, it’s going to keep the other person is. So you want to make sure that you’re comfortable with this. So go out and do mock interviews so that you’re comfortable with the questions.


All right, so in terms of our actual initiative, what we identified was, we wanted to go to five different regions so that we had a full breadth of the focus from the US. We had identified the five roles, and so we wanted to have 75 interviews. Overall, I’ll share with you, there was no science to how we pick the number 75. It was really based on more of the timeframe. one of the biggest questions, I get it, how many people do you know how to interview? Well, the answer is, the more that you interviewed, the richer your data is going to be, but we often have time constraints and financial and resource constraints, so we have to just set a timeframe. For me, I wanted to make sure that we spoke to at least three different dealerships in each of these regions. And, so, that gave us the opportunity to have 15 different perspectives across the US, in each of these roles, so, that was how we, we picked that number, not anything science driven.


So, what we did is we broke up into teams, and we had pairs of two, and so this is another best practice. So, of course, right now, we’re in a virtual environment, will come back to that in a moment. At this time, we were all face-to-face, and so when you have the opportunity to be face-to-face that, as a best practice, to conduct the research that way, so that you can see them in person, you can see their body language. You can make that connection. I also strongly recommend to, again, in person, have teams of two, and have it be a male and a female, or two females. There is some science that shows that having two males can be off putting to the other person. So we just, my best practice is always two females are a male and a female if we’re going out, conducting them in person.


So we broke up into pairs with two so that we could travel around the globe. We spent a week in each location, so really, we flew out on Monday. We interviewed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we flew back on Friday. So now we had one week of preparation.


And one would include the actual empathy research.


And so, the empathy research, when you’re conducting it, if it’s in person, again, that second person is there to take the notes for you. My best practice I like to follow is that one person is the lead discussion interviewer, and my focus is just to remain on mute. My goal is to listen to you and to ask more probing questions, unpacking question, to get more rich data. The second person is there to take all of the notes for me. Now, if you don’t have the luxury of a second person or your virtual, the next best thing is to ask to record this session, and, of course, you need to get their permission first. I sometimes will also ask for it and writing it. Just an e-mail is sufficient, just that I have something that says, it’s OK to record the session. I let them know that it will be deleted after it’s transcribed, and turn them into the data analysis, so that they’re not worried that their information is being shared someplace else. So it’s really important to build that trust with them. In this case, we weren’t record unit. We had note takers or scribes with us.


So it’s just an example. We had some that wrote by hand. We had others that wrote or typed on their keyboards.


one of the other tools that you use in design thinking is called a four box. And so for Box, you can have whatever data points you want in there. For us, we wanted to capture who am I key quotes, friction points and learning and what motivates them? And so after each interview, we went back, We listen, We write, wrote down and took that initial list of data and broke it down into these four boxes. The value of these four boxes is it starts to build your persona. So what we did then was we translated the four boxes into an actual learner persona, like you’re seeing here and we capture what they said did felt and thought. What I love about learner personas or personas in general is it’s an amalgamation of what represents that learner, so that these can actually live on end.


You can share them with your other team members to help establish a picture of your population, whether it be a learner or user, or customer, et cetera. This was about three years ago that we did this work. We’re still referring to these learner personas now. And, of course, updating them as we continue the research.


So, as I mentioned, that was a weeklong. We came back on Friday. Did our analysis from the four boxes tend to learner personas?


And then we move into the define phase where we define the problem statements, and then the Define phase. The goal is to define a meaningful or actionable problem statement based on your data, you unpack your empathy findings, you turn that into a meaningful problem statement, then you develop a point of view for the user.


And so, for us, this consisted of, of course, the four boxes with our data than our actual typed up data. So, we got back together on Monday, and we started just almost brain dumping. As you’re seeing here, we were in a room, and we captured what are the assumptions that we have based off of our initial data. What do we need to learn more about?


What are the themes that we’re hearing?


