form follows function

So you’ve started your own small business – exciting stuff. It’s going pretty well and you’ve hired some people to give you a hand… but before you notice you are being asked to think about tricky stuff like on-boarding, engagement and maybe even performance management. It’s still early days however and employing a dedicated HR resource may not be cost effective or practical.

Consequently most start-up and SME businesses will look to outsource their recruitment, L&D and HR function. You can easily reach for a suite of off-the-peg policies and procedures with nicely packaged documents to keep you compliant, offering welcome reassurance in case things go wrong. The downside may be however that your most important support function doesn’t reflect, or understand, your business. So how about designing your own HR function specifically around your team?

forty2 use design thinking to help your business attract, engage and retain the right people. Why? Because good design means a better customer experience, added value and something which is personal to your organisation. Moreover design is about people.

Design thinking is not new and it’s not exclusive to design based businesses. I recall reading Bryan Lawson's How Designers Think at art school in the nineties. Primarily addressing design in architecture Lawson began a process of generalising the concept of design thinking, making it applicable to much of the processes we use in modern business.

One version of the design thinking process has seven stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. Within these seven steps, problems can be framed, the right questions can be asked, more ideas can be created, and the best answers can be chosen. The steps aren't linear; they can occur simultaneously and be repeated.

Good design rarely comes from a flash of inspiration. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realised as new offerings and capabilities. It’s about focusing on the research stage and layering lots of ideas on top of each other to work through different scenarios and eventually create and outcome which is bespoke and provides the best solution.

Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO talks about a collaborative process by which the designer’s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy. In short, design thinking converts need into demand. It’s a human-centred approach to problem-solving that helps people and organisations become more innovative and creative.

Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking includes building up ideas, with few, or no, limits on breadth during a brainstorming phase. This helps reduce fear of failure in the participants and encourages input and participation from a wide variety of sources in the ideation phases.

Infusing your organization with a design-driven culture that puts the customer first may provide not only real, measurable results but also a distinct competitive advantage.

Design is empathetic, it implicitly drives a more thoughtful, human approach to business. Design thinking is therefore an essential tool for simplifying and humanising. By accepting more ambiguity, embracing risk and resetting expectations design thinking in human resources can help your organisation manage competing priorities, communicate with your team and reflect the collective view. Using design thinking you can replace the existing process with one which works well and adds value to your employees, customers and bottom line.