Take your project career to new heights with AIPM membership. Join now to unlock the benefits of Australia’s leading body for project professionals.
Take the quiz
Join thousands of project professionals across Australia who have powered their career prospects with RegPM™ certification.
The demand for project management skills continues to grow across a range of industries, and professionals are building lucrative and rewarding careers.
For nearly 50 years, the AIPM has been driving project management across Australia.
23rd Mar 2021
According to the 2020 Annual AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey 67% of project managers feel the complexity of projects and programs has increased over the past decade and 53% also feel their organisation does not do enough to improve project and program management skills and capability.
With projects increasing in complexity, ensuring you have a broad range of skills as a project manager is essential. In this article innovation and transformation specialist, Chandana Shekar, MAIPM explores the topic of design thinking and how it is an absolute must in a project manager’s toolkit.
A lot of us would have heard this term being thrown around on numerous occasions – “Let’s use design thinking to solve this problem” or “Design thinking is the new approach to infusing innovation.” But what exactly is design thinking and is it really worth the hype?
Let’s start at the very beginning. Design thinking can be attributed to the modern movement in the mid-20th century, where people were fuelled with the desire to produce works of art and design based on objectivity and rationality.
The term itself was coined by Tim Brown from IDEO (the world’s pioneer organisations specialising in the domain) and it became universally known through that buzzword.
IDEO defines design thinking as a:
“Human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirement for business success.”
It is also described as a style of thinking by German businessman, Hasso Plattner:
“It is generally considered the ability to combine empathy, creativity, and rationality in analysing and fitting solutions to context.”
Simply put, design thinking is a way to solve problems through a structured approach to creativity. Often Design Thinking is used by advanced practitioners alongside other design and development methods such as Agile and lean.
So that is an explanation of what design thinking is, but how can you use the method/concept in your project management efforts? Here are some examples to get you started:
Take a human-centred approach by designing project management methods and tools that are intuitive to non-project managers and seem less like an overhead.
To empathise with these end-users, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and Centre of Excellence bodies can look to iteratively test and design tools and templates. Doing this will also enable greater stickiness of new project management processes, tools and templates across the organisation.
Often when teams are in the throes of a project, it is common to forget the ultimate purpose or goal being fulfilled by the mundane activities being carried out every day.
Having a regular forum and implementing design thinking methods and linking back every activity to the ultimate customer outcome, will re-invigorate the team and encourage self-adjustment to overarching project goals. It could also possibly be a great opportunity for the team to interact with end-users, building their empathy of the problem first-hand.
Two of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes are apt in the context of Design Thinking:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Both of these quotes allude to unleashing creativity to develop new ideas, find new patterns and innovate.
While it is important to draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated subjects to develop a unique solution to a problem, boundaries should be set to avoid going off on an endless tangent without solutions.
Another key technique is adopting a collaborative working style to accommodate complex ecosystems of stakeholders that are now common on most projects. This style requires the project manager to play a neutral role and facilitate conversations across interdisciplinary teams, thus:
This article has only just scratched the surface of design thinking and its intersection with modern project management methods. To explore this topic further visit the IDEO website as well as the Stanford d.school which can provide practical tools to leverage design thinking on projects.
Join now to unlock the benefits of Australia’s leading body for project professionals.
ESG is a topic that can’t be ignored. We examine the rise of ESG and explore how project managers can use ESG expertise to succeed.
ePMOs connect strategy to execution. Get expert tips on how to set up an effective ePMO to boost efficiency and project delivery capability.
Creating a shared view of what success looks like is critical to effective change management but what success looks like can vary drastically