Based on the data. So, that was kind of, step one, after our learner persona, then, what we do is when the synthesized that down even further and start to code our data, and so, coding data is a whole nother seminar that we can have. But it’s an important, and often overlooked question, because people always ask, OK, I’ve got all of this data. I have all my typed information of my four boxes now, what do I do When you code the data? You use qualitative data coding. I just use words. And the short story as you go through, and you look, and you look for themes, you look for keywords that jump out, that, You’re seeing consistently, and as you’ll see on the right-hand side of the screen, I just use the comments section to highlight what that theme potentially could be, And then when you’re finished, you do a data synthesis, see how many times did we see this type of steam show up, and that helps you develop what your themes may be from the research itself. So we did the data coating that took about 2 or 3 days.


At the end of this, we were able to develop, are six key themes that emerged.


And so the themes were, first of all, we validated, Yes, everyone did love learning, but there was a big need. And the need was, the first one that we heard, we need soft skills training, or I like to refer to it, as power skills. We need the art of negotiation, the art selling. We need to understand how to turn ourselves into a business, we need to understand how to listen to customers, how to think about diversity and inclusion, how to negotiate with our customers.


And so it was a big resounding theme of you are teaching us to be product experts. Thank you.


Now we need help with soft skills, Our skills. The next one was they want it to be inspired. And motivated. They thought the training was kind of boring. It was mostly web-based training with them in person training. So understandably, as a learner myself, I want to be inspired motivated. So that was a resounding theme that came out.


They wanted the training to be personalized. What we uncovered was, I guess we should have known this, is new hires and veterans are taking the exact same trainings. Well, if you’ve been the dealership for 20, 30 years we’ve been in the industry, you don’t need the exact same train. The new hire might need. So, we want they wanted to make it more personalized to them.


They wanted flexibility to learn what they want or what they need, but with enough structure to know where they’re going. So, in other words, what was happening is, we would drop the courses on their LMS path, probably once a quarter, I think. And they would come in one day, and all of a sudden, they have 12 courses they have to take. Well, why, What’s the context? What’s the relevance? Give me some flexibility here with that, maybe space that had a little bit build it up. So they wanted that flexibility with structure to know where they were going and why they were taking it. They wanted hands-on and interactive learning, so they could be applying this as they’re learning it.


And lastly, learners recognize the need for learning. They said, we understand this is important. But we feel that time spent training is time away from selling. If we’re taking training, we can’t do our job. And we can’t sell vehicles, so we don’t find that valuable. Essentially what they were saying? So these are the six themes that we uncovered.


Now, this next part is really important.


When you’re identifying themes and design thinking, there might be, someday there, there may be something that you’ve uncovered that doesn’t need to continue in the design thinking initiatives.


For example, the first one, they told us, we need power skills training. We need negotiation, customer service, et cetera. Well, if I told you that your learner population needed soft skills, or power skills training, you would know what to do. You would say, OK, let’s go out and solve that problem.


There isn’t, you don’t need, you don’t need brainstorming ideation and testing to figure out what the solution is there. So, we took those soft skills needed, we just pulled it out, we created a separate work stream to start solving that an issue right away. So, I share that to say, when you uncover something, that you can solve right away, do that, you don’t need to continue, in your Design Thinking initiative for that. So then, as a team, we sat back, and we said, OK. Which one of these do we want to prioritize? Do we think that we can focus on first? And so what we identified was number five, and number six, we wanted to focus on hands-on interactive learning, and time spent training as time away from cell.


So at this point, we have our themes that we’re going to focus on, and now, we’re ready to turn those into more defined problem statements. Now, the reality is, we got lucky. Because those are very clear problem statement with, in my mind. A quick tool, I want to share with you in design thinking, we often use, how might we?


So I love the concept of, How might we use it, Both in and outside of design thinking. Just reframing problems into how we might question. And the reason is, it helps us create short questions that become the focus of the ideation phase. And so how might we, how suggest that we don’t necessarily know what the answer is?


Might emphasizes that our ideas, our solutions, might be a solution, but we’re not suggesting that this is the only way to solve this problem. And we mean that all of us, we’re collaborating together to try and solve this problem. I don’t own it. You don’t own it, but the collective we own this. So, if you’re looking for a way to reframe problem statements, I highly suggest turning them into, how might we questions?


So I’ll show you how this works.


So for us, we first identify the problem.


So the problem that we’re focusing on, again, was problem number five. That hands-on experience, and we turn the problem into, I need to learn from experience. so I can apply it as I learn.


Now, you can create as many, how might we questions as you want? So I wanted the team to identify to, how might we questions for each problem statement that we could focus on.


