Design Thinking’s Guru On Leadership

Bruce Nussbaum is ready to get off the design thinking ship, but one of its original captains is still strong at the helm. I’m talking about David Kelley, described in this recent interview with Fast Company as the principal guru of design thinking. In this interview Kelley doesn’t comment on Nussbaum’s decision to move on to something new that he calls “creative intelligence”, but focuses on how design thinking applies to leadership. To motivate employees and enable them to achieve workplace success, a good leader can improve by applying some basic design thinking processes.

Here are a few of Kelley’s insights into “leadership by design”:

* The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing–building empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help. Once you understand what they really value, it’s easy because you can mostly give it to them.

* The way I would measure leadership is this: of the people that are working with me, how many wake up in the morning thinking that the company is theirs?

* I’m trying to get people to remain confident in their creative ability. In order for them to have that kind of creativity, you have to be very transparent. Understand them and involve them in the decisions being made. Even if the decision goes the wrong way, they still were there and saw how we decided to do this and so they’re behind it.

* I don’t think people do anything out of fear very well. So I think the only choice is to have them intrinsically motivated.

This is a worthwhile read because I previously haven’t thought much about the IDEO approach to design thinking as a touchstone for better leadership. But I like the ideas that Kelley shares. What is more important than having empathy for those we work with everyday? How, as a leader, can I achiever greater transparency? How can I encourage creativity and innovation within the organization? As always, Kelley gives us something to think about beyond the traditional perceptions of design.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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