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Design Thinking – Highlights From ICS Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker, Greg Galle

By Ben Riddle

Design thinking is a creative approach towards problem solving that is used across multiple sectors to create human-centered solutions. In recent years, service providers and nonprofits have used design thinking to improve lives for the people they serve by identifying the root causes of critical issues and developing new products, services and processes based on these insights.

Filled with complexity and no shortage of daunting challenges, the early childhood system can be transformed by utilizing design thinking as a means for creating new interventions. At the annual celebration and awards of the Institute for Child Success, designer Greg Galle shared stories from his work with Future Partners to demonstrate how he has used creative problem solving to drive change within systems. Rather than flying in “experts” or prescribing proven models, Future focuses on unlocking human ingenuity – the ability to devise clever, original solutions to problems using existing resources. Instead of writing more white papers, Greg challenged the audience of stakeholders, funders and service providers to tap into the ingenuity of people that live and work within the early childhood system to generate new ideas and test new approaches.

In order to unlock ingenuity, Future brings diverse teams together through immersive, hands-on experiences that create a context for imagining new possibilities. During these experiences, stakeholders are led through a series of practices that foster collaboration, transparency and an openness to ideas. Through his presentation, Greg outlined the Rapid Ingenuity Practices that Future draws upon during the problem solving process. Listed below, these practices can be used by any team to approach complexity with creative confidence.

Be bold: A sense of boldness inspired man to go to the moon, and it’s this type of bold thinking that we need to transform the early childhood system. Before beginning the problem solving process, teams should boldly define a challenge worth tackling. Thinking small won’t solve daunting challenges. Being bold will.

Get out: To move beyond the status quo, assumptions and biases must be exchanged for observation and empathy. By standing with the people that we are serving, new insights emerge that could never be uncovered from behind a desk. When meeting people where they are, teams should ask open-ended questions, listen deeply, and look for patterns that lead to new discoveries.

Think wrong: Expert opinions and prescriptive approaches often stifle transformative change by preserving the present system. If “thinking right” leads to the current reality, “thinking wrong” will be required to move forward. By setting traditional approaches aside, teams should create space for stakeholders to brainstorm new ideas and uncover new opportunities for creative intervention.

Make stuff: Thinking without doing won’t get us anywhere. Once new ideas are generated, they should be made into something sharable so that people can react and give honest feedback. Instead of defending intent, teams should listen deeply, take note of what works, learn what doesn’t and adjust accordingly through rapid prototyping.

Bet small: With functional prototypes in hand, momentum can dissipate if further progress isn’t made. Instead of crafting strategic plans that could take years to implement, new approaches should be tested through a series of small bets. Small bets are learning opportunities that allow teams to test solutions with the people they are designed for in a way that minimizes losses and generates new insights.

Move fast: Throughout the problem solving process, insights should be captured and shared across the system to communicate key findings, receive feedback and identify potential partners. This transparent approach allows teams to make informed decisions about how and where to invest time and resources moving forward.

Moving forward, the Institute of Child Success is committed to “thinking wrong’ and sidestepping the status quo to create better outcomes for kids and their families. In the weeks ahead, we’ll take to the field to meet with first-time mothers, children and childcare providers to uncover new opportunities for design-driven change. Stay tuned for insights and stories from the field.

Ben Riddle is a junior at Furman University and intern with ICS supporting our design thinking initiative.


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