And so the first was, how might we give learners, experiential ways to learn on their own?


And the second was, how might we enable people to learn from others on the job?


And the value in this, give me just one moment, screen is freezing. There we go. To the intention of this, rather, is, I need to learn from experience, meaning that, how well, that’s the problem. Then the question is, for us as their L&D group, how might we give them experience or ways to learn on their own?


And the other question came out, because why are we assuming that we’re the only ones to create learning? We know that we have high performers.


All of our organizations have high performers, so let’s tap into those high performers. Let’s figure out how we might be able to help create experiences so they can learn from each other on the job. So that was our problem statement. And then our two, how might we questions?


And so the next one was, time training, is time away from selling.


And so we turned that into two problem statement, or two, how might we questions? And actually, I want to open this up for a little bit of interactivity, and I want to ask you to turn this into a how might we question.


So if the problem statement is time spent, training, is time away from sell it, so that means that if I’m taking training, I can’t be out there doing my job selling vehicles.


So what type of question could we turn this into? What type of, how might we question. Can we turn this into, that’s actionable, that we can begin to ID on?


So take a moment and think about that. And reframe it into the question section.


How might we, what?


You can type your response in the questions box, and we had our response time through as we provide on the job training experience.


To actual sales, how might we integrate training into the sales process?


For the user, how might we utilize time selling as learning opportunities?


Oh, that’s a really good one.


Yes, we have some great ones coming to. How might we provide on demand training for slow times? How might we incorporate into space time with customers?


Is there some responses for us?


Those are all excellent, and I feel like my job is done. So we’ll go ahead and end early.


So time spent tray of time where from selling absolutely all those, all of those were excellent and probably a little bit better. where we landed. So, we took these two ways, one, of course, yet, time training, Time away from selling. So we gotta figure out how to give them that, just in time. How to put training in that moment of need in the flow of work. How to take it off of the computer, in the back room and put it in that flow of work. We also identified something a little bit different.


How might we change the perception of what training means?


Because if they’re telling us that time spent training is time away from selling, the subtexts there also means that they don’t value the training. Because they don’t feel they don’t recognize that. Our job. Or our goal really is to create training. That helps them sell more vehicles. So if I do this, this will happen. And that was missing. So all of those answers were absolutely correct. With putting in the flow of work, and getting it mobile, and out of the office, of the computer, in their work with, the other one that we focused on, was, how might we change the perception of what trainings?


So now, we’ve got our, how might we questions?


We’re now ready to move on to the ideation phase. So here’s what happens next. So again, we’re all still in the same room. This is now. So week one with planning. Week two was the empathy research. We’re now on week three. All of that took about two days on week three. We were full-time that week. So now it’s about Wednesday, and we’re moving in the ideation phase. So step one was, I put the, how might the questions on all four walls in the room?


And as a quick recap, the ideation phase is not about coming up with the right idea. Ideation is about generating the broadest range of possibilities. You want to go big and as bold, as broad as you can, to come up with all these crazy ideas. And then sort of touching narrow them down. And so, for us, it was a four-step ideation process.


one thing I want to share with you, and this is the best practice, that I recommend, bring in outside people to your ideation phase, if it’s not a security issue, bring in people who are not part of your team, even your organization.


You want to bring in these outside fingers, because if we’re solving problems with the same people, we already work with the same people that already have the history and already know the problems. We’re probably going to get the same ideas we’re already at.


So in this case, we brought in actual customers. We brought in trainers, we brought in other people that worked at General Motors that are not part of this business. Because I don’t want them to have that historical context, I don’t want them to know all the reasons why this will fail.


All the reasons why, we know money is not available, Resources are available when we tried this before, and it didn’t work. I want to get past all of that. And so to do that, you’ve got to bring in those outside thinkers. And so when you’re setting up your ideation process, the word no does not exist during brainstorming. It’s yes, and we’re building on each other’s ideas, and it has to be a safe space to do that. So we brought in all these people. The team grew from 10 to now 18. So one of the other questions I get is, OK, so if you’re bringing an eight new people, well, they don’t have the experience, so how do they know what to do?


