Bringing together people of diverse backgrounds is one of the key ways to kickstart ingenuity and get the creative juices flowing. Just ask anyone who’s dabbled in design thinking. A methodology that comes from the creative process and is built around a set of principles (including empathy with users, a discipline for prototyping, and tolerance for failure), design thinking helps develop a responsive, flexible organizational culture by unlocking the creative potential of every individual.
This past November, a group of participants got to take the design thinking methodology for a test drive during Business & Arts NL’s Design Thinking Symposium. The symposium is just one part of the organization’s year-long program “Design Thinking: Collaboration for Innovation” and is one of Business & Arts NL’s most ambitious programs to date.
Held at the Emera Innovation Exchange at MUN’s Signal Hill Campus, the symposium brought together 86 participants from the public, private and creative sectors and featured keynote speaker Whitney Mortimer, Partner & Chief Marketing Officer of IDEO (the global leader in design thinking). Mortimer’s presentation, titled “Why Creativity, Why Now?” stressed the importance of creativity and diversity in business success.
“Whitney is a truly engaging speaker who provided a fascinating look at the history of design thinking and of her company, IDEO. Her talk was an excellent introduction to the design thinking process and the important role of creativity in organizations – a great foundation for the work of the day,” says Deborah Coombs, Design Thinking Project Manager with Business & Arts NL.
In addition to learning about the history and process of design thinking, participants worked in groups to practice key skills and approach assigned challenges (such as promoting arts and culture as a way to diversify the economy) through the lens of design thinking. Facilitators from DesignThinkers Group Canada were also on hand to work with the participants.
“Participants were mixed up with pre-assigned table seating for the best possible diversity and cross-pollination of ideas. It was wonderful to see the engagement of participants, and the enthusiasm in their participation,” says Coombs, adding that feedback has been positive.
The event was infused with arts and creativity, featuring Sara Coffin (dancer, choreographer and Co-Artistic Director of Mocean Dance in Halifax), who led participants in a series of exercises to help them reconnect to their bodies and keep them fresh and focussed. Pianist Florian Hoefner was also on hand for part of the afternoon to improvise music while participants worked on silent brainstorming and reflection activities.
The symposium was followed the next day by a mini design lab at the Rocket Room, facilitated by DesignThinkers Group Canada. The full-day event brought together teams from local companies with professional artists (21 participants total) to explore how design thinking can invigorate a workforce and mobilize creativity.
“The mini design lab provided a more in-depth, hands-on experience of the design thinking process. Teams worked together to address the issue of social isolation, harvesting insights from interviews on the street to create innovative and achievable programs. Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary and Councillor Hope Jamieson visited at the end of the day to hear the teams’ pitches and provide feedback,” Coombs says.
“The enthusiasm of the mini lab teams for the process and their solutions was palpable!”