How do you know what to do in any brainstorming session? We set the guidelines. The guidelines are on each wall. You have a how might we question? I broke them up into teams and each team is responsible for ideating. On each once, we start individually, and then we work together as a group. And if you look at the, how might we question, you don’t need to know the context. If I said to you, how might we provide training? That doesn’t take our learner’s away from their work? You can brainstorm on that. Or how might we change the perception of what training means? You could brainstorm on that in the context of your organization. So we gave them very little historical context, focus on the questions. And then we started brainstorming. We do a four-step ideation process. We do idea share. We sketch a storyboard, we vote, and then we plot it on an impact and feasibility matrix. So, I’ll take you through each one of those steps. So, the first, of course, is we have, again, how am I really questions? and we just start brainstorming individually.


To avoid groupthink, groupthink is going to happen. That’s why I start first with individualized deals, so, everybody had to spend.


I think it was 20 minutes on each. coming up with their own ideas on the Post it Notes. Then we build on the Post it notes. So then we broke up into Teams, kind of came back as teams, and then each team focused on one.


So we spent a half a day focusing on one as a team. And so, what the team did was they pick the ideas that they like. There’s a lot of similar ideas, so we grouped them together, and we came up with themes. And then we started to build that out. We created storyboards and sketch it. Literally, what you’re seeing here are actual sketches. So I used white paper.


Don’t want to use whiteboards because you want to be able to move it around. So use White paper if your physical in the room. If you’re not physical, there’s a lot of online tools, you can use like a mural, it’s a great tool for virtual brainstorming, and so we started to sketch the ideas, and we wanted to, the goal, is, you have to create a story from your idea, and so we named our stories, and it’s gotta be a five-minute presentation back.


So that was about a half a day where we were we came up with those, and then each person presented back their idea. And so when we’re presenting back, or each team presented back, your idea, when we’re presenting back, we’re voting. And so what we’re doing is we’re voting on three categories: what is doable? Meaning, you can do this today, what’s a wildcard, meaning. We don’t even know if this is possible, but this would be really cool if we could. Then what is disruptive and disruption to me is not a negative. It’s actually a positive, and so we were looking at what disruptive to the business, maybe it just means, in terms of disruption, it’s going against your current business flow or your business process. We just needed to identify what we thought would be disrupted, whether it’s positive or negative, then we voted.


So what you’re seeing the little dots on the screen are those are actual votes when you’re voting or not voting on the entire idea. Because rarely will you have a full baked idea that you want to move forward with. In this case, we were voting on components of the idea. So maybe we like this specific portion, and we liked this idea. We wanted to explore it a little bit more. Maybe this specific thing was disruptive. So we voted on those. And what you’re seeing on the right-hand side is the summary, the tally up the votes. So the Y is a yellow, blue, G for green, obviously.


So we tallied up all of those votes, then we plotted on a prioritization matrix and we do this based on impact and feasibility.


What do we think from a level of low or high? What’s our impact going to be? Like? Can we actually make an impact in the business by this? And then feasibility, it could be technology related, could be financial resource. What’s the feasibility that we can actually implement this? Because we’re a lot of great ideas.


So then we break it up into four categories: big bets. That’s your high risk, but also high reward also tends to be lots of money and resources. And we have our low priority. These are the ideas that we like, but maybe we’ll come back to them a little bit later. And we have our quick hits. I love about quick cases, we can implement them, obviously, quickly, and our learner population can start to see change quicker than maybe normal projects might take. We identified a quick hit, and then our stars are stars, are like that risk, reward, sweet spot, like the perfect balance. We think this is going to be impactful.


We think we can do these financial resources. I think we think we’re pretty good here. So that’s what we decided to focus on, were our stars. So at this point, our ideation phase is complete. It took about, I’d say, two days, maybe 2.5 days.


So now, really, we’re at the end of three weeks. And just so you know, three weeks for me is a little bit longer than I’d like to take with my design thinking initiatives. But one of the challenges was we didn’t have full-time resources. So that’s something that you often have to balance. So our ideation phase is now complete. We have our three ideas.


Mobile Mollie, sell like we do, and video events. And now we’re ready to move into the prototype phase. So the prototype phase is OK, we’ve got these great ideas.


Now we need to actually build something out, so that our users can test them. So in the prototype phase, you build quick representations of your ideas. Now, quick education point. There are two types of prototypes: low fidelity and high fidelity. High fidelity we try to avoid in design thinking.


High fidelity takes time, Money, and resources. Design thinking. we want low fidelity, it should be quick, cheap, and if it’s not cheap, it should be free. We all have vendors, so vendors are fantastic for helping us with quick prototypes to be able to use for small groups, because it’s a win for them, if it actually becomes successful.


So now I’m gonna walk you through each one of our prototypes, the first cell, like we do. So this was the idea in terms of the How might we question. Of, how might we give learners experiential ways to learn on their own? So this was a social component? We know that We’ve got a lot of high performers out there. How do we create an environment so that they can learn from each other?


As learning development professionals, I believe that our job is more important to be curators and creators, and so in this case, we’re curating relationships. We’re curating that networking, that social component. So there can be social learning. And so I asked you, what is the most easiest and obvious social component social networking component that exist?


You probably say Facebook. So that was exactly what we did. We created a private Facebook page.


Now, your next question is, well, how could you possibly do that at a global organization like General Motors?


What I would say is, with prototypes, sometimes you create new tests it before you ask questions. And so in this case, it was a small group. We didn’t go through legal; we just created a private. Private Facebook page that you had to be invited to add to be included, rather, we had a moderator watching to see what would happen, and we didn’t have any proprietary content on there.


So, Social Idea, Quick social solution. It’s free. We set it up in 24 hours.


The next idea we had with mobile Molly, and this was, how might we provide learning that doesn’t take them away from their job? So what we were thinking about was, OK, we’ve got sales consultants there on the floor. Everybody has a mobile device in their hands so mobiles, obviously a great option for delivering content. How can we deliver content to them in an engaging way, where they can opt in, when they want to get the content, versus us pushing it to them? It can be that push versus pull idea. And so, we wanted to create mobile Molly, and this was an idea where we could serve content through a chatbot. And, so, we reached out to our vendor, in this case. We used Mobile Coach, there’s a number of providers out there. Mobile coaches happen to be who we used.


I’m agnostic when it comes to tools. And so, we spoke to our partner and said, we’d like to see if chatbots are an option for our network. And so, could you help create one for us for a small prototype group?


Absolutely. So, we created one, we had it ready in about 48 hours or, so. It didn’t cost us anything.


And so, we had our chatbot.


Then, the third idea, so that was, felt like we do mobile Molly. And then the third one is video. And this was how might we enable people to learn from others on the job, again, that kind of that social component. And we know that everyone values are product trainers, or product trainers, and a high demand. They’re also the most expensive asset and resource that we have, and we have a finite number of them, so they cannot be everywhere with everyone. So the idea was, well, what can we create an environment where we can still give that virtual feedback, and coaching. Is there some type of tool that exists beyond just face timing or zoom, or something like that? And the answer was, yes, there is.


Again, I’m a platform agnostic. This has happened to be the tool that we used. It’s called Practice. And we were able to talk with practice.


We did research, found them, talk with them. They were able to set up a prototype for us in a matter of days. Once we gave them the campaign, they don’t do the work for you, is give you the platform. And so we set up a prototype of what would it be like if we had a virtual, Master facilitator, product trainer work with use this as a tool to help with power skills In terms of customer service type skills, So we were able to set it up in 2 or 3 days.


So at this point, we moved from ideation and the third week to the next week, prototyping we had our prototypes up and ready, and about three days, and it cost of zero dollars.


Are we always that lucky? Absolutely not, but in this case, who just happened to work out, that way, that we could leverage partnerships to set up, to help us with the prototyping?


So now we have our prototypes ready. So now, it’s time to actually go out and test these prototypes.


So, of course, we move into the Test phase. So in the test phase, we’re prototyping as if we know that we’re right.


You’re testing, as if you’re wrong and trying to prove that you’re not correct. In the testing phase, here’s what’s important. You want to create authentic experiences to allow them to test out whatever your prototype is.


You’re going to refine, of course, based on that.


You’re going to understand your learner’s even better, so of course, we started with our prototypes, sell like we do, this, of course, turn into Facebook.


We had fantastic success with it. Not initially. So initially you will see, we had only about 500 people who signed up over about the next, I think, 8 or 9 months. We were able to grow that to around 2100 people at this point. I think we have 2500 people. It’s been so successful that people have reported being able to sell vehicles, like they have actually sold vehicles based on the knowledge that they learned from each other in this environment. We’ve only had to kick three people out in 2.5 years for being negative on there. We haven’t had any issues of poaching.


It’s been a really surprising success because we thought like legal, and most people do that. There’s no its gonna work. You know, it’s going to give people a place to bash each other and things like that. We haven’t had that. Because everybody is working to the same goal to somewhere vehicle, it’s been really helpful, especially for the new hires. We often get a lot of people who join, and they’ll say, hey, I’ve been here 30 days and I haven’t sold a vehicle. Can somebody give me tips and tricks? What I need to do, and it’s really beautiful to watch the social component, and everyone trying to help each other out. Even though they’re not in the same dealership, but we’re all working for the same greater good, that’s really to make money and survive.


So, the Facebook group has been very successful. It’s now moved into a BU business as usual, activity. All of the brands now have their own Facebook, Facebook group, and it continues to be a success from this initiative. Next was mobile Molly, again. How might we provide training? That doesn’t take them away from their job. We turn this into a chatbot. So, what we did here, is, we set up two tracks for engagement.


So, we had a test population of about, I think, 100 people, and we set up two different tracks, track A, we sent them chatbot texts every single day for two weeks.


So, more techs, shorter engagement. Track B was longer engagement, so four weeks, where we actually spaced out the text.


So, the goal was to figure out, first of all, what’s the level of engagement how many texts are too much from the chatbot, but, when people drop off, how many people actually learn from this? So the other was, we had a a pre and a post knowledge assessment to figure out what did they actually learn? Does chatbot work as a learning sustainment option?


So what we uncovered was about 74 participants, 74% stayed for about 75% of the tenure. So what we saw was about nine chat for that. Engagement was enough, and then people started to drop off. They thought it was no longer valuable. That helped us understand that nine really is that magic number of the maximum number of chats we want to be deliberate.


What we also uncovered was a brilliant Net Promoter Score from the overall experience. So Net Promoter Score of 50 is great. We had a Net Promoter Score of 69.


What was important that we uncovered though was the shorter track. We were messaging them on their days off, which is a huge Nona, which should have been obvious, we should not have been messaging on Sundays when dealerships are closed.


That was the big lesson learned for us. They did not like obviously having a message them on the weekends, so good Net Promoter score.


Don’t message me on the weekend.


Couple of overall observations from this, getting the initial engagement people to participate in the chat bot activity was not easy. So having our sales consultants, be champions of this really made it much more valuable.


And when people did engage, those who used it, liked it, Trainers really influenced the participation rate. They like track a shorter, but just don’t text me on my days off, Understandable. And then the knowledge sustainment. We were able to prove that there is knowledge sustainment from chatbots through the pre and the post assessment that we were given.


one best practice for using chatbots, once we finish this, everybody was so excited that they all wanted to chat bot initiatives. And so, we had to put in a really strict, rigorous process that it had to go through an approval chain before you could turn on chatbots. Otherwise, the different groups are using it, people’s phones are blowing up, they don’t remember which chat, this is, or which chatbot this is, and what am I answering?


And then, we’re really more of deterrent from learning, then we are being an influencer.


So, just make sure you have a good process in place for when to use chatbots for us, the best practices. We use it on a campaign basis. When there’s a specific purpose, like, there’s something new that people need to learn. Maybe, it’s a new safety approach. Maybe it’s a new vehicle being launched. Maybe you want to focus on a campaign on just diversity and inclusion, and so, you can do a chatbot just around that, but it should really be campaign based. And the last one is video events. So, how might we enable people to learn from others on the job Now? My team is the one that came up with this. I love virtual feedback and coaching.


Again, this is pre, of course, we’re all doing spiritual feedback and coaching now, but I still believe that in an environment where we are face-to-face, virtual feedback, and coaching is still a phenomenal tool. I add this in to share with you this failed miserably.


This prototype failed.


The other two are successful. It’s important to talk about the failures.


It’s not that the idea failed.


It’s that the technology failed, in the sense of everybody at GM, at least from a dealership perspective, those are all their own mobile devices. They pay for them.


They want to control them. They do not want us to dictate what they have to, or not have to download and install.


Then there wasn’t single sign on at that time. And so it meant that they had to download this app, set up the account, and then go through it. And we had zero participation in this prototype test.


No one would download the app to everyone loved it. I called them personally, and I would coach them through, and I would say, OK, we’ve got 50 people on the line. Give me feedback. And it was like, Yeah, this is great. This is great.


And then the next step was to download it. Nobody would do it.


Gets out that technology failed.


That it’s not part of the culture.


The culture in this organization is my device. I get to choose what I do with it. So it’s important to recognize the culture that you are operating in, so that your solution fit that culture.


Not trying to change that culture was not our place to try and change that, because we wouldn’t have been successful. The other value of prototyping.


Again, this is my team’s idea. I was actually trying to pitch this before as let’s create an app. So to create an app could have been six months, $50,000, tons of resources. That would have been really bad if we had spent that money creating this app to then find out it doesn’t work. That’s why prototyping is so important. Because we found out this isn’t the culture, doesn’t work, cost of zero dollars.


So at this point, our Design Thinking Initiative really was complete. This is part of a three-year learning journey for us. It started in 20 18 with getting the voice of the customer in the learner. And then we’ve been working on it for the last three years. We’ve seen our overall business partner survey results increase. We continue to leverage, back the data, the data. In fact, I was going to call it today, still, leveraging that data.


However, my response to Teams today was, that was three years ago. We need to look forward, and we need to continue conducting empathy research, so that we’re constantly staying connected to our learners. So the best practices, really, when you have the opportunity to do this type of research and initiative, every six months, or once a year, just to stay connected with the learners. Some key lessons learned for us, I know we’re almost out of time here, take notes on the experience of the interview, is not just the interviews themselves. For me, it was really important walking into the dealership. I learned a lot just from what I experienced and saw first. And customer empathy interviews take significant planning. That is the hardest phase to plan for.


Dedicated resources, it’s helpful. We always don’t have that opportunity. Create a place to continue fostering design thinking. Talk about this within your organization. Look for ideas. Look for opportunities to bring this forward. Avoid yes slash no questions during empathy research, and if you have to use those, make sure you have a decision tree if they say yes, my next question.


Be conscious of bias and negative voice when you’re having those discussions, the empathy research, design thinking initiatives are intended to be quick, maybe 3 to 4 weeks at the max, and the last one, which is hidden by my screen, and I can’t see what’s the last one, CERA.


I think, design thinking is not a solution for every problem. one of the biggest challenges I see, as soon as people learn about, and they start saying, oh, we’re design thinking everything. You know, should you be used when you’re not sure of what the problem is, when you’re trying to learn more about your audience, or your learner’s, but just don’t jump to design thinking for everything.


All right. With that, started with two questions, how are we doing, and could we be better to questions. We should all be asking from a design thinking perspective, running into a top of the hour.


So there is a handout in your, what would you call that in your portal.


Yeah, handout section on your go to Webinar console, check out the, those handouts, that handout, rather. It’s all of my resources. It’s two pages, first resource. Page is about individual learning, best practices, stories around design thinking, the second page or resources to help you with developing, design thinking sessions for your teams to quick QR Codes for you. I have a podcast, the Head of Tomorrow, where I talk about these types of topics. The future of work, design, thinking, and check that out. Also add me on LinkedIn. Very active on LinkedIn, especially when it comes to design thinking. I’d love to hear more about how you’re using it. Maybe some of the challenges or successes that you’ve had. So, definitely add me on there. And let’s keep this conversation going.


Sarah, I think we have about one minute left. We want to open it up for questions.


Question that came? From Wasn’t chatbots. Something to download on there. So, why wasn’t that? Great!


Great question. So, no chatbot is nothing to download chatbot: works for your SMS, so, it works through messaging.


So, all they had to do was to text a chatbot code that we had set up in this case, mobile Mali. And so, you just, it’s a long story short, It’s 100% texting. There’s nothing to download all through SMS.


That was the difference.


Great. Thank you so much for this wonderful session today key. That is all the time that we have today. Thank you again for joining us.


Absolutely, thank you, Sarah, and thank you everyone for joining.


Yes, and thank you all for participating in today’s webinar, happy training, everyone.


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